Federal Prosecutors Drop All Charges Against John Edwards After Spending Millions Of Taxpayer Dollars On Investigation And Botched Trial In US District Court

June 13, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – Federal prosecutors dropped the remaining charges against former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards on Wednesday, less than two weeks after his corruption trial ended in an acquittal and mistrial.

The Justice Department had accused Edwards of using nearly $1 million in illegal campaign contributions to keep his pregnant mistress under wraps as he mounted a second presidential bid in 2008. But after more than 50 hours of deliberation, a North Carolina jury acquitted him on one of the six counts against him and deadlocked on the other five.

Lanny Breuer, the head of the Justice Department’s criminal division, said prosecutors respect the judgment of the jury and would not bring the case to trial again.

“We knew that this case — like all campaign finance cases — would be challenging,” Breuer said in a written statement on the decision. “But it is our duty to bring hard cases when we believe that the facts and the law support charging a candidate for high office with a crime.”

Overheard on CNN.com: ‘Being a slimy dirtbag doesn’t equal being a criminal’

Edwards’ lawyers said in a statement, “We are confident that the outcome of any new trial would have been the same.”

“While John has repeatedly admitted to his sins, he has also consistently asserted, as we demonstrated at the trial, that he did not violate any campaign law nor even imagined that any campaign laws could apply,” they said.

Edwards, 61, won a U.S. Senate seat from North Carolina in 1998. He ran for president in 2004, when he ended up as the Democrats’ nominee for vice president, and again in 2008, when he dropped out of the reace after a poor showing in the early primaries.

Jurors: Evidence elusive in Edwards case

In August 2008, he admitted to an affair with onetime campaign videographer Rielle Hunter, but denied paternity of the daughter she had given birth to six months earlier. He eventually acknowledged paternity, and after the May 31 mistrial, he talked about “my precious Quinn, who I love more than any of you can ever imagine.”

Prosecutors argued that Edwards took $925,000 from two high-powered donors to pay for Hunter’s living and medical expenses, travel and other costs to keep her out of sight while he sought the presidency — contributions that amounted to illegal, undisclosed campaign donations. Former Edwards aide Andrew Young testified that he allowed Hunter to move in with him and his wife at Edwards’ request after newspapers began looking into a possible affair within the Edwards campaign.

Edwards’ lawyers argued he was guilty of being a bad husband to his wife, Elizabeth, who died of cancer in 2010, but had committed no crime. They also told jurors that Young, the government’s star witness, used the contributions for his own gain.

Edwards charges: The rundown

“As we stated in our motions and arguments,” his lawyers said Wednesday. “It should be addressed, if at all, by the Federal Election Commission, which our evidence showed seems to have agreed with our views on the law.”

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US Marshals Still Burning Taxpayer Dollars In Effort To Find The Three Inmates Who Escaped From Alcatraz Prison 50 Years Ago – Publish Make-Believe Composite Photos

June 12, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – It is one of the most famous escapes in the history of U.S. prisons, and even though the case has long since gone cold, the U.S. Marshals Service continues to search for three inmates escaped from Alcatraz in 1962.

Monday marked the 50th anniversary of the only successful escape from Alcatraz. The facility was closed down in 1963 and is now a world-famous tourist attraction.

No traces were ever found of Frank Morris and brothers Clarence Anglin and John Anglin who successfully busted out of “The Rock” with a rowboat made of raincoats.
Getting off the island was one thing, but whether they made it across the difficult waters of the San Francisco Bay at night is quite another. The question has been the subject of speculation for a half century.

No trace of the three was ever found. They remain unaccounted for.

“No matter where the leads take us, or how many man hours are spent on this historic case, the Marshals Service will continue to investigate to the fullest extent possible,” said David Harlow, assistant director, U.S. Marshals Investigative Operations Division.

The U.S. Marshals on Monday released age-enhanced composites of the three men in the event that they are still alive. Frank Morris would be 85 years old, Clarence Anglin would be 81 and John Anglin would be 82.

The escape since 1962 has become the stuff of legend.

Clint Eastwood played Morris in the 1979 movie “Escape from Alcatraz.”

And Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman of the Discovery Channel program “Mythbusters” determined a successful escape was certainly plausible. In 2003, they recreated the escape, right down to the raincoat rowboat and were able to navigate across the Bay from Alcatraz to Marin Island.

The U.S. Marshal Service took over the lead in the investigation from the FBI in 1979. Officials said that since that time, Since that time, countless deputy U.S. marshals have worked the case and investigated thousands of leads in almost every state in the country and a few foreign countries. The agency has also from time to time reached for through the media.

The elaborate escape plan was the result of more than one year of planning and included the design of a life raft and life preservers fashioned from more than 50 raincoats, the fabrication of lifelike dummies to ruse guards on night bed checks and enlarged ventilation holes in their cell walls, which they used spoons to create and concealed with cardboard replicas of vent covers.

On the night of June 11, 1962, the three escaped through the vents and made their way to the northeast part of the island, where they inflated the makeshift raft and three life preservers and slipped into the water.

Varied reports stated that the inmates either drowned or made their escape via nearby Angel Island.

A fourth inmate, Allen West, was involved in planning the escape, but he never made it out of his prison cell.

The known details of the escape were provided by West during several interviews.

The possibility of survival steered investigators to unusual and detailed leads to suspected whereabouts of the escapees. One example occurred in 2010, when an unmarked grave, claimed to be that of an escapee, was exhumed but failed to offer positive identification.

The Marshals intend to continue pursuing the escapees until they are either arrested, positively determined to be deceased or reach the age of 99.

“The ongoing U.S. Marshals investigation of the 1962 escape from Alcatraz federal prison serves as a warning to fugitives that regardless of time, we will continue to look for you and bring you to justice,” said U.S. Marshal Don O’Keefe of the Northern District of California

The U.S. Marshals have a long history of successfully tracking, locating and apprehending prison escapees. In August 2011, Frederick Barrett, a convicted murderer wanted in Florida for escape, was apprehended after 32 years on the lam. He was found hiding in a remote cabin in the mountains of Colorado.

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Obama Official At General Services Administration Tried To Keep Report On Massive Waste At Las Vegas Nevada Conference A Secret

June 6, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – A top administrator at the General Services Administration who worked on President Obama’s presidential transition team sought to keep secret the agency report that uncovered massive waste at a lavish taxpayer-funded GSA conference in Las Vegas, records show.

The 2010 conference, which cost $823,000 and featured a mind-reader, clowns, magicians and a red-carpet party, forced the ouster of several top GSA officials after the agency’s Office of Inspector General released its findings in April.

But months earlier, as word of the report was circulating among GSA officials, Ruth F. Cox, the agency’s regional administrator for several Western states, contacted a colleague in Washington asking what could be done to shield the report from public view.

“Is there something we can do to prevent another potential embarrassing episode from unfolding and keep this report from being made public?” she asked in an email obtained by The Washington Times.

Ms. Cox also expressed concern that the inspector general’s report was not entirely correct, though officials now say her comments were made before she saw the final report.

“We don’t need another $16 muffin public allegation that is eventually proven wrong and the damage is already done (and exacerbated by making a false allegation),” she wrote in an email she deemed “highly confidential.”

Ms. Cox was referring to a report by the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General, which reviewed conference expenditures and later retracted one widely publicized finding concerning muffins initially reported to have cost $16 each.

Adam Elkington, an agency spokesman, said Tuesday that Ms. Cox made the comments in the email before the release of the inspector general’s report and before “having any knowledge of the findings.”

“GSA, including Ms. Cox, is appalled by the missteps highlighted in the IG’s report and have taken disciplinary action against those responsible, accepted all of the IG’s recommendations and continue to take steps to ensure this never happens again,” Mr. Elkington wrote in an email to The Times.

“We welcome oversight and will continue to be guided by the highest level of transparency. GSA’s new Acting Administrator Dan Tangherlini initiated a top-to-bottom review of our agency’s operations. GSA remains committed to eliminating excessive federal spending and promoting government efficiency.”

In the email, Ms. Cox also referred to Jeffrey Neely, former acting administrator for the region, who played a key role in organizing the conference and was seen on video boasting about how much fun the federal workers were having in Las Vegas.

“I know Susan is not happy that Jeff received a relatively high performance evaluation and bonus given what transpired with the Western Regional Conference, but my concern at this point is not Jeff but the agency and the administration,” Ms. Cox wrote. “Making this public to punish Jeff with a side effect of unnecessarily exposing the agency doesn’t make sense to me.”

In her email, Ms. Cox also said she shared concerns within the agency about Mr. Neely, who was facing scrutiny because of his agency-funded trips to Hawaii and other Pacific destinations.

The correspondence reflects early recognition within GSA about the potential impact of public disclosure and embarrassment for the administration. Officials were right to be concerned. Among those forced out in the wake of the scandal were former GSA Commissioner Martha Johnson; a top adviser, Stephen Leeds; and Robert Peck, chief of GSA’s Public Buildings Service.

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84 GSA Employees Got $1.1 Million In Taxpayer Funded Bonuses While Already Under Investigation For Wrongdoing Or Misconduct

June 4, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – An ongoing congressional investigation reveals $1.1 million in bonuses were awarded to 84 employees of the General Services Administration since 2008 — while the inspector general was probing these individuals for wrongdoing or misconduct.

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), who is heading the investigation, said the overall number of employees receiving bonuses while under investigation is likely to be “far higher” since not all information for current investigations is now available, according to a release from the senator.

Of the 84 GSA employees, each received an average of eight bonuses, totaling $13,000.

One program officer received more than $38,000 in bonuses since 2008, despite being reassigned for abuse of authority. Another employee, a GS-14 level supervisor, received more than $20,000 in bonuses, even after being reprimanded for interfering with an IG investigation, according to the release.

“It doesn’t pass the smell test to be awarding huge bonuses in taxpayer dollars to officials who are being investigated, or have already been found responsible, for fraud and waste of those very taxpayer dollars. That’s why I’m not letting up on our fight for accountability in government,” McCaskill said in the release. McCaskill is the chairman of the subcommittee on contracting oversight in the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

The GSA has no policies to freeze bonuses to employees under investigation by the IG, according to the release.

The scrutiny of GSA came most heavily starting in April after an investigation by the IG revealed the agency spent more than $823,000 on a Las Vegas conference in 2010. Among the employees investigated was Public Buildings Service Region 9 Commission Jeff Neely, who received a $9,000 bonus despite being under investigation.

In a letter to Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry, McCaskill asked for information from 2008 to 2011 on bonuses awarded to all federal agencies, “including what actions OPM could take to ensure that bonuses that would otherwise be awarded to federal employees under investigation by the Inspector General are withheld pending the resolution of the investigation.”

McCaskill gave OPM a deadline of June 20 for the federal employee bonus information.

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Waste: State Department And US Navy Pissing Away Taxpayer Dollars Looking For Amelia Earhart Aircraft That May Or May Not Have Crashed In Pacific 75 Years Ago

June 3, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – One of the most enduring mysteries of the annals of aviation, is what happened after Miss Earhart last radioed from her Lockheed Model 10E “Electra” that she was unable to locate an airstrip for landing.

The accepted wisdom was that Earhart’s aircraft had simply run out of fuel and crashed into the ocean on July 2, 1937, as she searched for Howland Island.

Howland was the final refuelling stop before flying on to Honolulu and completing the journey by touching down in Oakland, California.

An expedition that will set sail from Hawaii on July 2, which marks the 75th anniversary of the last message by Phoenix International, the US Navy’s primary source of deep ocean search and recovery expertise, will map a former British possession that has been indentified as the most likely crash site.

A team of enthusiasts from the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (Tighar) has drawn up the plans for the expedition, which is backed by the US State Department.

It will use high technology, including multi-beam sonar, to inspect a steep and craggy underwater mountainside on the western reef slope of island of Nikumaroro, a former British colony that is today part of the republic of Kiribati.

“Our objective on this expedition is to conduct a thorough search of the area we judge to be most likely to contain wreckage from the Earhart Electra,” said Tighar.

While much of the aircraft is likely to have been lost in the intervening years, researchers believe some key components – such as the Pratt & Whitney engines – could still be where they sank 75 years ago.

“Any man-made objects found will be photographed and their location carefully recorded,” the group said. “No recovery of objects will be attempted unless necessary to confirm identification.#”Should identifiable wreckage from the Electra be discovered it will be documented as thoroughly as possible in situ so that a separate expedition can be equipped with the appropriate means to recover and conserve the materials.”

If the aircraft had sufficient fuel to reach Nikumaroro, which was at the time the uninhabited British possession known as Gardner Island, it could have landed on reef flats before being washed over the ledge.

Earhart and Fred Noonan, her navigator, could have survived on the island for a time, but eventually succumbed to injury or infection, food poisoning or thirst.

The theory is supported by British colonial records in Fiji reporting the discovery of the partial skeleton of a castaway who perished shortly before the island was settled in 1938.

The bones were found in the shade of a tree in a part of the island that fits the description of the encampment that Tighar has been excavating.

The site is dotted with the remains of small fires on which meals of birds, fish, turtle and even rat were cooked.

Previous research trips have turned up parts of aluminium skin from an aircraft, plexiglass from a cockpit, a zip made in Pennsylvania in the mid-1930s, a broken pocket knife of the same brand that was listed in an inventory of Earhart’s aircraft and the remains of a 1930s woman’s compact.

Ric Gillespie, executive director of Tighar, says they still need to find incontrovertible proof that Earhart on Nikumororo – the “smoking gun.”

This expedition apparently offers the best chances of that yet, with new forensic evidence of a photo that may show part of the aircraft on the reef sufficient to convince the US government to support the project.

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Millions Of Tax Dollars Down The Drain In Half-Assed Investigation And Prosecution Of John Edwards – Was More About Headlines Boosting Former Prosecutor George Holding’s Run For Congress

June 2, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – Does John Edwards deserve to go to prison? The jury has decided, and he’s walking.

Whatever we may think of the Edwards trial, one thing is certain: the prosecution was a ridiculous waste of taxpayer money on a non-crime. Who cares if a billionaire wants to give a multimillionaire some money to hide his mistress (who pays taxes on the gift)?

The prosecution of Edwards was never so much about Edwards as it was about George Holding.

Wait — who is George Holding? And why should we care?

After winning a recent primary, Holding is likely the next congressman in the 13th District of North Carolina. He initiated the prosecution against Edwards while he was a U.S. Attorney. But he didn’t argue the case in court. Instead, after receiving a year’s worth of headlines (and Republican praise) for charging Edwards, Holding resigned from the case to run for Congress.

Maybe Holding understood the weakness of the case, which rested upon Edwards’ failure to report the money billionaire heiress Bunny Mellon and another wealthy donor gave to him to help hide his mistress. The problem is that if Edwards had reported contributions and then used them for personal expenses, he would have been guilty of a crime, since the Federal Election Commission bars spending official campaign funds on personal expenses. Therefore, according to Holding, Edwards was damned if he did, and damned if he didn’t.

To prove his case, Holding had to show that Edwards knowingly broke the law. But if neglecting to report the gifts as campaign contributions constituted a crime, yet reporting such gifts as contributions would violate existing law (by implying that Edwards converted contributions to personal use), then it is impossible to prove Edwards knew he was breaking the law, which would be necessary for a conviction.

That’s not very good legal reasoning on which to rest a case — especially a case unlike any other that had been successfully tried. And since Holding had access to all the available evidence and knew that no witness and no recordings would suggest that Edwards knew he was breaking the law, it is difficult to see how Holding thought he might win, other than hoping that jurors disliked Edwards so much they would convict him.

Or maybe Holding wasn’t all that concerned with the legal reasoning. Perhaps he realized that, win or lose, he’d already gotten enough mileage from the case to realize his political ambitions. By the time he indicted Edwards, the well-connected Holding knew that the newly Republican state legislature had drawn a safe district he could win, if only he could get out of the primary. And what better way to appeal to Republican diehards than prosecuting the smarmy, liberal trial lawyer John Edwards? Holding certainly received his reward last month when he won his congressional primary.

The public generally associates politicians with the pursuit of ambition and power. Too often, investigators act from similar motives. Law enforcement officials seek to justify long, expensive investigations into high-profile targets by stretching the law to win convictions and mount the biggest scalps on their walls.

The former head of the St. Louis FBI who investigated me for a campaign finance violation years ago said of his job: “I love the chase. [It] was fantastic. It was me against them. And the smarter they were, the richer they were, the more I enjoyed catching them.”

But justice isn’t about investigators’ adrenaline rushes or personal advancement. It’s about the common good. If the central goal of prosecuting “corrupt” public figures is to remove them from public life, then the Edwards prosecution is a clear case of overkill. He is a walking punch line, unfit to run for dog catcher. Why should prosecutors spend millions of dollars and years of time targeting him with novel legal theories?

I am familiar with Edwards’ predicament. During my 2004 congressional campaign in Missouri, I approved a meeting between two aides and a man who wanted to send out a postcard highlighting my opponent’s dismal attendance record in the state House. In the immediate aftermath, our campaign denied any involvement in the mailing, and then when faced with a Federal Election Commission complaint which gave us a chance to come clean, we maintained our denial. Five years later, through an unlikely set of circumstances culminating in my best friend’s wiretap, I ended up in prison for a year.

As a current taxpayer who spent a year loading trucks at a prison warehouse, eating food for which you, dear reader, paid, I can tell you two things. First, I did not want to pay to house, feed and clothe multimillionaire lawyer John Edwards. Second, the only person in this sordid mess whom prosecutors should have considered indicting is someone who was already granted immunity. That’s right, Andrew Young, who defrauded the 99-year-old Bunny Mellon by siphoning (or, more precisely, stealing) hundreds of thousands of dollars to build his dream house.

Of course, prosecuting Young wouldn’t have gotten George Holding all the publicity that prosecuting John Edwards did, and it definitely wouldn’t have gotten him to Congress.

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Hope & Change: Obama Has Outspent Last Five Presidents – COMBINED

June 1, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – President Obama has shelled out more in federal spending than the five presidents that came before him.

A new chart by the Comeback America Initiative (CAI), a non-partisan group dedicated to promoting fiscal responsibility by policymakers, shows federal spending by president as a percentage of GDP, and it doesn’t reflect well on Obama.

“There has been a dramatic increase in spending under the Obama administration,” David Walker, Founder and CEO of CAI, told Whispers. “Most of it is attributable to year one of his presidency and the stimulus… but President Obama has continued to take spending to a new level.”

Federal spending was close to 20 percent under the Carter administration, dropped to 18 percent under Clinton, and is currently at an incredible 24 percent of GDP. According to the Congressional Budget Office, federal spending may hover around 22 percent for the next decade.

Federal spending is also higher this year than any year since 1949. The last time spending was higher—in 1946, it was 24.8—the country was just coming down from the exorbitant rates of spending during World War II.

GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney has said he would cut federal spending down to just 17 percent of GDP.

President Obama is facing some heat over the economy Friday after a depressing job report showed the jobless rate climbed to 8.2 percent in May.

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