Lerach Pleads William Lerach, who helped shape the modern class action lawsuit at Milberg Weiss, has pled guilty to conspiracy charges over kickbacks his firm paid to plaintiffs. The terms of his deal with prosecutors include 2 years in jail and $8 million in penalties. Despite the fines, The Washington Post notes, Lerach won’t be broke anytime soon – he’s still waiting on his share of a $7.2 billion settlement from a suit he filed after Enron collapsed.
Home, Sweet Home The Wall Street Journal takes a closer look at the earmarking proclivities of Rep. John Murtha, chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense. Over the years, Murtha's district, and particularly his hometown of Johnstown, PA have benefited handsomely, receiving more thaqn $600 million over the last four years. The Journal article comes with most of the staples of any good earmark story: There's the poor reviews by Pentagon auditors that find money's been misspent, a company that's slated to get more money despite an ongoing fraud investigation, and a former shoe-shine man at Murtha's Johnstown carwash. The good fortune of Johnstown may well continue: So far this year, the Journal notes, Murtha is the House's leading earmarker, using his post as chairman to allocate 192.5 million within various budget bills.
Working Late Despite promising to abdicate his role Giuliani Partners this Spring to focus on his presidential campaign, Rudy Giuliani is still at work part-time, The Washington Post reports. His continued involvement with the firm could turn out to be a “lawyer’s nightmare,” one source tells the post, as dividing compensation from political contributions may prove difficult. The firm paid for his security until several months after he declared his candidacy.
No More Money, Please Despite a rash of consumer safety threats in recent months, the head of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission opposes strengthening her own agency's authority and staff, The New York Times reports. In two letters she wrote to the Senate in recent days, Acting Chairwoman Nancy Nord argued against legislation imposing criminal penalties on companies that knowingly sell dangerous products and a provision that would ban all lead from toys. Nord's positions, which are similar to those of the Bush administration, go even beyond those of the industries she's supposed to regulate: In her letter, Nord takes a bold stand against granting whistleblowers legal protections. Doing so, she wrote, would result in too many complaints and too much work for the commission.
Not Immune to Criticism The State Department officials that offered immunity to Blackwater security guards who allegedly killed 17 Iraqi civilians last month had no authority to do so, The New York Times reports. The offers, which were made by State's Bureau of Diplomatic Security during the initial investigation, were never approved by the Justice Department. The director of Diplomatic Security has already been forced out over State's handling of private security contractors in Iraq, and the FBI has assumed control of the investigation. Because of the unauthorized immunity offer, the Times writes, crucial information collected in the aftermath of the shooting may have to be sealed.
You and what army? In a risky strategy move, Congressional Democrats are working on legislation combining their domestic spending priorities with veterans' care and military spending, The Wall Street Journal reports. By passing the initiatives as one bill, Democrats hope to avert a veto by President Bus – and show that their requests are cheap compared with the military spending which will dominate the spending package.
Fake News, Real Fired A staged FEMA news conference last week publicizing The Federal Emergency Management Agency's response to California wildfires last week has cost its director of external communications his new job, The Washington Post reports. The official, John "Pat" Philbin, was slated to become senior spokesman for Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell, but the DNI's office dumped him Monday. FEMA has apologized to reporters over the press conference, at which FEMA employees lobbed softballs at the agency instead of letting actual reporters ask questions.