Monday, January 30, 2006

Filibuster Fails, But Netroots Step Up

Yes, the filibuster failed miserably today (and the netroots know who is responsible), but at the same time it was a battle no one expected just days before.

Thank you Senators Kerry and Kennedy for leading the charge. Because of your courage the progressive Online community has a pair of champions and a blueprint for future actions. Hopefully we all learned a valuable lesson in how to work together, which will be vitally important in the coming battles ahead for 2006 and ultimately 2008.

If we can continue to coordinate our talking points and message we can be more effective. None of this would have happened except for the fact that we tried. Lets make it a habit and show Democrats (especially the Red State cowards) what it means to stand up for what we believe. - IFK Editor

Sunday, January 29, 2006

TAKE URGENT ACTION: Contact Senators to Support Filibuster has put together a list of Senators who urgently need to hear from you about supporting the Filibuster. Tell them to take a principled stand and oppose Alito. Tell them you want your civil rights protected, not destroyed.

Submit your message to all these Senators Here

For more up to date action alerts visit:

Thursday, January 26, 2006

How to Help Kerry Filibuster Alito

As posted on the The Democratic
I urge everyone to stand up with Senators Kerry and Kennedy on this fight! Let them know we have their backs. Our focus is to lobby our Senators.

There’s a Senate Phone List here, with numbers to all the Democratic Senators and the key moderate Republicans. There are also two toll free numbers - 888-355-3588 or 888-818-6641.

Here’s a list of key Senators to press:

UPDATE: 1/28/2006
Leading the Fight:
John F. Kerry and Edward M. Kennedy.

Committed to Filibuster:
Barbara Boxer (D- CA), Dianne Feinstein (D- CA), Christopher J. Dodd (D- CT), Richard J. Durbin (D- IL), Debbie A. Stabenow (D- MI), Robert Menendez (D- NJ), Harry Reid (D- NV), Hillary Rodham Clinton (D- NY), Charles Schumer (D- NY), Ron Wyden (D- OR), Russell D. Feingold (D- WI).

Who to keep the pressure on…

Undecided - Needs Pressure:
Blanche Lambert Lincoln (D- AR), 202-224-4843
Joseph I. Lieberman (D- CT), 202-224-4041
Thomas R. Carper (D- DE), 202-224-2441
Daniel K. Inouye (D- HI), 202-224-3934
Tom Harkin (D- IA), 202-224-3254
Barack Obama (D- IL), 202-224-2854
Evan Bayh (D- IN), 202-224-5623
Barbara A. Mikulski (D- MD), 202-224-4654
Paul S. Sarbanes (D- MD), 202-224-4524
Carl Levin (D- MI), 202-224-6221
Mark Dayton (D- MN), 202-224-3244
Max Baucus (D- MT), 202-224-2651
Frank Lautenberg (D- NJ), 202-224-3224
Jeff Bingaman (D- NM), 202-224-5521
Jack Reed (D- RI), 202-224-4642
Lincoln D. Chafee (R- RI), 202-224-2921
Patrick J. Leahy (D- VT), 202-224-4242
Maria Cantwell (D- WA), 202-224-3441
Patty Murray (D- WA), 202-224-2621
Herb Kohl (D- WI), 202-224-5653
John D. Rockefeller, IV (D- WV), 202-224-6472
James M. Jeffords (I- VT), 202-224-5141

Against Filibuster:
Mark Pryor (D- AR), 202-224-2353
Ken Salazar (D- CO) , 202-224-5852
Joseph R. Biden, Jr. (D- DE) , 202-224-5042
Bill Nelson (D- FL), 202-224-5274
Daniel K. Akaka (D- HI) (1,), 202-224-6361
Mary Landrieu (D- LA) (1,), 202-224-5824
Byron L. Dorgan (D- ND) (1,), 202-224-2551
Kent Conrad (D- ND) (1,), 202-224-2043
Olympia Snowe (R- ME) (1,), 202-224-5344

Supporting Alito:
Ben Nelson (D-NE) 202-224-6551
Tim Johnson (D- SD) , 202-224-5842
Robert C. Byrd (D- WV) , 202-224-3954

Sign Kerry’s Alito Petition:

Kerry Leads Filibuster Fight Against Alito

By John Kerry posted at The Democratic Daily

Filibuster Alito

January 26th, 2006

Do I support a filibuster? The answer is yes.

Yesterday Senator Kennedy and I spoke with our colleagues about it. I don’t have a shred of doubt in my opposition to Sam Alto’s nomination. I know Senator Kennedy does not either. He has truly been a great leader in the effort to oppose Judge Alito.

I spent a lot of time over the last years thinking about the Supreme Court and who America needs on the highest court in the land. So I don’t hesitate a minute in saying that Sam Alito is not that person. His entire legal career shows that, if confirmed, he will take America backwards. People can say all they want that “elections have consequences.” Trust me, more than anyone I understand that. But that seems like an awfully convoluted rationale for me to stay silent about Judge Alito’s nomination.

I voted against Justice Roberts, I feel even more strongly about Judge Alito. Why? Rather than live up to the promise of “equal justice under the law,” he’s consistently made it harder for the most disadvantaged Americans to have their day in court. He routinely defers to excessive government power regardless of how extreme or egregious the government’s actions are. And, to this date, his only statement on record regarding a woman’s right to privacy is that she doesn’t have one.

I said yesterday that President Bush had the opportunity to nominate someone who would unite the country in a time of extreme division. He chose not to do this, and that is his right. But we have every right, in fact, we have a responsibility, to fight against a radical ideological shift on the Supreme Court. Just think about how this nomination came to be. Under fire from his conservative base for nominating Harriet Miers–a woman whose judicial philosophy they mercilessly attacked–President Bush broke to extreme right-wing demands.

This was a coup.

Miers was removed and Alito was installed to replace the swing vote on the Court. The President gave no thought to what the American people really wanted–or needed. So it’s up to us to think about what America really needs - that’s part of the true meaning of “advice and consent.”

Here’s the bottom line though and I’ll just be blunt and direct about it. It takes more than one or two people to filibuster. It’s not “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” I’m doing what I can, Senator Kennedy is doing what he can, but if, like me, you want to stop Judge Alito from becoming Justice Alito, we can’t just preach to our own choir. We need even more of your advocacy.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Fighting Against the Traditional Media

Peter Daou is Kerry's former head of netroots campaigning. His assessment of the 'Traditional Media' and the role it plays in creating perception is dead on and worth noting if you ever want to see progressives regain the White House and congress. -IFK Editor

THE TRIANGLE: Matthews, Moore, Murtha, and the Media
By Peter Daou
What's the common thread running through the past half-decade of Bush's presidency? What's the nexus between the Swift-boating of Kerry, the Swift-boating of Murtha, and the guilt-by-association between Democrats and terrorists? Why has a seemingly endless string of administration scandals faded into oblivion? Why do Democrats keep losing elections? It's this: the traditional media, the trusted media, the "neutral" media, have become the chief delivery mechanism of potent anti-Democratic and pro-Bush storylines. And the Democratic establishment appears to be either ignorant of this political quandary or unwilling to fight it.

There's a critical distinction to be made here: individual reporters may lean left, isolated news stories may be slanted against the administration. What I'm describing is the wholesale peddling by the "neutral" press of deep-seated narratives, memes, and soundbites: simple, targeted talking points that paint a picture of reality for the American public that favors the right and tarnishes the left.

You’ve heard the narratives: Bush is likable, Bush is a regular guy, Bush is firm, Bush is a religious man, Bush relishes a fight, Democrats are muddled, Democrats have no message, national security is Bush’s strength, terror attacks and terror threats help Bush (even though he presided over the worst attack ever on American soil), Democrats are weak on security, Democrats need to learn how to talk about values, Republicans favor a “strict interpretation” of the Constitution, and on and on.

A single storyline is more effective than a thousand stories. And a single storyline delivered by a "neutral" reporter is a hundred times more dangerous than a storyline delivered by an avowed partisan. Rightwingers can attack the media for criticizing Bush, can slam the New York Times for being liberal, but when the Times and the Post and CNN and MSNBC echo the ‘Bush stands firm’ mantra, it adds one more brick to a powerful pro-Bush edifice.


Friday, January 20, 2006

Jim Rassmann: A Swift-like attack

Amen Brother!!! - IFK Editor

From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Jim Rassmann: A Swift-like attack
By muddying the waters, the smear merchants hope to sink a decorated patriot -- John Murtha
Friday, January 20, 2006

Before 2004, I'd never been involved in politics and considered my duty done at the ballot box. My memory of a man I served with in combat in the Mekong Delta -- Lt. John Kerry -- became my sole reason for coming off the political sidelines in the last presidential election. Watching the assault on his military record by partisan operatives armed with falsehoods was a shock.

Perhaps I was naive. Watching those same tactics used against another decorated Vietnam veteran, Rep. John Murtha of Johnstown, has been a reminder of not just why I felt compelled to get involved, but why I must remain involved. I can't in good conscience remain silent in the face of the "Swift Boating" of Jack Murtha for daring to challenge President Bush's policy in Iraq.

Today I see that the very same smear tactics the "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" used against John Kerry are now being unleashed against Rep. Murtha, a retired Marine colonel who served in Vietnam.

The radical right Web site Cybercast News Service, formerly the Conservative News Service, has attacked Mr. Murtha, claiming he was fraudulently awarded Purple Hearts for wounds received during two tours in Vietnam.

Since it is unseemly for a leadership that never served its country to attack the patriotism and veracity of decorated soldiers and sailors who did, this administration has returned to its proven tactic of finding surrogates to do its dirty work. Today, neoconservatives are hoping that by muddying the waters of Jack Murtha's military record they can neuter another of their most passionate and sincere critics.

It's an all too familiar pattern. White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan once described Rep. Murtha's stance on the war as "endorsing the policy positions of Michael Moore and the extreme liberal wing of the Democratic Party." Republican Rep. Jean Schmidt quickly followed in lockstep with the White House by saying on the floor of the House, "Cowards cut and run, Marines never do." Copying the administration's change of tactic, Rep. Schmidt almost immediately reversed herself and gave Rep. Murtha several apologies.

It was clear to most observers that the Republican strategy of ad hominem attacks failed -- seeing the danger in attacking a hawkish Democrat like Rep. Murtha, the White House quickly followed suit with perfunctory praise from President Bush who described him as, "a good man who served our country with honor and distinction as a Marine in Vietnam and as a United States congressman." Vice President Cheney referred to Rep. Murtha as, "a good man, a Marine, a patriot."

How laudable. This rapid reversal by the White House appears, at first glance, to be remarkable given their penchant and near universal insistence for uniformity of message. It isn't at all remarkable though. I believe it was engineered in the same way as the Swift Boat attacks on Kerry during the 2004 election campaign -- attacks are made, the public's attention is captured, the White House offers platitudes, the surrogates press on with the administration's covert support.

Now, like the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, the Cybercast News Service is taking up the underhanded attack that the president and his henchmen can't afford to be caught doing themselves.

Like the attack last year on John Kerry's service, this administration has shown yet again that it is not above crude tactics for disseminating its message on the sly. The trouble is in so doing they attack the very military institutions that they've put in harm's way. If Jack Murtha's military record -- which the Republicans loved to tout when, for example, he was an advocate for the first Gulf war or higher defense budgets -- is now fair game for scurrilous attack, then who's next?

John Kerry and Jack Murtha both love their country and proved their patriotism in the crucible of war and on the battlefield of public service. But far more is at stake than even these good men's reputations. They have the honor of their service, as do the hundreds of thousands of Americans in uniform in harm's way today, and that's enough. The health of our democracy, the integrity of our debate, the voice of our free press and the true meaning of patriotism are under assault if a new generation of Swift Boat style smears are allowed into the public sphere today unchallenged.

For my country's sake, I hope brave Americans of good conscience will speak up and make it clear that we will not tolerate such smears today, just as we shouldn't have tolerated them in 2004.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Defending Kerry against GQ Hit Piece

By Jim Witkins

Michael Crowley's negative story about John Kerry in the latest GQ Magazine, is a sad hit piece on an American Patriot. Say what you will about Kerry's past failings or future ambitions, he fought a tough race in 2004 with integrity and courage and continues to battle for middle class Americans and democratic principles. To read that story is to re-write history and forget why Kerry won his party's nomination in the first place: he was the best candidate.

To write Kerry's obituary three years before the 2008 election also seems foolish, but then again the traditional press loves to write off Kerry's chances. Maybe they should be reminded of how wrong they were in IOWA in 2004.

Don't believe conventional wisdom. Kerry is still formidable and has many loyal supporters both in and outside Washington. Ever hear of Teddy Kennedy?

Voters always love candidate X (the un-candidate), but as soon as that candidate becomes a real person with a name it's time to declare open season. That's unfortunate. It also reduces the race to a mere popularity contest and takes out all notion of ideas and solutions for Americas real problems.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Ex-EPA Chiefs Blame Bush in Global Warming

Is it getting hot in here? Five former Republican leaders of the Environmental Protection Agency blasted President Bush today for a 'failure of leadership' on the issue of Global Warming. Where were they during the 2004 election? Better late than never, I suppose. -IFK Editor

Russell Train, who succeeded Ruckelshaus in the Nixon and Ford administrations, said slowing the growth of "greenhouse" gases isn't enough.

"We need leadership, and I don't think we're getting it," he said at an EPA-sponsored symposium centered around the agency's 35th anniversary. "To sit back and just push it away and say we'll deal with it sometime down the road is dishonest to the people and self-destructive."

Read Full Article:
Ex-EPA Chiefs Blame Bush in Global Warming

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Group Claims Kerry Really Won Ohio in 2004 - And They Have Proof

Is this sour grapes or incontrovertible evidence? You decide. –IFK Editor

The Gun is Smoking - 2004 Ohio Precinct-Level Exit Poll Data Show Virtually Irrefutable Evidence of Vote Miscount

The National Election Data Archive (NEDA) is the first mathematical team to release a valid scientific analysis of the precinct-level 2004 Ohio presidential exit poll data. NEDA's analysis provides virtually irrefutable evidence of vote miscount.

(PRWEB) January 17, 2006 -- There is significant controversy about whether the 2004 presidential election was conducted fairly and its votes counted correctly. According to results of the major national election exit poll conducted for the National Election Pool by Edison/Mitofsky (E/M), Kerry won Ohio's pivotal vote, though the official tally gave the state, and thus the presidency, to Bush. The conduct of Ohio's election was formally debated by Congress in January 2005.

The National Election Data Archive (NEDA) is the first mathematical team to release a valid scientific analysis of the precinct-level 2004 Ohio presidential exit poll data "The Gun is Smoking: 2004 Ohio Precinct-level Exit Poll Data Show Virtually Irrefutable Evidence of Vote Miscount" available at NEDA's analysis provides significant evidence of an outcome-altering vote miscount.

The analysis is based on the most accurate statistical method yet devised for determining whether exit poll error, random variations, or vote count manipulation cause the discrepancies between exit polls and official vote tallies. This analysis method was made public recently by NEDA in "Vote Miscounts or Exit Poll Error? New Mathematical Function for Analyzing Exit Poll Discrepancy" available at

Exit Polls were conducted in 49 of Ohio’s 11,360 precincts. At least 40% of Ohio's polled precincts show statistically significant differences between Kerry’s exit poll percent and official vote count percent. 35% of these exit polls overestimated the Kerry official vote share. This is five times the number expected. Three of the most glaring examples are:

1. In E/M precinct 27, with an estimated 100 respondents, Kerry’s official vote count was 29% less than his exit poll share, creating a 58% difference between Kerry and Bush exit poll and official vote margins. There is less than a one in 867,205,500 chance of this occurring due to chance.

2. In E/M precinct 25, with an estimated 62 respondents, Kerry’s official vote count was 28% less than his exit poll share, creating a 56% difference between Kerry and Bush exit poll and official vote margins. There is less than a one in 234,800 chance of this occurring due to chance.

3. In E/M precinct 48, with an estimated 100 respondents, Kerry's official vote was 16% less than his exit poll share, creating a 32% difference between Kerry and Bush exit poll and official vote margins. There is less than a one in 17,800 chance of this occurring due to chance.

There are also two precincts where the Bush official vote count is significantly less than the Bush exit poll share. The number of significant discrepancies and the pattern of Ohio's discrepancy shown in the NEDA report provide strong support for the conclusion that vote count errors converted a Kerry win to a Bush win.

New electronic voting equipment without voter verified paper ballots, implemented under the 2002 Help America Vote Act, makes it easier for a small number of people to manipulate vote counts and nearly impossible to independently audit vote count accuracy. Virtually every county in America today publicly reports its vote counts in a way that hides evidence of miscounts. This allows those with access (whether authorized or not) to manipulate or make mistakes in vote counting with negligible possibility of detection.

Without accurate elections, America is not a democracy. NEDA urges the media to publicize the results of this report and its recommendations, in order to return to the American people their right to determine the country’s leaders.

About the National Election Data Archive
The National Election Data Archive is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose mission is to scientifically investigate the accuracy of elections through the creation and analysis of a database containing precinct-level vote-type election data for the entire United States. By making detailed election data publicly available NEDA furthers its goal of providing the means for independent analysts to evaluate the accuracy of vote counts in time to ensure that properly elected candidates are sworn into office following future elections.


Paul Hackett Takes on Republican Religious Zealots

Readers of my blog will know how eager I am to see Paul Hackett do well in Ohio in 2006. I previously posted about his rise and chances here: Kerry Clone, Hackett to Run for Senate in Ohio
Hackett continues to impress. his hard charging, take no prisoners style is just what the Dems ordered. Here's a recent example:

"The Republican Party has been hijacked by the religious fanatics that, in my opinion, aren’t a whole lot different than Osama bin Laden and a lot of the other religious nuts around the world,” he said. “The challenge is for the rest of us moderate Americans and citizens of the world to put down the fork and spoon, turn off the TV, and participate in the process and try to push back on these radical nuts – and they are nuts."

Then responding to Republican counter attacks Hackett really unleashes:

"I said it. I meant it. I stand behind it. Equal justice under the law for all regardless of who they are and how they were born is fundamental to our American spirit and our American freedoms. Any person or group that argues that the law should not apply equally to all Americans is, frankly, un-American.

The Republican Party has been hijacked by religious fanatics, who are out of touch with mainstream America. Think of the recent comments by Pat Robertson – a religious fanatic by any measure – that the United States should assassinate a democratically elected leader in Venezuela, and that Ariel Sharon’s stroke was divine punishment because Sharon wished to trade land for peace.

Since the Republican Party has been utterly unable to stand for something positive, they have created an atmosphere of fear and intimidation, and have pandered to religious fanatics not to vote for something they believe in, but to vote against their fellow Americans with whom they disagree. Those among us who would use religion and politics to divide rather than unite Americans should be ashamed."

For more info on Paul Hackett and how you can help his campaign visit:

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

US Senator Kerry to visit Middle East, South Asia

Tue Jan 10, 2006

WASHINGTON (AFP) - US Senator John Kerry will travel next week to Iraq and Afghanistan as part of a 12-day trip to assess progress on the US war on terror, his office announced.

Kerry is traveling to the Middle East "to focus on the steps that must be taken in Iraq and hear from experts in the region about the war in Iraq, the war on terror and the Middle East peace process," his office said.

Kerry's itinerary also includes Pakistan, Jordan, Kuwait,
Israel and India. In addition to military and security issues, he will focus on global health crises and US competitiveness in the global economy.

Full story

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Republicans face 'partywide crisis'

Lets recap...

Analysis: GOP Woes Don't End With DeLay

By JENNIFER LOVEN, Associated Press

WASHINGTON - Republicans worried about their party's future have succeeded in pushing embattled former Majority Leader Tom DeLay off the stage. Even so, the Republicans' election-year troubles are far from over.

Need a reminder?

President Bush, the titular head of the GOP, is waging an unpopular war in
Iraq and presiding over a nation with lingering economic anxieties. He suffers from approval ratings around 40 percent — near record lows for his presidency. Questionable stock transactions by the top Republican in the Senate, Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee, are under investigation. A special prosecutor's probe continues into whether Bush administration officials outed a
CIA operative in retribution for her husband's Iraq war criticism. A secret anti-terror program that Bush approved to eavesdrop on people inside the United States without warrants is raising concerns about overly broad presidential powers.

Potentially most damaging is an influence-peddling scandal on Capitol Hill.

Last week's guilty pleas to corruption and tax evasion charges by the central figure in the scandal, disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, are anything but the last chapter. Abramoff is cooperating in a wide-ranging investigation that could ensnare dozens of lawmakers with close ties to the generous and powerful lobbyist, including DeLay and House Administration Committee Chairman Bob Ney, R-Ohio.

Ross Baker, a political science professor at Rutgers University, called it a "partywide crisis" that the GOP has problems with its leadership in all three areas of the federal government that it controls.

"The removal of DeLay from the leadership doesn't end their problems with scandal and, more broadly, with running the House," said Norm Ornstein with the conservative American Enterprise Institute. "That's their challenge, is to begin to get their policy act together. And they're going to have to do it with just Republicans because Democrats are going to be against them."

Republican domination of Congress is at stake in the November elections. Indeed, a new Associated Press-Ipsos poll found that 49 percent of those surveyed said they would prefer to see Democrats take control of Congress, compared with 36 percent who want a continued Republican majority.

With that in mind, Saturday's decision by DeLay to abandon his bid to resume his No. 2 post in the House was welcomed by Republicans.

The man Democrats love to hate is battling campaign finance charges in Texas that had forced him to step aside as majority leader. Maintaining his innocence, he had said he intended to take his leadership position back once cleared of the charges. DeLay changed his tune under pressure from fellow Republicans that only grew as the Abramoff case mushroomed.

At the White House, where aides had insisted for weeks that the famously effective DeLay retained the president's support, there was a sharp pivot. "We respect Congressman DeLay's decision to put the interests of the American people, the House of Representatives and the Republican Party first," Bush spokeswoman Erin Healy said.

Democrats have made clear they plan to make GOP corruption a centerpiece campaign theme. They pounced.

"Tom DeLay bears much of the responsibility for the culture of corruption Republicans have created in Washington, D.C., but his removal from House leadership alone will not end the pervasive cronyism and corruption that he and Washington Republicans created," said Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada.

The anti-corruption tact gives Democrats the opportunity to overcome bad fractures within their party as well as their lack of a cohesive message. An AP-Ipsos poll last month showed that 88 percent of Americans say that corruption reaching into all levels of government is a serious problem.

Bush had hoped to rescue both his and his party's political fortunes by turning a new page in 2006 and focusing on immigration reform, good economic news and turning around public opinion on Iraq.

But I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, former chief of staff to Vice President
Dick Cheney, is expected to stand trial in the CIA leak case this summer, just ahead of the midterm elections. The special prosecutor's inquiry continues, leaving the fate of other senior White House officials, notably Bush's deputy chief of staff and political guru Karl Rove, in doubt.

And the election for a new House majority leader will serve as a reminder of the GOP's troubles right when Bush is unveiling his election-year agenda. The House reconvenes the week of Jan. 30, with the election likely to be held right away. Bush's annual State of the Union address is tentatively scheduled for that week.

Missouri Rep. Roy Blunt, the GOP whip who temporarily has filled in for DeLay and is expected to run to permanently take his place, also could suffer from his association with Abramoff. He was among many lawmakers who refunded or gave to charity some or all of the donations they received from Abramoff, his associates or clients.

Though House Speaker Dennis Hastert's position seems secure, some are calling for a wider leadership shake up that would be messy and distracting. "The conference needs the ability to reassess the leadership team as a whole," said Rep. Melissa Hart (news, bio, voting record), R-Pa.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Another Blow to the Republican Culture of Corruption

Only three days in to the new year and already a breaking (mostly Rebublican) scandal is about to tear apart Washington headlines. And this was supposed to be Bush's big turn around year! -IFK Editor

Abramoff Plea May Rock GOP Boat

By TOM RAUM, Associated Press Writer Tue Jan 3, 5:13 PM ET

WASHINGTON - The plea deal worked out by Jack Abramoff could send seismic waves across the political landscape in this congressional election year. The Republicans, who control Congress and the White House, are likely to take the biggest hits.

The GOP has more seats to lose and has closer ties with the former lobbyist. But some Democrats with links to Abramoff and his associates are also expected to be snagged in the influence-peddling net.

While the full dimensions of the corruption probe are not yet clear, some political consultants and analysts are already comparing its damage potential to the 1992 House banking scandal that led to the retirement or ouster of 77 lawmakers.

"You don't have to be a political genius to sniff the smell of blood in the water," said GOP consultant Rich Galen.

Galen said even lawmakers in seemingly safe districts, and those "who don't have a reputation for being fast and loose with the rules," could be vulnerable if voters rise up in reproach "and everybody drops five or six points" in this year's midterm contests.

Abramoff, a former $100,000-plus fundraiser for
President Bush with close ties to former House Majority Leader
Tom DeLay, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to conspiracy, tax evasion and mail fraud. That cleared the way for his cooperation with federal prosecutors in bringing charges against former business and political associates.

The investigation is believed to involve up to 20 members of Congress and aides and possibly several administration officials.

The timing couldn't be worse, politically, especially for Republicans. Lawmakers who may be indicted could find themselves coming to trial this summer, just ahead of the midterm elections. Around the same time, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, former chief of staff to Vice President
Dick Cheney, is expected to stand trial in the
CIA leak case.

DeLay, who had to step down as majority leader in September after a grand jury in Texas indicted him in a campaign finance investigation, is awaiting a trial date. And former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, R-Calif., gave up his seat Dec. 1 after admitting he had accepted $2.4 million in bribes from defense contractors.

With so many trials and prosecutions in the works, speculation is swirling over whom Abramoff might bring down and on the possible fallout for others.

"Most seats in Congress are relatively safe this year. But they are not safe from a tsunami," said University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato, author of a book on political scandals. "
Iraq, plus economic problems, plus these scandals, could produce a tsunami. That's what every incumbent on Capitol Hill has to fear."

Most Americans are convinced that corruption reaching into all levels of government is a deeply rooted problem. According to an AP-Ipsos poll last month, 88 percent say the problem is a serious one, with 51 percent calling it "very serious."

People need to know "that government is not for sale," Assistant Attorney General Alice S. Fisher said in pledging to pursue the investigation "wherever it goes."

For months, federal prosecutors have focused on whether Abramoff defrauded his Indian tribal clients of millions of dollars and used improper influence on members of Congress. Tribes represented by the lobbyist contributed millions of dollars in casino income to congressional campaigns.

Abramoff also took members of Congress on lavish overseas trips and provided sports tickets, golf fees, frequent meals, entertainment and jobs for lawmakers' relatives and aides.

Some lawmakers have already returned contributions. Others no doubt are nervously scouring their memories and appointment books.

For years, many lawmakers have shrugged off lobbyists' gifts as campaign contributions, harmless wining, dining and socializing. "Now you've got someone admitting exactly what the motivation was and explaining all the avenues they used," said Kent Cooper, a former
Federal Election Commission official.

"You're talking about standard operating procedure here in Washington suddenly being turned on its head and a key operator signing a plea agreement that he may have been involved in some kind of public corruption," said Cooper, who tracks lobbying and campaign contributions for the nonpartisan Political Money Line service.

The Democratic National Committee called the situation the latest installment of a Republican "culture of corruption." That notion was disputed by White House spokesman Scott McClellan, who denounced Abramoff's activities as "outrageous" and noted that the lobbyist and his clients contributed to both parties.

That may be so, said Norman Ornstein, a political analyst at the American Enterprise Institute, "but it will disproportionately affect Republicans. They are the majority party and because Abramoff is a conservative Republican."