House Dems want Perata probe leaks plugged

The Los Angeles Times reported today that House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., and committee members Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, and Linda Sanchez, D-Lakewood, wrote a letter July 31 to Attorney General Michael Mukasey asking that he investigate information leaks from the long-running and oft-publicized grand jury investigation of state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, D-Oakland.

I just obtained a copy of the letter myself…

“The timing of these leaks is particularly curious, given that Senator Perata is serving his final, and most critical, year in the Senate and is one of the most prominent elected officials in state office. Senator Perata is playing a key role in negotiating a solution to one of the largest budget crises in California’s history.

“We ask that the Department of Justice take this matter seriously and open an investigation. In so doing, we do not take a position on the underlying investigation of Senator Perata, but we strongly urge that you take steps to ensure that whatever actions the Department of Justice feels it should take based on the facts are untainted by illegal leaks or whispering campaigns.”

Sanchez chairs the Commercial and Administrative Law Subcommittee, and Lofrgen chairs the Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security and International Law Subcommittee.

I spoke this evening with Josh Eaton, spokesman for the Northern California U.S. Attorney’s office, and Special Agent Joseph Schadler, spokesman for the FBI’s San Francisco Field Division; neither would comment on the letter (because, I suppose, even formally confirming the existence of such an investigation could be construed as exactly the type of leak the letter aims to plug). I left a message for Perata spokesman Jason Kinney; I’ll update if he calls me back.

UPDATE @ 7:10 P.M. TUESDAY — “Given the Bush Administration’s well-documented politicization of the Justice Department, it doesn’t surprise me Congressional leaders would be interested in learning more behind the timing and motive of these leaks,” Kinney just told me. “I think it’s perfectly appropriate that they ask some tough questions.”


Nader has a snit over impeachment hearing

So the House Judiciary Committee, chaired by John Conyers, D-Mich., will hold a hearing Friday on “Executive Power and Its Constitutional Limitations.” From the committee’s Web site:

“Over the last seven plus years, there have been numerous credible allegations of serious misconduct by officials in the Bush Administration,” said Conyers. “At the same time, the administration has adopted what many would describe as a radical view of its own powers and authorities. As Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, I believe it is imperative that we pursue a comprehensive review commensurate to this constitutionally dangerous combination of circumstances. Next Friday’s hearings will be an important part of that ongoing effort.”

The Committee is expected to examine a range of legal and legislative responses to allegations of administration misconduct and their expansion of executive branch power.

Among those called to testify will be Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, who earlier this month introduced an article of impeachment against President George W. Bush, based on “Deceiving Congress with Fabricated Threats of Iraq WMDs to Fraudulently Obtain Support for an Authorization of the Use of Military Force Against Iraq.” Impeachment advocates shouldn’t get all that excited: Kucinich will have a chance to talk about it, but House Democratic leaders have made that’s not the hearing’s main focus. Instead, the committee aims to generally review what it believes to be the president’s abuses of power. Still, even a discussion of impeachment is a milestone for Kucinich and this Congress.

Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader isn’t on the list of invited witnesses, and that sure does seem to starch his boxers, as evidenced by the letter he sent to Conyers today:

July 23, 2008

Chairman John Conyers
House Judiciary Committee
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Chairman Conyers:

For years I have been urging you to initiate a resolution of impeachment of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney for chronic, repeated violations of our Constitution and the many “high crimes and misdemeanors” they commit day after day. These two men are the worst recidivist impeachable occupiers of the Presidency and Vice Presidency in American history.

Since assuming power over both Houses, the Democratic leadership declared impeachment to be “off the table.”

During our 2004 Nader/Camejo independent campaign for the Presidency, we invited the American people to sign on in support of our demand for the impeachment of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. Many thousands of citizens signed.

We have had several conversations and two meetings where impeachment was discussed. On March 24, 2008, I wrote you a letter describing the various options open to you as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee (see enclosed.)

A few days ago, it was reported that your Committee will hold hearings this Friday July 25, 2008 on Congressman Dennis Kucinich’s article of impeachment referred to your jurisdiction.

You have invited four members of the House to testify including, of course, Congressman Kucinich and several observers of the subject, including the inestimable former mayor of Salt Lake City Rocky Anderson, Bruce Fein and John Dean. The Libertarian candidate for President, Bob Barr is also on the witness list, but I am not.

This is not the first time that I have been excluded from testifying on subjects both of us have been concerned about and have discussed. Remember your invitation to testify at your unofficial public hearing right after the 2004 elections regarding “irregularities” in Ohio? Within two days, your chief of staff, Perry Applebaum, persuaded you to disinvite me.

Applebaum has been a problem with my appearing before a Committee Chairman whom I have known, admired and worked with for nearly forty years. He has performed his exclusionary behavior on other occasions. It is time to make this public and to ascertain why he prevails again and again with his superior either not to invite or to deny requests to testify regarding subjects well within my knowledge, experience, and forthrightness.


Ralph Nader
P.O. Box 34103
Washington, D.C. 20043

But why should Nader be invited? What special viewpoint or knowledge would he bring to such a hearing that others can’t? Lots of people are “concerned” about it and I’m sure many people have “discussed” the matter with Conyers, but not everyone gets to testify.

This seems to me like yet another example of Nader’s indefatigable ego: It’s not good enough for him that impeachment is being discussed; HE must be invited to hold forth on it.

Uh, Ralph? It’s not all about you.


DEA eyes Oakland medical marijuana club

The federal Drug Enforcement Administration may be moving toward action against one or more of the four medical marijuana clubs permitted by the city of Oakland.

“Oaksterdam” pioneer Richard Lee got a letter from the DEA recently (read it here, page 1 and page 2) warning him that his ownership of the SR-71 Coffeeshop at 377 17th St. may subject him to federal prosecution that could land him in stir for up to 20 years and lead to the forfeiture of his property, regardless of whatever protection he claims under California’s medical marijuana law or Oakland’s ordinances. (The DEA appears to be a little behind the times in at least one regard; SR-71 renamed itself “Coffeeshop Blue Sky” several months ago.)

The DEA has been sending these threatening letters to landlords of San Francisco dispensaries, and now Oakland City Hall is abuzz — officials had hoped the city’s small number of dispensaries and tight regulations would make Oakland less of a target, but apparently that’s not going to be the case.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., earlier this year voiced concern and promised oversight hearings on the DEA’s practice of threatening private landlords with asset forfeiture and possible imprisonment if they refuse to evict organizations dispensing medical marijuana to patients under state laws. “The Committee has already questioned the DEA about its efforts to undermine California state law on this subject, and we intend to sharply question this specific tactic as part of our oversight efforts,” Conyers said in May — but no such hearings have occurred.