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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Thompson emails: Smoking gun or just smoking something?

The Wisconsin GOP thinks it has the smoking gun in the Georgia Thompson "travelgate" case. A press release (.pdf) has copies of emails Thompson sent that, if you squint real hard and imagine things that aren't there, might indicate the the "scandal" goes all the way to the top.

In one email, Thompson mentions that she's arranging for the winning bidder (remember that Thompson's insisting on a final round of bids saved taxpayers money!) Adelman Travel to visit the offices of the Governor, one of the people who would be using the services of the agency. This makes sense to me:
But Doyle spokesman Matt Canter said there was nothing improper about Thompson trying to arrange the visit to the governor's office after the contract was awarded.

"Thompson and her staff went around to government agencies, including the governor's office, to explain the new procedures of the travel contract," Canter said.
Of course, the more important--and completely unasked--question is, If Adelman Travel was so well-connected to the Governor, why would they need Thompson to arrange a visit?

In a second, very long email, from January of 2005, as the bidding process was just getting started, Thompson included one line about Marc Marotta, Governor Doyle's then Administration Secretary (now a high roller in the re-election campaign). The line is about what was included in the Request for Proposals (RFP) sent out to travel agencies. "We included language in the RFP," she wrote, "about hotels and airlines, as Marc Marotta suggested." To the GOP, Marotta's suggestion that (horrors!) the state's travel agency might cover both airlines and hotels is tantamount to his having selected Adelman as quid pro quo for Adelman's contributions to the Doyle campaign. In fact (from the JSOnline link above):
Marotta said he attended one meeting, which his schedule says was held in Ocober 2004, at which a potential $4 million savings by consolidating state travel was discussed.
There you go. But again, an important and unasked question remains. The very next sentence in that Thompson email reads, "I still believe both hotels and airlines need to be bid separately [. . .]." If Thompson was supposedly doing all this to please her supervisors, why would she express reservations, instead of going at it full bore? Seriously, do you really think it would help you with your boss if you went around saying, "Hm, I think my boss may be wrong"?

It doesn't make sense. The GOP is not making a very good case here, and if this is as close as they can get to a smoking gun, then maybe it's the crack they're smoking.

What's more, the Republican-appointed US Attorney who's been on this case--and who secured the conviction against Thompson--thinks the GOP is on crack, too. Again from the JSOnline link, with my emphasis:
U.S. Attorney Stephen Biskupic, who prosecuted Thompson, said in a statement today that in the course of his investigation, he had examined the e-mail released by the Republican Party and concluded there was nothing in it criminally damaging to Marotta. In fact, Marotta was not even called as a witness in Thompson's trial.

"The public should not presume that anyone else will be charged," Biskupic said. "We are continuing to look at the evidence, but the public is cautioned not to read anything else into it, only that we're being careful. It doesn't necessarily mean that more charges are forthcoming."
Seth Zlotocha called it right the other day when he said that the GOP's relentless negative digs at Doyle--and, in today's case, desperate digs at Doyle--show nothing more than a lack of leadership and a plan from their candidate for governor, Mark Green. If they had something positive to show, they would show it. Green's got nothing, so they have to do the next best thing--stretch the truth about Jim Doyle.

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