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Caught Our Eye items are posted daily. LegiStorm Pro subscribers have access to all posts a few hours before other users, and are also able to search the full Caught Our Eye archive. Log in as a LegiStorm Pro user or learn more about subscribing.

Former congressional aide pleads guilty

Posted by LegiStorm on Dec. 12, 2008

In what has become an all-too-common pattern this year, another former congressional aide pleaded guilty Friday to conspiracy in the long-running Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal.

James Hirni, a former legislative director to Sen. Tim Hutchinson (R-Ark.), admitted in court that he helped provide an all-expense paid trip to the 2003 World Series to two congressional aides. At the time, Hirni was a lobbyist working on Abramoff's team.

There's no reason to believe this is the end yet.

Another Illinois politician in the news

Posted by LegiStorm on Dec. 11, 2008

One day before Illinois Governor Rob Blagojevich was arrested on corruption charges, the Chicago Tribune ran a story on another Illinois politician whose real estate dealings have created at least an impression of shady dealings.

The Tribune's Monday report details real estate deals that have netted Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) more than $400,000 - many of them done with contributors to his campaign. The article cites Gutierrez as saying the real estate deals present no conflict of interest because he is not involved in local zoning matters, but the Tribune reports Gutierrez has asked Chicago politicians to support regulation changes that would benefit his supporters.

Gutierezz disclosed the real estate deals on his personal financial disclosures, which are available at LegiStorm.

Blagojevich arrested; LegiStorm adds his state financial disclosures

Posted by LegiStorm on Dec. 9, 2008
Illinois governor and former Rep. Rod Blagojevich (D) was arrested Tuesday morning on corruption charges, including the accusation he essentially put up the open Senate seat formerly held by Barack Obama for the highest bidder.

Even before the arrest, Blagojevich has been under fire. A Chicago Tribune poll in October put his approval rating at 13 percent, and in another poll only 4 percent of respondents said he was doing a "good" job. Those numbers may have made him the most unpopular politician in the country. The latest revelations could make the situation even worse.

Because of the enormous interest in Blagojevich's financial dealings, LegiStorm has added Blagojevich's available state financial disclosures he filed as the governor of Illinois. Blagovich's financial disclosures as a member of Congress are not available as the House only keeps the disclosures on file for six years. Blagovich left his office to run for governor in 2002.

Abramoff scandal still reverberates in Washington

Posted by LegiStorm on Nov. 21, 2008

Nearly three years after lobbyist Jack Abramoff pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy and fraud, the scandal is still playing out on Capitol Hill.

Thursday, former congressional staffer Trevor L. Blackann pleaded guilty to charges he failed to report gifts he received from lobbyists on this tax returns.

Among the more than $4,000 in gifts received was a trip to New York City for the opening game of the 2003 World Series. Blackann admitted to knowing the trip was paid for by lobbyists. The court documents do not identify the lobbyists in question, but the Department of Justice issued a release calling the case part of the investigation into the lobbying activities of Abramoff. Blackann also did not report the trip to Congress.

One of the trips Blackann did disclose in his time as a congressional aide was paid for by the Dairy Farmers of America. According to filings reported to the House of Representatives, Blackann later worked as a lobbyist for the Dairy Farmers of America in 2007.

Top congressional aides are required to file personal financial disclosures that list gifts and other matters that might reveal conflicts of interest. But Blackann was not required to file a financial disclosure because his salary did not meet the minimum threshold. Instead, prosecutors focused on his tax filings, which did not disclose the gifts as income.

LegiStorm launches earmarks database

Posted by LegiStorm on Nov. 19, 2008

We are proud to launch the latest free LegiStorm resource, a free searchable database to track the explosive growth of legislative earmarks.

The earmarks database builds on other LegiStorm data so users can find important connections between otherwise unconnected facts, such as between earmarks and the corporate-sponsored travel or personal financial holdings of members of Congress and their staff.

"Earmarks have been at the center of several congressional scandals in the past few years, and openness in the process can help combat potential abuses of the earmark system," said Jock Friedly, a former Capitol Hill investigative reporter who is the founder and president of LegiStorm. "LegiStorm is proud to integrate earmarks data with our other data sets in order to bring deeper insight and increased transparency to congressional and executive spending."

LegiStorm's new data were provided by Taxpayers for Common Sense, a group that tracks earmarks in detail.

For more information, read our press release.

About Caught Our Eye

We spend a large part of our days looking at data. Documents often come in by the dozens and hundreds. And while most are boring - how interesting can staring at a phone directory or salary records be, for example? - we find daily reasons for interest, amusement or even concern packed in the documents. So we are launching a new running feature that we call "Caught our Eye."

Longer than tweets but shorter than most blog posts, Caught our Eye items will bring back the interest in reviewing documents and researching people. Some items might bring hard, breaking news. Others will raise eyebrows and lead some into further inquiry. Others might be good for a joke or two around the water cooler. All will enlighten about the people or workings of Capitol Hill.

Caught our Eye items will be published each morning for LegiStorm Pro subscribers. Non-Pro site users will be able to receive the news items a few hours later. In addition to having immediate access to the news, LegiStorm Pro users will have a handy way to search and browse all past items.