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Monday, May 29, 2006

Brian Bilbray

According to U.S. News and World Report's Washington Whispers, Republicans tasked with trying to win congressional races in 2006 are worried that Brian Bilbray is going to lose the June 6th Special Election:

Staffers from the National Republican Congressional Committee are quietly telling GOP House members to prepare for a possible loss in the June 6 special election to fill the seat of Randy "Duke" Cunningham, now in prison for taking bribes. The Southern California district is heavily Republican, but some GOP insiders believe that Democrat Francine Busby will defeat former GOP Rep. Brian Bilbray and go on to win a full term in November. More alarming some worry that a Bilbray defeat could signal the GOP's loss of control of the House. The NRCC has already pumped $3.1 million into the race. "It is becoming more and more likely," says one GOP strategist, "that Bilbray will squeak out a victory." But another longtime Republican operative isn't so sure. "This is a district we should never lose," he says. "It's the stink of Cunningham, and the Bush problem."
It is bad news for the GOP in 2006 if they are losing districts like California's 50th. The problem with Bilbray might not be that he is going to lose, but that he is a loser:

Lobbyist Brian Bilbray
Busby's opponent, Republican Brian Bilbray is a lobbyist who has fought hard to keep his occupation from the voters of CA-50.

The Hill, a Capitol-area newspaper, reported last summer that several sources, including one GOP lawmaker, complained that Bilbray used his floor privileges as an ex-member to lobby in the House chamber. Bilbray denied the allegation. "I've never done that. That's not right," he said.

Abramoff crony Brian Bilbray
In the now famous Marianas Island lobbying saga, Brian Bilbray was the beneficiary of a political junket arranged by convicted Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

As a congressman, Bilbray traveled to the Marianas Islands on a junket arranged by disgraced GOP superlobbyist Jack Abramoff. The island government, controlled by a handful of wealthy manufacturers, was pressing to keep the U.S. from imposing wage and labor laws on their factories.

Bilbray took up the Marianas' cause with aplomb, although he has denied knowing Abramoff. "I assume I've run into him during the process," he said. "But when I see him on TV, it's not someone I recognize."

Brian Bilbray lobbying in violation of federal law?
In 2001 while working for the lobbying firm of Benedetto Advocacy and Communcations, Bilbray apparently lobbied congress in violation of federal law.

Benedetto hired former Representative Brian Bilbray to lobby for Bajagua less than a year after Bilbray lost reelection, and Bilbray appeared before Congress to press for Bajagua. That is in apparent violation of 18 U.S.C. §207 of the federal criminal code.
Not only was he in possible violation of federal law, he failed to disclose that was was a paid lobbyist for the group he was testifying for.

Where exactly does Brian Bilbray live?
The question is raised by green in brooklyn. It seems that lobbyist Bilbray claims he lives in his mother's house (which is in CA-50) in Carlsbad since March 2005. However, Virginia records show that he lists his home in Alexandria, VA as his primary residence for tax purposes. However, the same is true for his home in Imperial Beach, CA. (located outside of CA-50). 10News in San Diego has the details.

Neighbors told 10News they rarely ever see Bilbray at the house, which is his mother's home.

"He comes here occasionally to see his mother like boys will do, but he doesn't live here," said neighbor Frank Knudsen.

"If he does live here, he must leave late at night and come back early in the morning," said neighbor Bill Rider.

Another man, who lives right next door, said he wondered when people would catch on that Bilbray does not live here.

If Bilbray lives in Virginia, he may not be eligible to run for the congressional seat here.

Questionable dealings while serving as a County Supervisor
In 1990, while a member of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors, Supervisor Bilbray was caught up in an investigation of a sanitation company suspected of price fixing, antitrust violations, environmental contamination and illegal dumping of toxic and hazardous materials, inadequate liability insurance held by WMI on their municipal and hazardous waste operations and organized crime connections. Here's a summary of the investigation by the San Diego District Attorney's office. It's quite long and you have to scroll down towards the bottom for Bilbray's involvement.

It seems that in 1990, Waste Management, Inc. was looking to develop a landfill site in San Diego County. At the time, Brian Bilbray was on the County's Board of Supervisors which was responsible for approving of permit and zoning change applications. A member of that Board of Supervisors had some concerns and asked the District Attorney's office to investigate Waste Management which led to this investigation. At the same time, Bilbray also happened to be the president of a non-profit called "Sail San Diego" whose purpose was to compete in an international sailing competition. Now at the time, Sail San Diego was facing financial difficulties, which made a subsequent $50,000 donation from Waste Management to Sail San Diego seem a little suspicious.

An examination of the financial records of Sail San Diego by our investigators revealed that the donations by Waste Management, Inc., and Hal Jensen were made at times; when the organization was in serious financial trouble... It is clear that without this infusion of cash that Sail San Diego would probably have become insolvent.

On March 22, 1990, a meeting took place in Supervisor Bilbray's office at the County Administration Center. The following individuals were present at the meeting:

Supervisor Brian Bilbray
John Woodard, chief of staff for Supervisor Bilbray
Jeff Stafford, administrative assistant to Bilbray
David Lowry, chairman of NORCORP, Inc.
David McGuigen, of Sport F/X
John DeTar, of Sport F/X
Tom Blackman, Western regional vice president of Waste Management of California
David Ross, project manager for Waste Management of California

When interviewed, David Ross stated that during this meeting a request was made for a donation by Waste Management to Sail San Diego. He recalled that David Lowry made most of the presentation on behalf of Sail San Diego, and that Supervisor Bilbray also participated. Ross stated that the privatization of landfills and the development of Gregory Canyon were also discussed at this meeting.

John DeTar and David McGuigen both stated that during the meeting a presentation was made to Waste Management officials about Sail San Diego. They specifically recall that a request for a $50,000 contribution was made.

In interviews conducted as a part of this investigation, neither Supervisor Bilbray nor his staff could recall any details of this meeting, nor could they recall who was in attendance. Although his office calendar contains an entry for March 22, 1990, indicating a 2:00 p.m. meeting with Tom Blackman, Supervisor Bilbray stated, "The March 22 one, really just sort of draws a blank for me. That one I really can't tell you. I don't know, I could try and guess." Supervisor Bilbray was unable to recall a meeting in which a $50,000 donation to Sail San Diego was requested. Supervisor Bilbray did recall, in detail, a series of meetings with Waste Management officials over a period 'of months, which occurred after March 22, 1990.

Another such practice has been Waste Management's penchant for donating large sums of money, all with the appearance of altruistic or beneficent ends, to charitable entities or projects which are targeted for the greatest impact on persons exercising crucial approval authority over Waste Management business projects which are either proposed, pending or under review. This kind of practice appears to be Waste Management's primary reason for their $50,000 contribution to the financially troubled Sail San Diego. These practices suggest an unseemly effort by Waste Management to manipulate local government for its own business ends. If unchecked, these practices, like other more direct forms of improper attempts to gain influence, may have a corrupting impact on local government and lead to decisions unsuitable to the best interests of the public.

In view of the obvious ramifications of Waste Management's contribution to Sail San Diego, we believe that Supervisor Brian Bilbray would be well advised to abstain from voting on current Waste Management projects pending before the San Diego County Board of Supervisors. Such action will avoid any further appearance of impropriety or conflict of interest.

It is important to note that Bilbray has been neither convicted nor charged with any criminal activity. However, I think his actions in years past warrant a closer look at who we want to serve as our elected representatives. Francine Busby has two proposals which would help clean up the way business is done in Congress. You can read more about her Clean House and Clean Office proposals.

With one week to go, it appears the GOP is stuck with a dirty candidate in a district where everyone knows about the Republican Culture of Corruption.

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