Corruptions, A Novel of Washington

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Chapter 12

Of course, I didn’t expect it to start going to shit as fast as it did.

Late Monday night after my return from Paris, I buried myself in the living room sofa, working my way through the masses of emails that had accumulated while I was out of the country. I hadn’t been able to sleep, not so much from the jet lag as from the strange sensation of lying next to Charlotte, knowing I’d betrayed her, my mind spinning at the contradictory thoughts that cheating on her just wasn’t something I’d do while simultaneously something I’d thoroughly enjoyed. I’d tossed and turned for a while, but sleep wouldn’t come. Afraid to wake her and eager to clear my head, I’d taken out my laptop and settled in.

Most of the email was spam, along with the many political email newsletters and newsbits that I’d subscribed to. Occasionally there was some actual business, but nothing serious enough to get excited about.

By 2:30 a.m., I’d deleted most of the spam, answered the serious stuff, and was ready to turn to those emails that mostly looked like jokes from friends, the semi-spam that, as a lobbyist, I couldn’t ignore despite my fervent desire to get my name removed from their lists. The same staffer who was including me on the stupid crap he sent routinely would also include you when he had something important to share – so I was stuck with the crap.

I decided to start with an email from Peter, entitled, ‘the good news is…’ It took a good 45 seconds to download over the wireless, ensuring that it included photos if not a small video file. Opening it took another half-minute, all with my laptop waiting, waiting for the file, while I scratched furiously at the back of my head with two hands to wake myself up.

As the file opened, the text showed up first, followed almost line-by-line by the first photograph, slowly filling in. The message was short: “… she doesn’t name the Member. The bad news is, she gives his member a name.”

He had me. Like the vast majority of Washington, I was a total gossip-hound, not just because the stories were usually so juicy, but because half the time you’d met the offender: the indicted Congressman, the lobbyist who used his upscale restaurant as a feeding trough for House and Senate Republicans, the staffer who’d had her salary reduced her final year on the Hill so that she could sneak under the mandatory one-year lobbying prohibition for staffers over a certain pay level.

The first photo was a strange shot, a couple from the back, he in a dark blue suit, she in red, cut very low in the back, his right hand prominently clutching her ass. The skirt was askew, as if he’d been rubbing her with some vigor, but that was about it.

Picture number two, again from the back, this time with her facing him, one leg wrapped around him and his arms holding her close. Her face was shadowed, partly by his head and partly from the tight cropping of the shot from the top. She was kissing him, her head tilted to the side, thick brown hair flowing across his shoulder and, very obviously, her one visible eye staring straight at the camera.

The third shot looked to be more from a cell phone camera, grainier, lower quality but with much higher content value. The shot was of guy, the same guy from the cut and style of his hair, lying face down on a bed, naked, his head turned away from the camera, his left arm trailing back across the sheets. Just out of reach, a bra hung on the bedpost; the red dress hung limply from a lamp on the bedside table. The light from the lamp glinted on the big, ugly ring on his hand.

Fuck, I thought. The big ugly ring on his finger.

Copying the image, I opened it in my photo editor and blew it up. Like most cell phone photos, it bitmapped, the image disappearing into a haze of dots as I enlarged it. I went back to the email and checked the two others. In the first, where his hand was on her ass, there it was again. I copied this photo, opened it, and closed in on the ring. Just as I feared – it was Will Richardson’s big ugly goddamned Yale class ring.

At least, I had to assume it was Will’s. Peter capitalized Member, meaning a member of the House, and wouldn’t just send this around unless it had something interesting in it. And the hairstyle was his, a fairly typical blow-dried congressman look that wasn’t unique to Will but combined with the ring enough to know it was him. But so what? Will Richardson getting laid? That wasn’t news, that was an everyday occurrence. Still, something was wrong – her looking at the camera, her shot of him in bed with the ring, the whole thing.

Returning to the email, I scrolled to the very bottom, to find the rest of Peter’s message. “Can you tell who this is? Check out KitchyKoo2 at MySpace – she’s got a whole story about him. Lemme know what you find.”

I’d always been the Google guru among my friends, especially the ones who never got off the Hill. For all that Congress runs technology policy, and supposedly funds cutting-edge research, the Hill is like one humongous dinosaur when it comes to understanding how anything works. They all carry Blackberries, but mostly as symbols of power and importance, and they all have shiny new computers, but the vast majority have no idea how anything more complicated than email even works.

And MySpace, Jesus, seriously, who could be stupid enough to have a MySpace page in Washington after all the scandals? Not that I wanted to know what Peter was doing finding the MySpace pages of pretty young things who screwed Congressmen and shot photos of it. But this was Will, and I needed to know what the hell was going on.

I started by on KitchyKoo2’s profile page, but focused on her ‘Friends,’ the hundreds of fellow idiots who spilled their lives all over the site. Running through the posts that had been left, I clicked on the photos of women who’d sent messages with a personal touch to them. After about ten, I found the first common denominator, Wellesley College; that took a little over half an hour, but after that, I quickly cross-linked through six other Wellesley alumnae, all linked to her page. Their pages were relatively tame, and their postings to KitchyKoo2 made her seem the slut in the crowd – all the way from ‘you’re wild, girl,’ to ‘OMG – that’s disGUSTing!’ More importantly, though, their Wellesley pages all included group shots in which one other girl showed up whose page wasn’t linked to KitchyKoo2, some kid named Jean Chamberlain.

Googling ‘House,’ ‘Committee’ and ‘Jean Chamberlain,’ I found one reference in House Committee pages, a cached file showing her working for the Energy and Commerce Committee, the front office staff from the looks of it. But the current page didn’t include her. She’d moved on.

She was Jean Chamberlain, former House staffer, but what was she doing?

From there it was comparatively easy. She was listed in the online White Pages, so I knew where she lived. Next stop was the Federal Election Commission website, where she popped right up at that address as a donor to Will. Only to Will. Running through his donor list, I found two other women who’d made political donations to him and listed the same home address. This is getting worse all the time, I thought.

All three women showed as employees of General Micronics, a small Beltway Bandit-style defense contractor based out of western Maryland. The company’s web site indicated that it had annual sales of around $75 million, including a contract in the area of microrobotics. Pulling up the last two years of DOD Approps bill off Thomas, the Library of Congress web site, I found two earmarks in the area of microrobotics, one for $6 million two years before, and one for $18 million in the current year’s law. Both originated in the House, so both could have been put in by Richardson. I wondered what number they were working on for this year.

With all this data in hand, I went back to MySpace, where she’d conveniently maintained a blog; the story all came together very neatly. From recent references, it looked like Will was her landlord, and going back to the earliest references I could find, she’d been in the apartment a little over two years. She’d started by talking about how important he was, a senior Member of Congress, what an impressive guy, manly, yutta yutta. By June, she was having sex with a Washington bigwig, no name of course, no longer any indication that it was her landlord, but by July she was back making little jokes about her rent. By early August, one of her classmates from college had moved in, and KitchyKoo2 soon reported that she was ‘hanging’ with the bigwig too.

I opened another window, and went to, the Library of Congress web site, in search of the Defense bill from that year. The House Appropriations Committee hadn’t reported it out until September – plenty of time for KK2 or her friend to have made a deal with Richardson for that first earmark.

Another old college friend moved in during November of that same year, and KitchyKoo2 soon reported that she was hooking up with the bigwig as well. God, I’m getting old, I thought; routinely hooking up didn’t exist back in my day, at least not in this public sharesies kind of way. Will’s getting a live-at-home three-way over the next ten months, though, did explain the tripling of the first year’s earmark.

But that wasn’t the worst of it: KitchyKoo2’s blog postings, each date-stamped, were getting more sloppy, and she talked about hearings that she’d gone to just so she could see her lover, scattering dozens of clues about when his Committee was meeting and sometimes even the building the hearing was in. There was the name she’d given his member, his ’ICBM” she called it, complaining about the boxes of ‘missile silos’ they had to keep in the house because Will never brought his own rubbers. With several of that kind of hint, pointing the reader toward Congress’s defense committees, any decent reporter with a whole lot more time than I had could easily track back through this, even without recognizing the class ring. And if Peter was emailing me the photos, that meant it was only a matter of time until someone else would be able to put it all together.

Looking over at the clock, it was 4:40 a.m. I still hadn’t slept, and this was a busy week. I yawned, and looked back down at the screen. I had to give Will one thing – this woman and her friends were hot. I wonder if it’ll have been worth it after the media destroys his career, I thought. I wonder if he’ll care.

* * *

“Jesus, was that you?”

Alarm bells began going off in my head – loud ones. Roger, looking down the small pile of papers he kept on his desk, was moving them randomly from one side to the other, looking nonplussed and blinking like a demon.

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Well, damn,” he replied, still avoiding my eyes, “You know I work a lot into that bill, and I can’t always keep track of all of them. I depend on you guys to keep me up to speed on items you’re working.”

“Bullshit. You throw me back out the door if I come back to check up on you.” God, wasn’t that the truth. ‘Don’t hover,’ he’d say, ‘stop playing mother hen.’ That was on his good days. On his bad days he’d be threatening our amendment just out of spite.

“That’s a load of crap.”

“So what’s the status of the amendment? Is it in the bill?”

Roger paused, and then looked up at me for the first time. “It was.”


“I couldn’t remember why I’d asked for it.” He looked down again, moving the same papers from the right to the left this time. “So I told them to take it out.”

“Well, have them put the fucking thing back in again.”

“I can’t. They’ll know a lobbyist showed up and talked me into it. They’ll ask questions.” He looked back at me again, his face barely recognizable behind the tics. “You know better than I that this amendment can’t survive a whole lot of questions.”

Well, he was sure as shit right about that. The whole fucking amendment was a sham, an amendment earmarking $15 million in military aid for Africa for coastal biodiversity and sustainability programs, all so that maybe Koliba could sneak in under the radar and qualify for some military aid funding. It was an incredibly long shot, but it was the only shot we had. Thanks to Roger, I’d succeeded in sneaking it into the bill without anyone being the wiser.

And, now thanks to Roger, because I didn’t ‘hover,’ it got snuck right back out of the bill again.

“So what the fuck am I supposed to do?”

“You’ll, uh, have to find another sponsor.” He grimaced a little, and his jaw twitched. Glancing to his left for a moment, he looked quickly back at me. He was getting angry.

I was furious. “Are you fucking crazy? Another sponsor? The fucking mark-up is next week, you asshole!”

I could feel myself sliding quickly over the edge, and took a very deep breath. I wasn’t getting through a sentence without the word ‘fuck’ in it, and I wasn’t just saying it, I was pretty much spitting them at Roger. ‘Fuck,’ in and of itself, isn’t that big a deal in Washington – despite all the polite appearances on television and in visits by constituents, most people in Washington curse like stevedores. In a town where speech is one’s only weapon, the effective use of the most power-packed words in the English language is a critical skill. Roger wasn’t like that, but even he was used to getting it thrown at him every once in a while.

So it wasn’t the fact that I was cursing Roger, it was how serious I was about it. Even if he had screwed this up royally, Roger was still the one on the inside and I was still, as I always would be, the one on the outside. So I needed to slow down a little, take it down a notch, or I might get myself in a heap of trouble.

I turned around, looking for his guest chair. Walking to the corner, I leaned down and grasped the chairs’ arms. Squeezing my hands as tight as I could, I leaned there, breathing in, breathing out, slow myself down, breathing in, breathing out, again, again. After eight or so breaths, I picked it up, brought it toward his desk and took a seat. I could feel my anger beginning to dissipate. Settling in, shifting a little back and forth as if that might help the wooden seat accommodate me somehow, I looked over at him. I waited for a few moments, as did he, blinking quickly but the grimace gone, and I felt the mood in the air shifting around us.

“Got any ideas who I can get at this late date?”

“Is that an apology?” he replied.

“Let’s call it a recognition,” I said, “of going too far, perhaps, in expressing my concerns about the amendment we agreed to. We. Agreed. To.” I let that hang for a moment, and then continued, “And yes, Going. Too. Far.”

“Yeah, well, you’re full of shit,” he answered.

I smiled; he was getting past it if he swore.

“Sorry,” he said.

I breathed in again, deeply, and let it out. “I needed a challenge this year anyway. Everything’s been going along too easy.” I smiled over at him, and started thinking: who the hell was I going to get? I’d already used my one shot at Uncle Harry, and besides, this amendment would be way too transparent for that avenue – it would so obviously trace back to me and to our clients that it could start some serious trouble for Harry. Not only would it be stupid to take it to him, but he’d figure that out on his own and refuse to do it anyway. So I’d have to find another route.

He snorted, and shook his head. “You enjoy this business way too much.”

Well, that was certainly true. But this wasn’t the time for that discussion. “Maybe, but right now I have to find a new sponsor. I still haven’t heard any ideas out of you.”

“You’ll have to talk to Peter.” He looked over at me, his face a little grim. “I’ve got nothing.”

* * *

“Khhhhor Fakkan.” Fawzi coughed as he said it, the heavily aspirated ‘khhhhhh’ of the Arabic pronunciation catching in his much abused throat.

That can’t be right, I thought, glancing unbelievingly at Wellington. “Wait. Whore fuckin?”

“No, my friend,” Fawzi laughed through another uncontrollable cough. I’d caught him on the inhale, which was cruel, but I’d been too surprised to notice. “It is KHHHHor Fakkan, Khor Fakkan, our country’s most important port.”

“Well, it sounds a whole lot more like ‘Whore Fuckin’ when an American says it.” I turned to Weller. “You’re just getting around to telling me this? Are you crazy?”

Well, this was certainly turning into just a wonderful day, first with the Richardson photo shoot, then Roger, and now this. Wellington, Fawzi and I were off to the edge of a busy Moroccan Embassy reception, on the back lawn behind the Ambassador’s residence. The location was beautiful, in a quiet northwest Washington neighborhood close to the Rock Creek Parkway, and the sun was still up, that summer sun in Washington on a day that was mercifully warm instead of the more typical hot, humid and disgusting. In Paris, I’d had no time alone with Fawzi, so I’d never been able to quiz him on the amendment. So this was the ‘meeting’ with him that Weller had promised me, held here at an outdoor reception presumably to avoid the inevitable microphones and other, more esoteric listening devices that would be found in Fawzi’s office, the Embassy, his car, his home, and pretty much anywhere else he frequented.

Of course, the Moroccan residence was probably miked too, but I’d always assumed it was still a bitch to record a conversation out of the air in locations like this, crowded parties with people who knew to avoid words like ‘classified,’ ‘missile defense system,’ or ‘I had lunch with Ayman Zawahiri last week.’

“Khor Fakkan is the primary shipping port of the Emirates, and is tremendously important for trade in the Arabian Gulf,” Fawzi continued. “This is not a joke, my friend.”

“Guys,” I replied, raising an arm in frustration. I took a drink of my scotch and water, and turned to Fawzi. “My friend, you have to understand. If I’d mentioned this at the beginning, when I first started to lobby for MNNA status, it would have been a throwaway – ’oh, and wait ‘til you hear this, the place they’re defending is called – I’m not kidding – Whore Fuckin.’ That’s simple; we all laugh, it’s stupid but funny, and we go away. Now, when we’re 90 percent of the way there but the amendment could still blow up in our faces, I’m supposed to go tell them that oh-by-the-way if it comes out they’ll hear no end of it in the blogosphere because they’re defending a place called Whore Fuckin.”

There was a long pause, Weller and Fawzi first looking at me, at each other, and then at me again. “But Ed, I have to say, that is, well, just stupid.” Weller had his stern face on. He just didn’t get it.

“Of course it’s stupid,” I replied, “but this is what American politics has descended to, whether it’s Swift-boating Presidential candidates or making up funny mispronunciations of foreign ports. The people who listen breathlessly to news about Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton are the same people who listen to Rush Limbaugh, or Hannity and Colmes and all those other talk radio morons. It’s stupid, but it’s our world.

“So again, guys,” I continued, “are you crazy?”

They looked at each other for a long moment, and Weller turned to me. “I’m sorry. I know this place, I know it as Khor Fakkan, the most important port in the UAE. I would never have seen this problem.”

“That’s why you bring me in at the beginning,” I said, “not the end.”

Fawzi put his right hand on my shoulder. “How bad is it, my friend?”

I turned to my right, looking into the crowd to see who else was there. ‘My friend,’ my ass, I thought. “It will be fine. I’ll figure something out.” Turning back to Weller, I continued, “Don’t do this next time, okay?”

He smiled. “Sorry.”

“I need another drink,” I responded. Looking down at my glass, I saw that it was still half-full. Looking up at Fawzi, I smiled, drained the glass and repeated, “I need another drink. Nice chatting with you.” With a glance at Weller, I said, “Don’t do that again,” and turned to leave, shaking my head as I searched out the closest bar, mercifully set more than halfway across the wide lawn. You two idiots, two old secret agents playing your secret games.

As I strode away, Fawzi called after me. “Ed. Ed!”

I turned back to face them, but stayed where I was.

“That girl you asked about.” He smiled grimly. Smiles are never good at time like this, I thought; more bad news. “The boss says he cannot help. The other boss would not agree.”

Shit. So the Minister of Defense asked the Minister of Interior, who said no. So Karen Jameson is still in jail, and they’re telling me she’s going to stay there. Swell.

The day was just getting better and better.

* * *

As I crossed the lawn, I could see my friend and former client Mourad over by the entrance to the Residence. Ever the graceful host, and here, at his Ambassador’s Residence, forced into that role, he was talking with a small crowd of Congressional staffers, including Peter Chase. Mourad and Peter had always been thick as thieves, even back when we’d had Morocco as a client and I was supposed to be the one selling Peter on our amendments. But Peter was the last person I wanted to see at this point, so I tried to ignore them until they waved.

I waved back to them and then pointed two fingers, first at them, back and forth between them, and then at my eyes. Mourad laughed, and waved me over, but I held up my empty, shook the glass, and pointed once more, this time to the bar. Seeming to excuse himself from Peter, he headed in my direction, catching up with me as I arrived in line by the bar.

“Where is your good wife?” he asked, looking around me. Unlike most American hosts, he was actually curious where she was; Arabs are like that, seldom just spouting the niceties, usually meaning them.

“She sends her regrets, to you but especially to Halima,” I responded with a smile. “She’s working late this evening. They have a bill on the Floor tomorrow.”

“Halima will be sorry to have missed her,” he said.

“Johnny Walker Black and water,” I told the waiter. Loved those Embassy receptions, always putting out the good stuff.

“Have you spoken with my friend from the Ministry yet?”

“Ah, no, I almost forgot,” I said, kicking myself. For all I liked seeing Mourad again, talking to his friend was the reason I’d come. My conversation with Weller and Fawzi had pushed it out of my head. “Does he have much to tell me?”

“He’s hoping you have something to tell him,” Mourad replied. “He says there’s nothing going on with the Dungan, and nothing new in U.S.-Kazakh relations except for the upcoming elections. We’re all expecting Nazarbayev’s party to get around 106 percent of the vote. Your government won’t be very happy, but like the Europeans, they won’t make much noise.”

Kazakhstan’s lower house of Parliament has been dissolved for snap elections earlier in the month, just before I’d headed off to Paris. We all knew what to expect; typical former Soviet republic stuff, gotta have elections because the West says so, but gotta stuff the ballots so no one else has a prayer of even looking good. God forbid the dictator look at all weak to his beebles. Like Mourad said, Nazarbayev’s party would almost surely win the vast majority of contested seats, a virtual impossibility in any free election, but something quite common in that particular region.

This was good news at least: there was nothing like a dictator acting dictatorial to ease the way for some report language like I wanted for the Dungan.

“Other than that, there’s an oil pipeline deal that a bunch of American firms are fighting over with the Europeans. It looks like one of those cases where you’ve both got government financing, and it will probably be the one with the biggest checkbook” – payoffs, he was saying – “who wins.” Mourad shrugged. “We still don’t get it, why they hired you. But come along, he’s in the Residence, and very eager to meet.”

* * *

Hours later, I sat on the floor at home, my back to the sofa. Charlotte was still on the Hill, but had called to say she’d be home soon. A bottle of Merlot was to my left, a half-empty glass to my right and an empty one just beyond that, and my laptop in hand as I followed up on my earlier KitchyKoo2 research and the few small tidbits I’d gleaned from that evening’s event.

It has been a busy but useful reception. Mourad was right; his friend had nothing new to report, something I took as a good sign: while they were looking for what was wrong with my client, I was comfortable enough with Bao and with Kincaid’s explanations, and had seen our firm hired to do less than this. Nothing short of a smoking gun could convince me that they were anything but on the up-and-up.

The UAE news was less helpful. The first thing I’d done on getting home, of course, was to Google ‘Khor Fakkan.’ They weren’t lying: according to Wikipedia, it was a major port in the UAE. Jesus, I thought, they couldn’t have named it like Port El Araby, or Mohamed’s Port, or something? Crap.

Of course, maybe I could use Wikipedia entry. Maybe if I print out copies, I thought as I reread it, and give those to people… I wouldn’t even have to say the name, just hand them out… That might work.

Shaking my head, I turned back to the budding Richardson fiasco. Here I was somewhat conflicted: on the one hand, Will was my friend, so I found the whole thing terribly disturbing. On the other, Will was the go-to House supporter for my UAE amendment, the person I’d set up to help us out in Congress. If he was thrown out of the House for these shenanigans, that strategy would go down the toilet – for which reason I was totally pissed.

At around 10:30 p.m., as I was turning back to the FEC web site to cross-check more General Micronics contributions, Charlotte came in, looking tired but relaxed – must have been a good night, I thought. “Hey, sweetie,” I called out, reaching for my glass.

“Hi, babe.” She hung her coat on the rack by the door, and headed for the kitchen.

“Long night? How’d it go?”

“Not bad. The bill passed, so the boss is happy.” I could hear water running in the sink, and waited. In a few moments, she came out through the dining room, a glass of water in one hand, an empty wine glass in the other. “He’ll be in a good mood for at least a week, the asshole.”

“I’ve got a glass for you here,” I said, holding it up.

She smiled, turning to leave the one she had on the dining room table. “Fill ’er up.”

Holding it up so she could see while I poured, I said, “By the way, sweetie, men are ruled by their dicks.” Not to shock her, just to beat her to it.

Instinctively, I knew I had to get ahead of Charlotte on this story, lay out the worst of it before she started quizzing me for details like it had been me. This time it hadn’t, but I was still raw around her following my return from Paris, and I wasn’t ready to go through an extended interrogation. My guilt was still riding too close to the surface.

Charlotte came from the school that said men are basically just idiots, running through their lives asking their dicks for advice about just about every decision they made, from the little ones – “should I ask the librarian, or the hot blonde reading over at that table?” – to the big ones – “should I lie to my clients? sell my soul to the Devil? give away national security secrets in exchange for a contract?” Mostly she was right, of course; I mean, let’s face it, I’d always ask the hot blonde at the table whatever question I had, and why not? The librarian wasn’t going to refuse to answer if she knew I’d asked the hot blonde first.

Sometimes we’d be watching TV, some cheeseball movie on the Lifetime channel or something, the kind that says, ‘I must really love my wife to sit through this drek,’ and some guy would do something phenomenally mean, or stupid, or guy-like to the heroine, and I’d get a smack on the arm while Charlotte called out, “What is wrong with you guys?” Like I ever beat a woman, or had four wives, or ran off with the 15-year-old babysitter. I swear, it’s a good thing I don’t bruise easy.

“So do you want to explain that comment?”

I went through the whole story with her, starting with the email from Peter and the realization that it was Richardson, through my own research tracking down what company was involved and how bad it was. I skipped through a lot of it – Charlotte hates the web, and wasn’t going to tolerate surfing through dozens of pages to see every little tidbit go by – but got her all the way through to the two women and their earmarks.

“Jesus Christ,” she said, “you guys. Ruled by your dicks.”

I laughed, for a brief moment completely at ease with her, the first since my return from Paris. I looked back down at the screen, just for something to look at.

All of this, I thought, all this you put at risk so you could fuck some 28-year-old you don’t care about? Jesus, you’re an idiot.

“So, what, he’s hung like a horse?”

I laughed, loud and long, in a rush of relief. I paused for a second before responding. “No, it seems to be the power thing. There’s no sense in what she writes that he’s some stud among studs. It seems to be all about him being important, having the power. Like that ugly stump Kissinger said, it’s the ultimate aphrodisiac.”

“I’ve often wondered how much that toad actually got laid,” she said, rising to her feet and heading for the hall. “I’m going to change.”

“Love ya,” I said, returning to the screen. I do, I said to myself, my God, I really do, and I’m sorry.

“Ditto,” I heard her say as she headed down the hall.

I sat still for a few moments as she receded, my eyes unable to focus on the screen before me. What was I looking for? Maybe her friends’ pages, maybe they’d have more of the story. Yeah, I thought, I should check those. Anything to stop thinking about Charlotte and Mary Anne Richardson

I shook my head as if to clear the cobwebs, and forced myself to focus.

This was going to be ugly, very, very ugly. It was Randy ‘Duke’ Cunningham all over again, except in reverse – instead of living rent-free on a boat owned by a lobbyist, Will rented his house out to hot young lobbyists and traded earmarks for sex. How long could he last? Peter was a major gossip hound, and if he’d asked me for help on this he’d probably passed it on to others, and there was still whoever passed it on to Peter and all their contacts. The net result? It would break sometime soon, and when it did the House would be turned upside down watching this poor bastard go down very fast and very hard, and the public up in arms again – at least for a couple of months – about corruption and earmarks.

There were all sorts of dangers in that, starting with the problem of my UAE MNNA amendment, which just lost its House-side Conference support. In Washington, though, dangers always came with opportunities too. At this point, I just wasn’t sure which were which.

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