At the heart of it all was the unusual media statement from Bond's office that disclosed that one of his staffers had gone to the Justice Department in 2005 and inquired about replacing Todd Graves.
"The senator had no knowledge of this staff action, did not approve it, would not have approved it," the statement read. Sure, and this from a senator who runs one of the tightest shops in Washington.
The statement also added evidence to the notion that Graves really was forced from office. And the declaration in that same statement that Bond had tried to buy more time for Graves also is awfully convenient. Yeah, Bond's staff tried to get Graves ousted. But yeah, the senator tried to get him more time, too.
That's playing it both ways from a senator known as a shrewd inside power player who's been feuding for months with the Graves clan from northwest Missouri.
As usual, Kraske leaves out a major part of the story- the license fee office scandal that was the talk of Missouri politics at that time. Judging from articles that have been written about Bond's staff's overtures to the Justice Department, it appears that the staff members (and likely Bond himself, though he denies it) had genuine concerns about Todd Graves' involvement in the fee office scandal.
As you may recall, Graves's wife, her brother, and another relative, all were awarded lucrative, no-bid contracts to operate the lucrative license fee offices.
U. S. Attorney Bud Cummins of Arkansas was brought in to investigate, but shortly after the probe was underway, Cummins was told he would no longer be needed as a U. S. attorney and was asked to resign. Some who have commented on my previous posts on this subject keep pointing out that Cummins stayed on the job for several months and eventually cleared the Blunt Administration of wrongdoing.
I would question Cummins' ability to conduct a thorough investigation under those circumstances, and judging from his interview with the Los Angeles Times, so did Cummins:
In January 2006, he had begun looking into allegations that Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt had rewarded GOP supporters with lucrative contracts to run the state's driver's license offices. Cummins handled the case because U.S. attorneys in Missouri had recused themselves over potential conflicts of interest.
But in June, Cummins said, he was told by the Justice Department that he would be fired at year's end to make room for Timothy Griffin — an operative tied to White House political guru Karl Rove.
In an interview Thursday, Cummins expressed disgust that the Bush administration may have fired him and the others for political reasons. "You have to firewall politics out of the Department of Justice. Because once it gets in, people question every decision you make. Now I keep asking myself: 'What about the Blunt deal?' "
And later in the Times article:
The Missouri corruption allegations centered on a change in the law that allowed for privatization of the state's license fee agencies. In 2005, Missouri newspapers began reporting that some of the contracts went to Blunt's supporters, including the wife of the U.S. attorney in Kansas City, Todd Graves.
When Cummins started investigating, he said, he followed Justice Department protocol by refusing to acknowledge whether his office had opened a probe. Policy also stipulates that when an investigation ends with no charges, it should never be publicly acknowledged.
As the months wore on, Cummins said, he "had no communication with anybody in any senior level" at the Justice Department in Washington.
But, he said, the governor had hired a private attorney who called and inquired about the status of the investigation. "The attorney said it was creating a lot of media in Missouri about political pressure and other allegations that the governor was under investigation," Cummins said.
He said the attorney wanted assurances that the governor was not the target "because we'd like to be able to say that."
Cummins said he did not comment to the attorney because the investigation was confidential.
The license fee office scandal has been the center of Missouri politics ever since it began unraveling early in Blunt's administration. Unfortunately, the mainstream media, apparently considering it business as usual, has largely overlooked it, except, of course, when it comes to printing one politician's accusations against another and the inevitable responses.
Actual reporting has been at a minimum, which is strange since so many signals have emerged that the license fee office shenanigans are not just "business as usual" in Missouri politics.
Bond, in particular, would recognize this since he pushed for a change in the system when he was governor. Judging from his actions (or his staff's, depending on whether you believe that story) Bond realized this was more than business as usual.
Former Rep. Mark Wright, R-Springfield, from Blunt's own home area and political party made the same point during the 2006 state auditor race, in which he lambasted Blunt's "pay for play" mentality, especially as it concerned the fee offices.
Kraske and other media members have taken the easy way out, writing off Bond's concerns by noting that he and the Graves family have a longstanding feud. Wright, they wrote, was simply making a desperate effort to set himself apart from the other GOP state auditor candidates (he finished fourth in a five-way primary race).
And in the midst of all of this, the media also overlooked some obvious steps taken by Governor Matt Blunt and Congressman Sam Graves to make sure that the extent of the license fee scandal would never be completely revealed. I will write more about this in a little bit.