After a Number of Miranda Wrongs, Former Senate Aide Is Headed for Iraq

By Mary Ann Akers And Paul Kane
Thursday, November 15, 2007

What a surprise to find an old face on the Hill yesterday -- former Senate GOP leadership aide Manuel Miranda-- but an even bigger surprise was learning his new job: giving legislative advice to fledgling democrats in Baghdad.

Miranda's official title is director of the Office of Legislative Statecraft at the U.S. Embassy in Iraq. There, he's giving instruction on democratic principles to Iraqi lawyers and lawmakers, a group of whom he escorted around the Capitol complex yesterday.

Where did Miranda hone his own legislative statecraft? At the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this decade, where he led an 18-month effort to pilfer documents from the Democratic staff.

Miranda, who moved on to work as judicial nominations counsel for then-Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) in 2003, was forced from his job in early 2004 after an internal Senate investigation determined he and a junior aide had swiped 4,670 documents, memos and e-mails.

Miranda subsequently acknowledged doing so. He said that because the committee had no internal password protection at the time, no laws were broken when he looked through and printed out other aides' electronic files.

Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), whose aides were the targets of more than half the stolen documents, let out a loud laugh upon learning of Miranda's current job.

"He's back," Durbin said. "Tell him to stay away from my computer."

Durbin was part of a bipartisan group of senators who recommended that federal authorities investigate Miranda. But after interviewing many committee and leadership staff, prosecutors dropped the case.

Thankfully, the new job doesn't require day-to-day contacts with Democrats.

After leaving the Hill, Miranda became a hero among social conservatives as an activist pushing for the confirmation of President Bush's judicial nominations. Miranda issued regular e-mails to reporters disparaging Democrats, including one that challenged Durbin to "meet me in an alley."

He was hired a year ago by the State Department for his gig in Baghdad, where he's teaching the Iraqis legal principles.

Such diplomacy these days could land Miranda in hot water, given that the senatorial overseer of State's purse strings is now Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee that oversees Foggy Bottom's budget. Leahy is also chairman of the Judiciary committee. Many of his staff's documents were accessed by Miranda.

The Hug That Never Was

Luckily for him, Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) didn't prematurely hug. It would have been embarrassing for both men.

On Tuesday, Reid declared he was ready to "hug" Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) when it appeared senators would finally reach agreement on a stalled farm bill. But yesterday, the deal fell through, life returned to normal, and Reid and McConnell went back to squabbling, with both sides preparing for a possible rare weekend session to deal with leftover must-pass legislation.

Hugging McConnell, or any other Republican for that matter, is now firmly out of the question. "The only thing Republicans are consistent about is standing in the way," Reid spokesman Jim Manley said.

Where Are They Now?

Ever wonder what happened to those disgraced lawmakers who disappeared -- or not -- from the political scene? Here's a brief update on two who got ousted last year.

Former congressman John Sweeney (R-N.Y.), 52, who was defeated amid allegations of spousal abuse, was charged this week with drunken driving. He had a 0.18 percent blood alcohol level when state troopers pulled him over, according to the Albany Times Union.

Sweeney, a former STOP-DWI coordinator for New York's Rensselaer County, was known as a bit of a bruiser on Capitol Hill. A die-hard Yankees fan, he got into an altercation with a Red Sox fan at the bar at Bobby Van's steakhouse one night two years ago. He also showed up at a frat party at Union College in Schenectady last year, embarrassing photos of which appeared all over the Internet.

But it was his ex-wife's allegations of physical abuse that probably cinched his demise.

There also have been recent sightings of former Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.) in Beverly Hills, including one last weekend.

Foley, who resigned in 2006 after he was caught sending sexually explicit electronic messages to male House pages, was, after all, chairman of the Congressional Entertainment Industries Caucus (in addition to his cringingly ironic role as head of the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children).

But a source tells us he isn't looking for work with old Hollywood friends, because he can't openly look for a job until he's cleared of criminal liability in Florida, where officials are still investigating whether he sent some of the messages while he was in Pensacola. The Justice Department investigation has fizzled out, though it technically remains open.

One source close to Foley hints that he is quietly plotting a comeback in some form: "He's talking about how to re-emerge publicly after the investigation is over."

Our source says Foley spends most of his time in Palm Beach, Fla., where he and his longtime partner, dermatologist Layne Nisenbaum, live in a house on the Intracoastal Waterway. Foley and Nisenbaum are such fixtures on the Palm Beach social scene that, according to the Palm Beach Post, an upcoming art fair in West Palm Beach is being promoted with "Warholized" portraits of "well-known locals, including Palm Beach dermatologist and former U.S. Congressman Mark Foley's partner, Layne Nisenbaum."

Holiday Invite of the Week Award

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) really put the "giving" in the season of giving. The senator and his wife sent out a lovely invitation this week, as far as e-mail invites go, requesting the pleasure of friends' company at their home in Arlington on Dec. 5.

Adorned with a festive snowflake, it says, "Grace and Senator Bill Nelson invite you to join them for a reception with friends and family at their home."

Ahhh, visions of eggnog by a crackling fire dance in your head. Until you read further.

You see, beneath that snowflake fa┬┐ade, the Nelsons are actually holding a fundraiser, for $2,000 a couple, to benefit the Sunshine State senator's political action committee.

Nelson's spokesman says lobbyists who thought the card was a holiday invite were mistaken. "Sen. Nelson's helping a number of Democratic candidates by hosting a PAC fundraiser that just happens to be in early December," the aide said.

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