When we last left Dennis Burke and the Wayback Machine in Part One of Personnel Is Policy, the date was 11 July 1990 and Dennis DeConcini's Assault Weapons Importation Ban, the collaborative effort of that senator and his young protege on the Senate Judiciary Committee staff, Dennis Burke, had just passed. As I wrote in the conclusion to Part One:
The victory was Dennis K. Burke's as much, or even more, than Dennis DeConcini's. Burke had become a potent player in the drive for more gun control. And that drive began in 1989, two decades before he was selected by the Obama administration to go back out and run the Phoenix U.S. Attorney's office and a little program called Fast and Furious.
This was all the more remarkable because although Burke was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1962, he received a bachelor's degree from Georgetown University in 1985 and earned his Juris Doctor from University of Arizona College of Law in 1988. His official bio states that after completing law school, Burke served as a law clerk for Judge James Moeller of the Arizona Supreme Court. Thus, for Burke to have played such a critical role in the 1989 framing of the Assault Weapons Importation Ban, he must have spent hardly any time at all clerking for Judge Moeller.
His meteoric rise from newly-minted law school grad one year to counsel on the Senate Judiciary Committee the next bespeaks of a well-placed and powerful sponsor. Exactly who that was at this writing remains unclear. It may have been DeConcini himself.
Burke remained on the Senate Judiciary Committee until DeConcini, under a politcal cloud because of the Keating Five scandal and facing stiff primary opposition, elected not to run for reelection in 1994 and left the Senate in January 1995. When DeConcini left, Burke left too, sliding over to the Clinton White House to work from 1995 to 1997 as a senior policy analyst on the Domestic Policy Council. The DPC, according to its website, "coordinates the domestic policy-making process in the White House and offers advice to the President. The DPC also supervises the execution of domestic policy and represents the President’s priorities to Congress."
At the time of Burke's move, Elena Kagan was Associate White House Counsel from 1995–1996 and then moved to Deputy Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy and Deputy Director of the Domestic Policy Council from 1997–1999. Thus Burke came into contact with Kagan and some of his emails were entered into evidence during Kagan's confirmation hearing for the position of Associate Supreme Court Justice. At the time, Kagan's anti-firearm bias was highlighted by witnesses such as Dave Kopel.
Certainly the domestic policy of the Clinton Administration was for more gun control, however they could achieve it, even though they had paid a huge political price for overreaching on the gun issue in the 1994 elections, which saw the GOP take over the House for the first time in 40 plus years. This shocking political setback did not dissuade the Clinton Administration from pursuing gun control in salami slices by executive fiat, fact they rather favored the tactic. Paul Begala, Clinton White House senior adviser was quoted in the New York Times on 5 July 1998 as saying, "Stroke of the pen. Law of the Land. Kinda cool." He was referring to executive orders.
Lest anyone think that gun control was not a prime directive of the Clintonista regime, or that I am eggaerating their appetite for more citizen disarmament, this writer has a copy of a letter sent to an Alabamian on 20 February 1997 enunciating the Clinton policy clearly. Written by Ronnie L. Edelman, Principal Deputy Chief, Terrorism and Violent Crime Section of the DOJ's Criminal Division, it says quite plainly: "The Second Amendment does not protect the right of private citizens to possess firearms of any type."
In April 1997, with the Printz case about to decide the legality of the Brady Law, the Clinton White House was nervous. The case had been argued on 3 December 1996 and was decided on 27 June 1997, but in April the case had not yet been decided and the Clinton administration was eager for any publicity which would buttress their case in the court of public opinion. The administration was aware that Supreme Court justices read the papers too. (In fact, in the end Justice Kennedy, who was originally in favor of overturning the entire law, changed his mind and helped deliver an opinion that overturned part, but not all, of the law.)
But it is in that context that Dennis K. Burke wrote these emails to Elena Kagan, found in the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock:
RECORD TYPE: PRESIDENTIAL (NOTES MAIL)CREATOR: Dennis K. Burke ( CN=Dennis K. Burke/OU=OPD/O=EOP [ OPD 1 )CREATION DATE/TIME:22-APR-1997 10:22:18.00SUBJECT: Re: Brady ChecksTO: Elena Kagan ( CN=Elena Kagan/OU=OPD/O=EOP @ EOP [ OPD 1 )READ: UNKNOWNTEXT: Bruce thought it was a good idea but I never heard back from Rahm. I will call Handgun Control to find out the lastest developments in Houston - - it might still be timely.
Later, Burke followed up with this email:
RECORD TYPE: PRESIDENTIAL (NOTES MAIL)CREATOR: Dennis K. Burke ( CN;Dennis K. Burke/OU;OPD/O;EOP [ OPD 1 )CREATION DATE/TIME:22-APR-1997 10:26:01.00SUBJECT: Re: Brady ChecksTO: Elena Kagan ( CN;Elena Kagan/OU;OPD/O;EOP @ EOP [ OPD 1 )READ:UNKNOWNTEXT: I just called them -- Houston will resume doing background checks on Thursday. So, the President calling Lanier (or a letter) tomorrow or Thursday would still be timely, if we wanted to advance this one. It's small potatoes but it is sort of a freebie, too.
By the "lastest (sic) developments in Houston," Burke was referring to a Houston Chronicle story that Handgun Control later described:
After the Brady law went into effect, a few local sheriffs -- with NRA encouragement and financial backing -- challenged the background check requirement. But even in those states where a federal district court suspended the requirement that local police conduct background checks, the vast majority of police departments continued to do the background checks voluntarily. The few law enforcement officers who refuse to conduct background checks will face stiff public opposition. For example, on April 12, 1997, a front page story in the Houston Chronicle, revealed that the Houston Police Department had quietly suspended all "Brady checks" for handgun purchasers for the preceding year. A public opinion poll showed that 90% of Houston residents felt that their police should conduct background checks on handgun purchasers, whether or not federal law requires it. After five days of public outcry, the Houston police announced that they would resume those background checks.
By "Lanier," Burke is referring to then Houston Mayor Bob Lanier.
The important thing about these emails is that Burke is working closely with Handgun Control, and, according to my sources in DC and Arizona, was viewed by Handgun Control (which later changed its name to the Brady Campaign) as one of their best friends both when he was on the Hill and then later in the White House policy shop. Indeed, I have one source (and, caveat lector, one source only) who claims that Burke was for a while a member of Handgun Control. Repeated phone calls by this reporter to Caroline Brewer, current press spokesperson of the Brady Campaign, for comment on that specific allegation have been ignored.
Later in 1997, Burke left DC when he was appointed Assistant Attorney General in the Phoenix U.S. Attorney's office. His boss was Janet Napolitano, who had been appointed by Bill Clinton in 1993. As U.S. Attorney, Napolitano was involved in the investigation of Michael Fortier of Kingman, Arizona, in connection with the Oklahoma City bombing. In 1998, Napolitano for and won the position of Arizona Attorney General and Burke came with her as Arizona's Chief Deputy Attorney General.
In 2003, Napolitano ran for, and won, the Arizona governor's office. Again, Burke followed along behind, serving as her Chief of Staff from 2003 until 2008, when Napolitano was picked by Barack Obama to command the Department of Homeland Security. Burke again went with Nappy to DC, where he became her senior adviser on border and law enforcement issues. Obviously, whoever had been Burke's sponsor early on had now been replaced by Janet Napolitano. A source familiar with both Burke and Napolitano characterized their relationship as "warm, personal and one of complete trust."
So why, then, did Burke leave -- almost immediately -- the DHS posting for the U.S. Attorney's job in Phoenix? He was appointed in July 2009, approved by the Senate in early September and sworn in on Wednesday, 16 September 2009, as the United States Attorney for the District of Arizona. Rather, I should rephrase the question since the reason he took such a leap up in his personal career is obvious, WHY WAS HE CHOSEN FOR THE TASK BY HIS SUPERIORS?
A simple review of his career to this point screams out the obvious -- Burke was known to be the go-to guy on gun control. He had built his twenty year career on the foundations of citizen disarmament. His friends, some of them obviously very powerful friends, appreciated his pro-gun control principles and his competence. And then there is that fact that cannot be denied -- Burke arrives at his new job in September 2009, the same month that Fast and Furious is launched. Pretty big coincidence.
The operation went forward for more than a year and then came apart with the whistleblower's revelations after the murder of Brian Terry. And how did Burke react?
“What is so offensive about this whole project is that Grassley’s staff, acting as willing stooges for the Gun Lobby, have attempted to distract from the incredible success in dismantling [southwest border] gun trafficking operations….by not uttering one word of rightful praise and thanks to ATF — but instead lobbing this reckless despicable accusation that ATF is complicit in the murder of a fellow federal law enforcement officer,” Burke wrote in a Feb. 4 email to Weich and other top officials. “No commentary by Grassley on the lax laws, nor greedy gun shop owners, nor careless straw purchasers, and not boo about the evil gun traffickers for the Cartels. Just demonize ATF w/a strategically-timed repulsive letter emailed to the entire press world before we ever saw it.”
These were "evil gun traffickers for the Cartels" empowered by gunwalking on the part of the ATF and involving money given the straw buyers by FBI paid confidential informants, as Burke was in a position to well know. And yet, it is the fault of the "Gun Lobby." If there was any doubt that Burke was an anti-gun ideologue, I think that removes all doubt. There was a reason that the first time Burke was interviewed by investigators of the Issa Committee that he threw up and cut the questioning off. He has since been re-interviewed by the Committee and provided information that leads to more of Dennis Burke's powerful friends -- friends that are helping sustain him even in his disgrace.Burke resigned on 30 August 2011. By November, he was caught trying to discredit whistleblower John Dodson.
Former U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke has admitted that he leaked sensitive documents about a government agent who had emerged as the leading whistle-blower against the government's controversial gun-smuggling case known as Operation Fast and Furious. A letter sent by Burke's attorney Tuesday to the Justice Department's acting inspector general acknowledges that Burke divulged secret records containing information about John Dodson, a special agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Sources tell Sipsey Street that Burke had help with this leak. In his second interview with committee investigators, Burke stated for the record that he had a friend of his, Tom Ziemba, deliver the leaked documents about Dodson to Mike Levine, a Fox news producer stationed at the Department of Justice. Readers will recall that I have taken Levine to task more than once for exhibiting Journalist Stockholm Syndrome and being in thrall to his DOJ sources. When the DOJ wants to counterbalance a particularly dangerous story, Levine is one of their go-to guys. How Burke knew that to direct Ziemba is an interesting question, probably involving advice from DOJ or the White House.
In any case, Burke told investigators that Ziemba did not work for DOJ and was just a close friend. Close friend surely, but Ziemba is hardlt Caesar's wife when it comes to the DOJ and the Obama administration.Tom Ziemba is part owner of a Phoenix company called Ziemba Waid Public Affairs From their website:
ZWPA Strategies has recently spun off a sister company, ZWPA Political. It makes interesting reading. From the press release:ZWPA Strategies is a strategic consulting firm that provides clients with government relations and business development services. With offices in Phoenix, Arizona and Washington, D.C., the firm provides consulting services on a wide range of issues at the federal, state and local levels of government. The staff members at ZWPA Strategies are seasoned government relations professionals, policy analysts and experts in federal contracting and procurement.
Ziemba Waid Public Affairs and a-political today announced the creation of ZWPa-political a joint venture that will provide candidates, campaigns and public policy advocates with a complete media and strategy suite.ZWPa-political, located in the Phoenix office of Ziemba Waid Public Affairs, will offer clients a complete consultancy: a full range of services, from strategic campaign planning and coalition building to earned media and political advertising.“We are driven to deliver the best for our clients, and this partnership takes that capacity to an entirely new level,” said David Waid, founding partner of Ziemba Waid Public Affairs. “ZWPA’s relationships, deep knowledge of the Western and Washington, D.C. political landscape and real campaign experience, combined with a-political’s award-winning creativity and nationally-recognized ad production make a combination that is uniquely effective.”“This is a perfect partnership,” said a-political’s Danny Levinson. “ZWPA and a-political were founded with a similar vision. We believe the most effective political message is a well-communicated one. The alliance of our two companies brings fresh political expertise together with fresh messaging abilities that have proven successful for the best marketers in America. We are here to help our clients connect up emotionally with the voters, and we are uniquely qualified to do just that.”The ZWPa-political partnership is based on the belief that in order to successfully represent political clients, an organization must appreciate the intersection of media, politics and government. ZWPa-political brings together experience in all three.“To be successful in a multi-dimensional information age, lobbying alone is sometimes not enough,” said Tom Ziemba, also a ZWPA founding partner. “You need more options in your toolbox, including the capacity for coalition building, strategic earned media, and paid media campaigns that incorporate a strong online element. What we’re announcing today provides our clients with the very best of all these tools.”“We’re incredibly excited to be working together,” said Jimmy Siegel, creative director and partner in a-political. “Both companies have a passion about what we do, and we each bring skill sets that complement and enhance each other. Together, I believe we offer clients something truly unique.”a-political, born in 2006, brought together an Emmy nominated team with years of Madison Avenue experience to change the way politicians communicate. a-political represents progressive candidates and causes throughout the country. More information about the a-political team is available at www.a-political.com.Tom Ziemba and David Waid – founding partners of Ziemba Waid Public Affairs – have a vast range of private, political and government experience. Ziemba is a veteran of the Clinton administration who has managed campaigns from the local level to battleground presidential states. Ziemba engineers his campaigns with a fully-integrated approach that used paid media, new media, direct mail, telephone outreach and canvassing. Waid has served as a senior staff member for the Speaker of the New York Assembly and, more recently, as Executive Director and Chairman of the Arizona Democratic Party. In that role, the led the way to historic victories in 2006 by out-fundraising the GOP by a 4-1 margin, re-electing the governor, winning the largest number of Congressional pick-ups since 1992 and the most state legislative pick-ups since 1994.
A list of the "Most Influential People in Arizona" in 2008 listed Tom Ziemba as Number Two, citing his close relationship with then Governor Napolitano. Dennis Burke was listed as Number One. Ziemba also still has at least some pull with Napolitano and her Department of Homeland Security.
If you go to the DHS website and type "Ziemba" in the search box, it will lead to the PACTS Contractor Information Sheets.
Scroll down to Savvee Consulting and you will find Tom Ziemba is listed as the DHS Contracts Manager. Savvee is one of seven firms recently awarded a DHS "prime contract under FC-1" with a maximum award value of $1.5 billion. Nice work if you can get it -- if you have friends in high places like Janet Napolitano. No wonder Ziemba was willing to plant a leak -- an illegal leak, mind you -- with FOX News' DOJ resident and willing hostage, Mike Levine.
Ah, but wait, there's more. Do you know where Burke hangs his hat during the daytime hours nowadays? Why at the Arizona Sexual Assault Network in Phoenix. Which proudly proclaims on its site it is a "501 (C) 3 nonprofit operating in partnership with the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Violence Against Women."
That's right, boys and girls, ASAN is funded in part by the DOJ. Another fine example of your tax dollars at work -- and of the reach of Dennis Burke's powerful friends.
Why did the administration pick Burke for the job of overseeing Fast and Furious? What was it about him that made them think he could be trusted with such a sensitive position? His anti-gun politics? His competence in executing the agendas of his superiors? His powerful friends? Why do they sustain him now, even in his disgrace when they are publicly trying to blame the whole thing on him? We will one day find out.
But one thing is certain, in politics -- even dirty, murderous politics -- as well as business there is this eternal truth: Personnel is Policy.