Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Republican Scandals

Presidential second terms are renowned for scandals. Think Reagan and the Iran-Contra scandal. Think Clinton and impeachment.

Now we have Bush and the Indian Casino scandal. From the Associated Press:

"WASHINGTON - An arrangement involving two Indian tribes, the head of an anti-tax organization and a lobbyist now under criminal investigation — plus $50,000 — secured Indian leaders a private audience with
President Bush.

Each of the players, including the president, had something to gain from the deal, carried out in 2001 and confirmed by tribal lawyers and documents showing the solicitation of money and the promise of a meeting with Bush.

The tribes were seeking to protect their casino gaming revenues from tougher labor regulations and to block changes in federal gaming laws that might interfere with their casinos. The anti-tax organization wanted sponsorship money for a political event, and the lobbyist acting as a go-between was charging his Indian clients millions of dollars for his services.

For Bush, participating in an event sponsored by the Americans for Tax Reform gave a hand to a pro-Republican group and its head, Grover Norquist, a longtime Bush ally and political consultant. Besides, lobbyist Jack Abramoff himself had raised more than $100,000 on behalf of Bush and had his own ties to Norquist."

Why is the meeting a potential scandal-in-waiting for the preznit?

"A federal grand jury is investigating whether Abramoff and a lobbying partner overcharged Indian tribes millions of dollars for their work.

Abramoff spokesman Andrew Blum declined to discuss the 2001 White House meetings. In the past, Abramoff has denied wrongdoing and argued his clients got their money's worth for his work.

Abramoff's association with Norquist dates to their college years when they worked together in the College Republicans club. They both have ties to House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, and were instrumental in helping Republicans take over Congress in the 1990s."

Abramoff charged the Indian tribes 80 million dollars. In addition to Norquist's ties to the scandal, some of more casino money went to Ralph Reed, our old Christian Coalition friend and Republican party operative. From the Atlanta Journal Constitution (Via BullMoose):

"Ralph Reed delivered what was expected as a consultant to two Alabama anti-gambling campaigns: victories over proposals for a state lottery and video poker, and donations totaling $1.15 million.

But Reed didn't tell the campaign organizations - and, he insists, he didn't know - that the money came from a Mississippi Indian tribe trying to protect its casinos from competition.

The money's path to the Christian Coalition of Alabama and another anti-lottery group echoes Reed's entanglement in a scandal surrounding Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff and Indian casino money in Texas.

In that case, Abramoff hired Reed in 1999 to build public support for closing the Tigua tribe's casino in El Paso. The casino closed in 2002. Immediately afterward, Abramoff, who had kept his role secret, offered to help the Tiguas reopen the casino - for $4 million, according to Senate testimony.

Reed has said he was unaware that he was being paid with money from rival tribes.

In Alabama, leaders of the anti-gambling groups said Reed was the conduit for contributions from a group headed by anti-tax activist Grover Norquist, who has said the money originated with the Mississippi tribe. The Alabama organizations said Reed had repeatedly told them the money was not tainted by ties to gambling interests."

Now some of the Indian Casino money found its way into George W's pockets. Additionally, the preznit received $4,000 dollars in campaign contributions from Ohio Republican fundraiser Tom Noe, the man who lost $13 million dollars from the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation fund by investing the pension fund in "rare coins" that "disappeared." From the Toledo Blade:

"COLUMBUS - The number of missing rare coins purchased with state money controlled by local Republican fund-raiser Tom Noe now totals 121, documents obtained by The Blade show.

An accounting firm hired to check the inventory of rare coins purchased by Mr. Noe or his associates for the state found last year that not only were the coins missing, but 119 coins were possibly stolen by a Colorado coin dealer, according to a 2004 audit report released last week.

Mr. Noe hired the dealer to run a coin subsidiary funded with money from the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation, the agency charged with paying the medical bills and providing income to workers injured on the job.

The 119 missing coins are in addition to two coins worth $300,000 owned by the state that were lost in the mail in 2003, confirmed Jeremy Jackson, press secretary for the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation.

The state doesn't know what happened to any of the coins, Mr. Jackson said.

The Blade first reported April 3 that since 1998 the bureau has invested $50 million in rare coin funds controlled by Mr. Noe, a local coin dealer and frequent contributor to local, state, and national Republican campaign committees.

He was President Bush's northwest Ohio campaign chairman in last year's presidential race and because of the contributions he raised for the President, he earned the coveted status of a Bush "pioneer."

But his work raising cash for the President's re-election campaign has also made him the subject of a U.S. Justice Department and FBI investigation.

U.S. Attorney Gregory White, in Cleveland, disclosed last week that Mr. Noe is the subject of the federal probe into possible

federal campaign contribution violations.

The Ohio Inspector General has also launched a separate investigation into Mr. Noe, his coin ventures, and into "alleged wrongful acts associated with the investment practices" of the bureau."

But wait! The corruption scandal enveloping the Republican Party in Ohio gets better! The Toledo Blade reports today that:

"COLUMBUS — Democrats were screaming “cover-up” yesterday after state officials admitted that a high-risk hedge fund that the embattled Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation had invested in had lost $215 million in just a few months last year.

The bureau acknowledged that the fund, managed by a Pittsburgh-based investment firm, lost the money between February and September, 2004. MDL Capital Management relinquished control of the fund in November.

Although the bureau has known about the losses since September, it wasn’t revealed until yesterday, a day after The Blade began making calls upon learning that state investigators had uncovered huge losses at the bureau.

A spokeman for Gov. Bob Taft said last night that Mr. Taft had been told in September that there was an investment loss at the bureau — a loss of $10 million to $20 million.

Bureau records show that Attorney General Jim Petro’s office also was informed of the investment loss in September. Spokesmen said Mr. Taft and Mr. Petro did not learn the full extent of the loss until yesterday."

So where did some of the pension fund invested in the "risky hedge-fund go? Again the Toledo Blade:

"In mid-April, The Blade reported that Ohio Republicans received more than $455,000 in campaign contributions from employees of the fund managers hired by the bureau for the “emerging managers” program in which Mr. Noe participated.

The big winners included the state Republican Party committees, which received $200,750, Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, who received $67,130, and Governor Taft, who got $61,875."

Hmm. A Bush "pioneer" who raises huge amounts of cash for Preznit Bush "loses" $10-12 million dollars from a state pension fund. Now that same Workers' Compensation Fund has lost an additional $215 million dollars in a "risky hedge fund" while the state Republican Party receives more than $455,000 dollars from employees of that hedge fund. And then all of those Ohio Republicans, like Governor Taft and Secretary of State Blackwell, get a little taste of the money too.

Interestingly enough, Ohio was rife with election violations last November. Many people are starting to wonder if some of this "missing money" lost by the Bush campaign contributors wound up funding Preznit Bush's victory in Ohio. Bush returned the $4,000 dollars he received from Tom Noe, but The Toledo Blade and The Clevland Plain-Dealer are just starting to look into the lost $215 million dollars reported yesterday. I bet if they keep looking, they will start to tie some of the lost pension fund money to the funding of the 2004 Republican campaign. Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't it illegal for Republicans to steal $228 million dollars from a public employees fund and use to it for campaign donations and political pay-offs?

Yes, Preznit Bush's second term is starting to look better and better. Not only does a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll give Bush his lowest approval ratings ever and show most Americans are now pessimistic about the future of the nation and think Bush doesn't share their concerns, but we've got the Indian Casino scandal, Coingate, and now the hedge-fund scandal to keep us going for a while. Republicans may control every branch of government in Washington. They may control every branch of government in Ohio. But as the scandals start to spiral out of control and it becomes apparent that Republican Party operatives with direct ties to Preznit Bush stole millions of dollars of public pension funds and used the cash for political pay-offs, even total control of all branches of the government by the Republican Party won't save them from the public outrage.

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