Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Who's Going Down In The Abramoff Scandal?

From the Washington Post:

Former high-powered lobbyist Jack Abramoff pleaded guilty today to three felony charges in a deal with federal prosecutors that helps clear the way for his testimony about members of Congress and congressional staffers in a wide-ranging political corruption investigation.

Appearing crestfallen and speaking softly in U.S. District Court in Washington early this afternoon, Abramoff, 46, expressed deep sorrow for what he called his "multitude of mistakes" in a career that once brought him to the pinnacle of power and influence among Washington lobbyists. After pleading guilty to charges of conspiracy, mail fraud and tax evasion, he told U.S. District Judge Ellen S. Huvelle that he would seek forgiveness from God and from those he had wronged.

Although the charges could bring Abramoff a sentence of up to 30 years in prison, the actual sentence is more likely to be about a third of that if he fulfills his part of the plea agreement, lawyers said.

The plea bargain settles one of two fraud and corruption cases against Abramoff, involving charges stemming principally from his lobbying activities in Washington on behalf of Native American tribes. The other case, arising from an indictment in Miami in connection with the purchase of a fleet of casino cruise ships, is expected to be settled by another plea agreement.

In a press conference at the Department of Justice, federal officials vowed to pursue the investigation as long as necessary and regardless of whom it implicates.

Alice Fisher, the assistant U.S. attorney general for the criminal division, said the case shows that "the corruption scheme of Mr. Abramoff is very extensive, and we will continue to follow it wherever it leads." She declined to specify how many other people might be implicated, but said, "We're going to expend resources . . . to make sure people know that government is not for sale."
So who's Abramoff going to bring down? The Washington Post names names:

According to a criminal information document outlining the charges, the purpose of the conspiracy by Abramoff and co-defendants was "to enrich themselves by obtaining substantial funds from their clients through fraud and concealment."

The criminal information alleges that Abramoff bribed public officials, including a person identified only as "Representative #1." Details of the alleged acts indicate that Representative #1 is Robert W. Ney, a Republican congressman from Ohio. Abramoff is also accused of hiring congressional staffers and conspiring with them to lobby their former employers -- including members of Congress -- in violation of a one-year federal ban on such lobbying.


The bribes to "Representative #1" included campaign contributions, tickets to sporting events, meals at an upscale Washington restaurant owned by Abramoff and "a lavish trip to Scotland to play golf on world-famous courses," the document says.

In return, the lawmaker agreed "to perform a series of official acts to benefit defendant Abramoff's businesses, clients and others," including support for legislation, the placement of statements in the Congressional Record, meetings with Abramoff clients and promotion of a client's application to install wireless telephone infrastructure in the House of Representatives, the criminal information says.


The guilty plea by Abramoff provides a major boost to federal prosecutors in an influence-peddling investigation that could become one of the largest corruption scandals in recent memory, involving as many as a half dozen lawmakers, a former top official at the Department of Interior and former and current congressional aides.

Prosecutors are expected to seek information from Abramoff about official actions performed for his clients by the lawmakers, including DeLay, the former House majority leader, as well as by the former top Interior official, congressional aides and federal employees.

DeLay has taken three overseas trips with Abramoff since 1997 -- to the Mariana Islands, Moscow and the United Kingdom -- and received more than $70,000 from Abramoff, his associates and tribal clients for his campaign committees.

Investigating DeLay, who is facing separate campaign finance charges in Texas, could take up to a year and require the cooperation of other witnesses before issues surrounding the Texas Republican are resolved, according to people familiar with the case.

Prosecutors are expected to act more quickly in the case of Ney, who accepted campaign contributions, skybox fundraisers, drinks, dinners, gifts and a golfing trip to Scotland while allegedly performing official actions that benefited Abramoff and his clients.

Also of interest to prosecutors is former deputy Interior secretary J. Steven Griles, who received a job offer from the lobbyist in 2003 at a time when Abramoff was seeking department actions on behalf of his tribal clients.

Griles, who held the No. 2 job at Interior from 2001 to 2004, has said he never tried to intercede on behalf of Abramoff's clients, but e-mails released by a Senate committee show more than a half-dozen contacts Griles had with Abramoff or with a woman working as the lobbyist's go-between. The contacts concerned gambling-related issues affecting four tribal clients who were paying Abramoff tens of millions of dollars for representation.

Other lawmakers who had close dealings with Abramoff are Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.), Rep. John T. Doolittle (R-Calif.) and other members of Congress involved with Indian affairs.

Prior to resolution of any issues involving DeLay, prosecutors are continuing to investigate two of DeLay's top former deputies, Edwin A. Buckham and Tony C. Rudy. Abramoff maintained a business relationship with Buckham, who runs the Alexander Strategy Group with Rudy.

Among the areas of interest are questions about client business steered to the Alexander Strategy Group at a time when the firm was hiring the spouses of members of Congress, including DeLay's wife, Christine DeLay, and Doolittle's wife, Julie Doolittle.

Christine DeLay was paid about $115,000 over three years while performing a special project -- contacting members of Congress to find out their favorite charity, according to here attorney.

Julie Doolittle, whose records have been subpoenaed by a grand jury, was hired by Buckham to perform accounting work for the Korea-United States Exchange Council, a nonprofit organization created by Buckham and bankrolled by the Hanwha Group, a Korean conglomerate, Justice Department foreign registration documents show.

Rudy is under investigation for assistance he allegedly provided Abramoff's lobbying clients while he was working for DeLay. Rudy helped Abramoff scuttle an anti-gambling bill on behalf of an Abramoff client in 2000. In early 2001, Rudy went to work for Abramoff for about 18 months before switching to Alexander Strategy.

Payments from Abramoff clients and associates to Liberty Consulting, a political firm founded by Rudy's wife, Lisa, are also under review by the Justice Department.

Tony Rudy met his future wife while working for Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), a longtime friend of Abramoff's who was listed as a personal reference along with Tony Rudy on loan papers for the SunCruz deal.

Prosecutors have already told Ney and the Ohio Republican's former chief of staff, Neil Volz, that they are preparing a possible bribery case against them, according to two sources knowledgeable about the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Ney inserted statements into the Congressional Record to promote the SunCruz deal, praising Kidan and casting aspersions on SunCruz's then-owner, Boulis, during contentious purchase negotiations.

Boulis was killed in a gangland-style hit in Fort Lauderdale on Feb. 6, 2001. Three men -- including a business associate Kidan had hired to provide catering and security services for SunCruz -- were charged last year in the Boulis murder.

Ney's SunCruz statements came even though the gambling enterprise was thousands of miles away from his rural Ohio congressional district. Ney later said he was misled. Ney also promised to help one of Abramoff's tribal clients reopen a casino shut down by Texas authorities.

OK, let's see: Ney, Delay, Burns, and Doolittle - all Republican members of Congress. Doolitte's wife and Delay's wife - spouses of Republican members of Congress. Delay's former deputies, Buckham and Rudy - staff of Republican members of Congress. A former deputy Interior Secretary in the Bush administration (J. Steven Griles) and a former procurement official in the Bush administration who has already been indicted by prosecutors in the scandal (David Safavian.)

Gee, seems like a GOP scandal - especially since Abramoff is a former president of the College Republicans, made his bones in the Conservative movement during the Reagan years and became the premier lobbyist in Tom Delay's K Street Project during the free-wheeling 1990's when Republicans retook power.

Ahh, but Ed Henry from CNN thinks the Abramoff scandal is a bipartisan scandal that will take down members of both parties. Henry also says Democrats won't be able to run with their "Culture of Corruption" campaign theme for 2006 because one or two Dems may be going down with 18 Republicans, thus innoculating Republicans from charges of corruption.

Note to Ed Henry and the rest of the morons in the media who are too stupid to see beyond the RNC spin. Abramoff was the money man in a corrupt political GOP machine that wanted to shut Dems out of both power and the lobbying money it would take to get them back into power.

As Jane Hamsher at Firedoglake notes, Bloomberg News reported that Abramoff gave ZERO dollars to Democrats between 2001 and 2004:

Dec. 21 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. President George W. Bush calls indicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff ``an equal money dispenser'' who helped politicians of both parties. Campaign donation records show Republicans were a lot more equal than Democrats.

Between 2001 and 2004, Abramoff gave more than $127,000 to Republican candidates and committees and nothing to Democrats, federal records show. At the same time, his Indian clients were the only ones among the top 10 tribal donors in the U.S. to donate more money to Republicans than Democrats.

Bush's comment about Abramoff in a Dec. 14 Fox News interview was aimed at countering Democratic accusations that Republicans have brought a ``culture of corruption'' to Washington. Even so, the numbers show that ``Abramoff's big connections were with the Republicans,'' said Larry Noble, the former top lawyer for the Federal Election Commission, who directs the Washington-based Center for Responsive Politics.

``It is somewhat unusual in that most lobbyists try to work with both Republicans and Democrats, but we're already seeing that Jack Abramoff doesn't seem to be a usual lobbyist,'' Noble said.

Abramoff, 46, is under investigation by a Justice Department-led task force; he has already been indicted in Florida in a separate case involving the purchase of a casino boat company.

Abramoff is talking with prosecutors about providing testimony against former political and business associates in exchange for a reduced sentence, the New York Times reported today, citing unidentified people with knowledge of the case.

`Glass Houses'

The National Republican Senatorial Committee has set up a Web page, dubbed ``Glass Houses,'' featuring pictures of Democratic senators and a tally of funds they took from Abramoff or his associates.

In the last week, two Democrats have said they're returning donations from Indian tribes represented by Abramoff and from his associates. Senator Byron Dorgan of North Dakota -- the top Democrat on a committee investigating the lobbyist -- gave back $67,000. Senator Max Baucus of Montana is returning $18,893.

Mostly Republicans

Between 2001 and 2004, Abramoff joined with his former partner, Michael Scanlon, and tribal clients to give money to a third of the members of Congress, including former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, according to records of the Federal Election Commission and Internal Revenue Service. At least 171 lawmakers got $1.4 million in campaign donations from the group. Republicans took in most of the money, with 110 lawmakers getting $942,275, or 66 percent of the total.

Of the top 10 political donors among Indian tribes in that period, three are former clients of Abramoff and Scanlon: the Saginaw Chippewa Tribe of Michigan, the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, and the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians of California. All three gave most of their donations to Republicans -- by margins of 30 percentage points or more -- while the rest favored Democrats.

Maybe Dorgan and Baucus are dirty Dems in this scandal and if so, then they can go down with the rest.

But it is so dishonest for Ed Henry and others in the media to sell this as a bipartisan scandal when nearly all of Abramoff's bribes went to his College Republican buddies and/or members of the GOP in order to put Republicans into power and keep them there while disenfranchising Democrats from both power and lobbying money.

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