News and articles relating to the scandal surrounding Washington D.C. lobbyist Jack Abramoff

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

E-Mails Show Abramoff's Donation Leverage - Yahoo! News

A Republican Party official and Jack Abramoff's lobbying team bluntly discussed using large political donations as a way to pressure lawmakers into securing federal money for a tribal client, according to e-mails gathered by prosecutors.

The e-mails detail how Abramoff's team worked to leverage assistance from the White House, Congress and the GOP to get a reluctant federal agency and a single Republican congressional aide to stop blocking school construction money for the Saginaw Chippewa tribe. The e-mails were obtained by The Associated Press.

Abramoff's team ultimately prevailed when the congressional aide was overruled, several lawmakers pressured an Interior Department agency and Congress itself set aside the money for the tribe. Lawmakers who helped got thousands of dollars in fresh donations from Abramoff's team.

Federal bribery law prohibits public officials from taking actions because of gifts or political donations and bars lobbyists from demanding government action in exchange for donations.

Abramoff's team repeatedly discussed donations as the reason Republican leaders should intervene for the Saginaw, the e-mails show.

"The tribes that want this (not just ours) are the only guys who take care of the Rs," Abramoff deputy Todd Boulanger wrote in a June 19, 2002, e-mail to Abramoff and his lobbying team, using "Rs" as shorthand for Republicans.

"We're going to seriously reconsider our priorities in the current lists I'm drafting right now if our friends don't weigh in with some juice. If leadership isn't going to cash in a chit for (easily) our most important project, then they are out of luck from here on out," he wrote, referring to political donation lists.

The e-mails have become evidence in a federal corruption probe into whether lawmakers, congressional aides and administration officials helped Abramoff's clients in exchange for gifts and donations.

A former federal prosecutor who specialized in fundraising cases said the e-mails are "circumstantial evidence that the money may have a relationship to certain legislative action" and would be useful in criminal prosecution if bolstered by other evidence.

"It memorializes what a lot of people suspect: that money buys access," said Charles La Bella, who oversaw a 1990s investigation into Clinton-era fundraising. "Politicians, because of the way the system is set up, need money. And money is used as a carrot and a stick by lobbyists to encourage or discourage legislative action."

Abramoff's spokesman, Andrew Blum, declined comment Tuesday on the e-mails.

Abramoff's lobbying began when the Interior Department initially opposed giving the Saginaw — a wealthy tribe with a casino — federal school construction aid.

Abramoff's team turned to Congress, getting Michigan Democratic Sens. Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow to persuade their party's leaders to request the money in a spending bill. Democrats controlled the Senate in 2002.

Abramoff then turned to Republicans, including Sen. Conrad Burns (news, bio, voting record) of Montana, to overcome the administration's objections and secure $3 million specifically for the Saginaw when the GOP regained control of the Senate the next year.

The plan hit a snag in summer 2002 when a single GOP House appropriations staffer, Joel Kaplan, objected. An angry Abramoff team frantically reached Republican leaders.

A staffer for the National Republican Congressional Committee, Jonathan Poe, suggested Abramoff's team compile a list of tribal donations, comparing Republicans with Democrats, to help make the case for lawmakers to overrule Kaplan, the e-mails state.

Poe's "suggestion for me was to have a list of money contributed by tribes broken down r to d so that I can make the cleanest argument that we are about to let the Senate Democrats take credit for the biggest ask of the year by the most Republican-leaning tribes," Abramoff lobbying associate Neil Volz wrote.

Abramoff's team obliged, creating a tally that showed his tribal clients overwhelmingly donated to Republicans — $225,000 compared with $79,000 for Democrats.

Poe declined to be interviewed for comment. NRCC spokesman Carl Forti said he didn't know if the NRCC ultimately helped but that NRCC staff routinely suggest strategy for lobbyists and others.

"We talk to groups and people all the time and recommend strategy. We do that with campaigns. It's part of what we do," Forti said.

The Abramoff team's pressure came the same day the NRCC, the GOP's fundraising arm for Republican House candidates, held its major fundraising dinner with President Bush. The Saginaw were a dinner sponsor, donating $50,000.

Kaplan's resistance drew the ire of Abramoff's team.

"The bottom line is that a staffer received several letters from appropriators, Native American Caucus co-chairs and others supporting a project that costs the federal government ZERO dollars and he is refusing to put it in the bill because it's 'his account,'" Boulanger wrote.

Kaplan, who worked at the White House budget office before becoming an aide on the House Interior appropriations committee, did not return repeated phone calls to his office seeking comment. He currently works for a private firm.

Abramoff's team devised a multi-pronged strategy.

Tony Rudy, an Abramoff colleague who was a former top aide to then-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, reached out to his old boss' office. Rudy recently pleaded guilty in the corruption probe and is assisting prosecutors.

"I just came out of a meeting with DeLay's folks. Joel ain't budging," Rudy wrote, referring to Kaplan.

Abramoff was copied on each of the e-mail exchanges, at one point affirming the strategy. "This is brilliant," Abramoff wrote.

Abramoff's team persisted, calling the White House intergovernmental affairs office that often deals with Congress.

"Just talked to White House intergovernmental. I'm pretty sure they will weigh in. Just trying to figure out if they should call Joel or some other player in this drama," Abramoff associate Kevin Ring wrote.

Several people familiar with the lobbying effort said the possibility of White House help became moot when congressional leaders intervened.

In early 2003, Kaplan's new boss, House subcommittee chairman Charles Taylor, R-N.C., ended any problems in the House when he signed onto the Saginaw money. Burns' office took up the fight in the Senate.

Both oversaw subcommittees that controlled Interior's budget, and the two lawmakers wrote a letter in May 2003 in an effort to overcome resistance inside Interior's Bureau of Indian Affairs, which was arguing the Saginaw shouldn't qualify for the school program.

"It is our belief the Saginaw Chippewa tribal school in question clearly falls within" the school construction program, Burns and Taylor wrote, sharply criticizing the BIA. "We hope our collective response has cleared up any unnecessary confusion."

The blunt letter has caught federal investigators' interest because it referenced correspondence that had been drafted inside Interior but never delivered. Federal agents are investigating whether an Interior official leaked the draft to Abramoff's team so it could be used by the lawmakers to pressure the department.

In addition, both Burns and Taylor got campaign money around the time of their help.

A month before the letter, Abramoff's firm threw Taylor a fundraiser on April 11, 2003, that scored thousands of dollars in donations for the lawmaker's campaign, including $2,000 from Abramoff and $1,000 from the Saginaw. The tribe donated $3,000 more to Taylor a month after the letter.

Burns, likewise, got fresh donations. Several weeks before the letter, Burns collected $1,000 from the Saginaw and $5,000 from another Abramoff tribe. The month after the letter, the Saginaw delivered $4,000 in donations to Burns.

Taylor's office did not respond to several calls seeking comment. The lawmaker had his own interest in the school construction program. The year after the Saginaw money, Taylor arranged for the Cherokee tribe in his home state to get similar money.

In a letter to the Senate Ethics Committee, Burns' lawyer confirmed the senator's staff met with Abramoff's lobbying team about the Saginaw but insisted any "suggestion that funding for this project resulted from Mr. Abramoff's influence is not accurate."

Friday, April 07, 2006 - Indian Tribe Severs Ties to Federal Abramoff Money - Politics | Republican Party | Democratic Party | Political Spectrum

WASHINGTON — One of disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff's former tribal clients is severing ties to millions of dollars in federal aid he helped arrange.

Leaders of the Saginaw Chippewa Indian tribe of Michigan said Thursday in two letters to lawmakers that they will not move forward with plans to build a school on the reservation. The project received $3 million in funding from the federal government with help from Abramoff, who has pleaded guilty in a Justice Department corruption probe.

The letters, obtained by The Associated Press, were addressed to Sens. Conrad Burns, R-Mont., and Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., and Reps. Charles Taylor, R-N.C., and Norm Dicks, D-Wash. The lawmakers chair the Senate and House appropriations subcommittees that oversee the Interior Department.

Saginaw Tribal Chief Fred Cantu and Tribal Sub-Chief Tim Davis said they were "writing to express our appreciation for the $3 million appropriation" approved in November 2003.

But "after careful consideration," they wrote, the tribal council voted against the construction because "it is not financially prudent to pursue this project at this time."

The tribe asked that the funds be redirected to programs targeted for cuts by the Interior Department. Messages were left Thursday with tribal officials.

Through letters and legislation, more than a dozen lawmakers stepped in to protect the school funding program for Indian tribes while receiving political contributions from the tribes, Abramoff or his firm.

One of Abramoff's client tribes, the Mississippi Choctaw, was using the school program, and his team was lobbying to extend it for the Saginaw Chippewas and other clients.

The members of Congress came from both parties, including Taylor, Burns and Dorgan, the top Democrat on the Senate committee which has investigated Abramoff.

Most wrote letters urging the Bush administration to renew a program that provided tribes federal school construction money. Others worked the congressional budget process to ensure it happened, according to documents obtained by The AP.

Most received donations, ranging from $1,000 to more than $74,000, in the weeks just before or after their intervention.

Both Burns and Dorgan received thousands of dollars from Abramoff's tribal clients, money they pledged to give away late last year. Dorgan returned $67,000 in contributions from tribes and other Abramoff associates, while Burns returned or gave away about $150,000.

Burns, who is seeking re-election this year, has said he wrote the letters at the request of Michigan lawmakers who represented the Saginaw and wasn't influenced by Abramoff. Democrats have tried to make Abramoff a campaign issue, running a television ad last year that specifically mentioned the Saginaw school construction money.

The Michigan lawmakers — Democratic Sens. Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow and Republican Rep. Dave Camp — wrote a letter to the Interior Department on Jan. 23, 2003, on the Saginaw's behalf. All three received donations from the Saginaw.

Officials with Levin, Stabenow and Camp have said there was no connection between the letter and the contributions and said they were working on behalf of Michigan constituents. The tribe is located in Camp's central Michigan district.

Burns spokesman James Pendleton said Thursday that "questions about this issue need to be directed to the Saginaw Chippewa Tribe and Senators Stabenow and Levin since they were the ones who requested the money in the first place."

Levin spokeswoman Tara Andringa said the senators sought the funding from the appropriations subcommittee during the previous year — in March 2002. But she said Levin and Stabenow did not pursue the funding from the subcommittee in 2003.

Abramoff worked for the Saginaw Chippewas from late 2001 to late 2003. The tribe said they paid about $14 million to Abramoff and his former associate, Michael Scanlon.

Scanlon pleaded guilty in November to conspiring to bribe public officials, a charge stemming from the investigation into work he and Abramoff performed for Indian tribes in Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas and Michigan. In January, Abramoff pleaded guilty to federal charges of conspiracy, tax evasion and mail fraud and agreed to cooperate in the influence-peddling investigation.

A Senate panel learned in 2004 that Abramoff and Scanlon spent $100,000 to help get eight supporters elected to the Saginaw Chippewas' 12-member council in 2001. Two days after the election, the new council voted to hire Abramoff and Scanlon.

According to a federal complaint against Abramoff issued in January, prosecutors said the lobbyist encouraged the Saginaw Chippewas to expand their contract with the company in June 2002 without telling them he would receive about 50 percent of the profits.

From June 2002 to October 2003, the tribe paid the firm about $3.5 million. About $540,000 was secretly kicked back to Abramoff as part of the scheme, the court documents said.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Capitol Hill: On DeLay's Trail—The E-Mail Factor - Newsweek Periscope -

April 10, 2006 issue - Federal prosecutors investigating the Jack Abramoff corruption scandal have obtained a road map to the workings of the Republican-controlled House: 1,000 internal e-mails from the office of Rep. Tom DeLay during his time as majority leader. The e-mails were turned over quietly by DeLay late last year as part of an unpublicized effort by the embattled Texas congressman to show he would cooperate with prosecutors. "We didn't hold anything back," says Richard Cullen, DeLay's lawyer, who tells NEWSWEEK the e-mails date to at least 1998 and involve all aspects of the probe. He says the e-mails weren't subpoenaed but were offered as a "Christmas present." Still, it's unclear if thee-mails will clear or help implicate DeLay.

Last week federal prosecutors had one of their biggest coups yet in the probe: a felony guilty plea by Tony Rudy, DeLay's former deputy chief of staff, for conspiring with Abramoff to provide House members and their staff with perks in exchange for legislative favors; Rudy, who left DeLay's office in December 2000 to work for Abramoff, will now cooperate with the Feds. Although court papers filed by prosecutors with the plea contain no direct allegations against DeLay, the documents for the first time refer to an unnamed "Representative No. 2" (who is DeLay) whose office repeatedly assisted Abramoff and his clients. The papers allege that Rudy, while still working for DeLay, arranged for the congressman to sign a letter opposing a postal-rate increase to aid an Abramoff client and helped kill an antigambling bill opposed by another Abramoff client. At the same time, Abramoff arranged for $86,000 in consulting payments to be made to Rudy's wife, Lisa, according to the documents. (She was not charged.) Cullen says DeLay had no knowledge of improper dealings by his aides. (He also says the e-mails he gave the Feds don't include any directly from DeLay because the congressman, unlike his aides, doesn't e-mail.) DeLay "has never taken any official action based on anything other than his conscience," he says.

Still, the Rudy documents suggest prosecutors are far from finished. They name a "Lobbyist B" (DeLay's former chief of staff Ed Buckham) who shared clients with Abramoff and allegedly worked closely with him to arrange the consulting payments to Rudy's wife. (Buckham's lawyer didn't respond to a request for comment.) The documents also may further implicate Ohio Rep. Bob Ney, who, the court papers allege, agreed to support legislation benefiting Abramoff clients in the Marianas Islands and an Indian casino tribe in Texas. Ney then went on an all-expenses-paid golf trip to Scotland funded by Abramoff's clients. Rudy, by then working for Abramoff, e-mailed Ney's chief of staff that the trip would involve "drinking and smoking Cubans," the papers state. Ney's lawyer, Mark Tuohey, says his client denies all wrongdoing and has no intention of cutting a deal with prosecutors. "He will be fully vindicated."

Article links Abramoff, co-defendant to '98 Guam election

by Mindy Fothergill, KUAM News
Sunday, April 02, 2006


On the heels of the sentencing of former powerhouse Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff, the Wall Street Journal released an explosive article this weekend citing Abramoff's and his co-defendant and former partner Michael Scanlon's involvement in alleged efforts to taint the 1998 gubernatorial election on Guam.

The personal relationships of Scanlon, the former press aide to Congressman Tom DeLay, have opened the doors to information about his wheelings and dealings with former partner Abramoff and his ties to Guam. In the WSJ article, "End of the Affair - Behind Unraveling of DeLay's Team, A Jilted Fiancee", the national newspaper reveals political favors and maneuvers devised by the two men, once raking in millions through lobbying efforts and business dealings.

The article refers to Scanlon and his former fiancee Emily Miller, who both worked in the press office of DeLay, the former majority leader. Assisting in work for delay was former deputy chief of staff Tony Rudy. The Journal obtained numerous e-mails and messages relating to Rudy and Scanlon's activities while working for DeLay and their growing relationship with Abramoff.

The article states, "the two staffers often lent a hand to Mr. Abramoff, according to court documents and former colleagues." Abramoff helped the congressman raise millions of dollars and often treated DeLay and his aides to overseas trips, dinners, casino stays and golf outings.

In return, the aides assisted Abramoff. The WSJ piece further states, "In the fall of 1998, Mr. Abramoff wanted to help a Republican, Joe Ada, get elected as governor in Guam, even though he was trailing incumbent governor Carl Gutierrez badly in the polls." Ada was running with current Guam governor Felix Camacho.

After lunch on October 26, 1998, Abramoff emailed Rudy wanting to know if Congressman DeLay could call for an investigation of the misuse of federal funds on Guam by Gutierrez. The WSJ went on to state that Abramoff suggested he would draft a statement for DeLay, and Rudy could "issue a press release and letter requesting an inspector general, from the Department of Interior, to investigate these matters", saying it should have a major impact on the election next week.

Rudy and Scanlon released a statement from DeLay, along with a letter to the DOI's inspector general, calling for a full federal inquiry into Gutierrez. DeLay said in the letter, "The allegations and materials I reviewed point to serious corruption." The article goes on to state despite their efforts, Ada lost the race and the Department did not conduct an investigation.

DeLay's spokeswoman declined to comment and Rudy's lawyers did not return phone calls made by the national newspaper. KUAM News has also confirmed through sources in Washington, that a congressional inquiry is also underway into Scanlon's involvement on Guam when the Ada-Camacho team disputed the 1998 election results.

KUAM News attempted to obtain comment on the Wall Street Journal article from former governor Ada, however he is currently off-island. Spokesman for Governor Camacho Shawn Gumataotao also did not return calls for comment.

Friday, March 31, 2006

Former DeLay aide's plea reveals Abramoff’s reach - Politics -

Tiny Marianas Islands paid $7.17 million for lobbyist’s aid

By Joel Seidman
NBC News
Updated: 5:48 p.m. ET March 31, 2006

WASHINGTON - The guilty plea to conspiracy charges Friday by a former top staffer to Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas, further exposes the degree of influence that disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff had on Capitol Hill -- even when his clients were halfway across the Pacific.

Tony Rudy, who worked for DeLay as press secretary and then deputy chief of staff from 1995 to 2000, entered the plea in United States District Court here Friday. Court papers show that while working in DeLay's office, Rudy provided Abramoff with assistance in stopping legislation opposed by one of the lobbyist's clients.

In exchange, Rudy was lavished with free trips, sporting tickets, meals and golf games and $86,000 to a consulting firm he set up and was run by his wife - all courtesy of Abramoff. Rudy, 39, joined Abramoff's lobbying firm after working for DeLay.

There were no allegations against DeLay in the documents released Friday as part of Rudy's plea agreement.

But the documents do reveal the extent of Abramoff's influence on Capitol Hill. One case in point: The Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands (CNMI). The CNMI was a very lucrative Abramoff client. In order to help his client, Abramoff had to make an investment of his own - secure the help of Rudy, an influential Hill staffer.

The volcanic islands are located just north of Guam in the Pacific Ocean. The Marianas may be far away but they have a unique manufacturing advantage - they are exempt from U.S. tariffs as well as minimum wage and immigration standards. The Marianas are known for their low-paying garment factories. The exemption allows garment makers there to put "Made in the U.S." labels on their clothing. Human rights groups argue this has fostered an exploitive working environment in the commonwealth's booming garment industry.

According to an internal audit of its lobbying contracts, The Marianas government paid Abramoff a total of $7.17 million in lobbying fees from 1996 to 2001. Auditors questioned Abramoff's lobbying expenses. They said they were "excessive." But Abramoff wanted to make sure garment factories in the Marianas didn't lose their exemptions so he took care of Capitol Hill insiders like Rudy.

Just days before Abramoff himself was sentenced in an unrelated Florida fraud case this week, the current governor of the Marianas Islands wrote to the Miami judge, pleading for leniency. Abramoff, Gov. Benigno R. Fitial wrote, was a "personal friend and political champion" of the "beleaguered" Pacific islands.

Using official government stationery, the governor wrote of Abramoff, "he was a natural crusader and political activist, with great sympathy for our un-represented Commonwealth." Fitial was a former executive of a clothing company.

But court papers filed Friday reveal that Rudy was deeply involved with Abramoff and his associate Michael Scanlon in the Marianas lobbying effort.

- In January 2000, Rudy agreed to arrange for another staff member to travel to CNMI with Scanlon and others in part to assist Abramoff.

- In 2000, Rudy worked with others to secure certain appropriations projects for CNMI, which he knew would help Abramoff's lobbying business.

And, court papers reveal that Rudy provided things of value to a Member of Congress ("Representative #1") and members of his staff, "to use their official positions and influence to assist Abramoff." It is widely believed that the reference to "Representative #1" refers to Bob Ney, R-Ohio. One of the "things of value" provided to Ney and cited in the filing: partial payment of a 2002 golfing trip to Scotland.

Court papers cite Representative #1's agreement in March 2001 to support legislation that would enable Abramoff's clients to continue to manufacture clothing with "Made in the U.S." without being subject to the same wage and labor standards as companies operating in the continental United States.

Rudy also asked lawmakers to vote against an Internet-gambling bill, which, according to the plea papers, "Representative #1" helped out Abramoff's Indian tribal clients. The congressman as co-chairman of a Conference Committee of House and Senate Members of Congress agreed to introduce and pass legislation that would lift an existing federal ban against commercial gaming in order to benefit Abramoff's tribal client in Texas.

A statement released Friday by Ney's communications director, Brian Walsh, said Abramoff lied to Ney. "They lied to their clients, they lied to their colleagues and they lied to Members of Congress."

Walsh also wrote that the Scotland golf trip was never solicited by Ney. "Congressman Ney in fact never solicited the trip to Scotland. He remains absolutely confident that when the full facts of Abramoff's schemes are revealed, fiction will continue to be separated from fact and it will be made clear that he did absolutely nothing wrong."

Meanwhile, Rudy has agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors in their ongoing investigation of congressional influence peddling schemes orchestrated by Abramoff.

Abramoff Fallout Finds Former DeLay Staffer - Los Angeles Times

By Richard B. Schmitt
Times Staff Writer

11:04 AM PST, March 31, 2006

WASHINGTON — The former deputy chief of staff for Texas Republican Tom DeLay pleaded guilty today in the widening influence-peddling scandal surrounding fallen lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Tony Rudy, 39, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Washington to a single charge of conspiracy in connection with the scandal, admitting that he violated the law while a top aide to DeLay and after he left the government to work for Abramoff.

Rudy admitted to corruptly accepting things of value from Abramoff and others, including $86,000 in cash, tickets to sporting events and golf trips. Among the perquisites: an all-expenses-paid junket to the 2000 U.S. Open golf tournament. The gifts were in exchange for a number of official acts for Abramoff clients, including advising members of Congress to vote against legislation limiting gambling on the Internet, the former aide acknowledged.

Rudy, who worked for DeLay from 1995 through December 2000, left government to join forces with Abramoff at a Washington-based law and lobbying firm, where the illegal conspiracy continued, according to his plea agreement with prosecutors. The court papers described a pattern of lavishing gifts and outings on a member of Congress identified as "Representative #1," including a trip to Scotland in August 2002 that involved golf, "drinking and smoking Cubans," the papers said.

The agreement is the third secured by prosecutors tunneling into the congressional bribery scandal surrounding Abramoff, who was sentenced to 70 months in prison by a federal judge in Miami on Wednesday in connection with a separate fraud scheme. The former lobbyist has also pleaded guilty to conspiracy and fraud charges in connection with his lobbying work in Washington but has yet to be sentenced.

Rudy faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, but his sentence is likely to be reduced because of an agreement he has made to cooperate with the Justice Department in the ongoing investigation.

His guilty plea signals trouble for Ohio Republican Rep. Bob Ney, who was not named in the plea agreement, but who took a golf trip to Scotland with Abramoff and Rudy in August 2002.

The plea agreement contains no allegations that DeLay, described in the papers as "Representative #2," did anything wrong.

Through their lawyers, Ney and DeLay have denied any wrongdoing.

United Press International - Abramoff clients spent $72M on lobbying

WASHINGTON, March 30 (UPI) -- Clients of disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff spent $72 million on political influence, including contributions to about 500 members of the U.S. Congress.

The Center for Responsive Politics, a non-partisan group in Washington that investigates money in politics, said it arrived at the $72 million by adding amounts given the political candidates and fees charged by firms Abramoff worked for from 1998 through 2004.

While Abramoff is most often linked to Republicans, his clients' largess was unbound by party limitations. CRP, pointing out that the donations appear to be legal, said the Abramoff clients made donations to the presidential campaigns of Republican George W. Bush and Democrat John Kerry, but also chipped in on the campaigns of 99 U.S. senators and 384 House of Representatives members. The donations totaled about $22 million, CRP said.

"What also becomes clear through this latest review is how widespread the reach of a single lobbyist can be is he represents politically generous clients," CRP said in a release.

Abramoff has pleaded guilty to a series of charges related to bilking clients out of millions of dollars. He entered a plea agreement with a promise to aid the influence-peddling investigation on Capitol Hill.


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