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

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Feingold: Senate won't overhaul lobbying

Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) yesterday predicted that the Senate will not pass legislation to overhaul lobbying practices this year.

“The teasing has not started yet, but I’m sure it will,” Feingold said, only partly joking about the rough reception he anticipates from fellow senators for writing the bill. Among other things, the bill will require more disclosure of lawmakers’ meetings with lobbyists, increase the cost of traveling on private jets and ban retired senators-turned-lobbyists from the Senate floor.

Although GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff’s role in securing upwards of $60 million in fees from Indian tribes has made plenty of headlines this year, Feingold said he believes that lawmakers have not felt enough public backlash to make his bill a priority — at least not yet.

“Public embarrassment causes things to pass … and there is a lot out there to cause embarrassment,” he said.

Feingold helped push through stricter rules about the type of gifts lawmakers can receive in 1995 and teamed up with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in 2002 to pass the first major overhaul of campaign-finance laws in 25 years. He said McCain has expressed interest in his bill, but Feingold reiterated McCain’s wish to wait until he holds his final hearing on Abramoff to decide whether to throw his support behind Feingold’s efforts.
Jonathan E. Kaplan / The Hill

Tribe, bureau nearing a deal

By SEAN GONSALVES / Cape Cod Times
MASHPEE - A proposed decision on the Mashpee Wampanoag petition for federal recognition could be handed down next spring with a final determination made by March 2007, according to court documents obtained by the Times.

In the summer of 2001, tribal attorneys filed a suit against the U.S. Department of the Interior, which oversees the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

The complaint asked U.S. District Judge James Robertson to order the bureau to make a final decision on the tribe's petition in a timely manner, after the petition had been collecting dust on the bureau's ''ready for active consideration'' list since 1996.

Robertson ruled in favor of the tribe and ordered the bureau to issue a proposed finding by December 2001 and a final ruling by June 2002.

Interior department attorneys successfully appealed the order. An appellate court ruled that Robertson could not order the bureau to make a finding by a specific date but could monitor the progress of the bureau's handling of the petition.

According to a legal brief filed with the court in June, bureau officials and tribal attorneys have been trying to negotiate a settlement, with discussions taking place between April 2 and May 26. A deal was not immediately reached ''despite both parties closely approaching mutually agreeable terms.''

Tribal leaders declined to comment yesterday.

The brief, filed by F. Lee Fleming, the bureau's director of the Office of Federal Acknowledgement, details the staffing problems that have slowed the recognition process in recent years.

''The projected schedule ... should allow the department to start the review and evaluation for Mashpee's proposed finding in October 2005,'' the brief reads.

The court brief states that the actual proposed finding would be issued in April 2006 for public comment, and a final determination would follow by late March 2007.

''This projected schedule represents significant change from the schedule filed in February 2005.... The changes in the projected schedules are possible because of recent developments on other petitions that are on active consideration,'' the brief reads.

If the Mashpee tribe is granted federal recognition, it will establish the 1,400-member tribe as a quasi-sovereign entity with a ''government-to-government'' relationship.

Federal recognition also provides tribes access to federal money for housing, education and health care programs.

Federally recognized tribes are exempt from local and state authority on tribal lands and such status also opens the door to Indian gaming operations.

Mashpee tribal leaders have said that while they would consider pursuing a gaming facility off-Cape, they would not seek to build a casino on Cape Cod.

Local critics of federal recognition are wary of how federal recognition will impact local property values and question whether tribal leaders are being open about their gaming intentions.

Of particular concern are recent revelations of Mashpee ties to lobbyist Jack Abramoff and Michael Scanlon, a former spokesman for House Majority Leader Tom Delay.

Abramoff and Scanlon are at the center of an ethics and criminal probe, investigating allegations that the two bilked tribal clients of $82 million and also manipulated tribal elections for personal gain.

In 2003 and 2004, the Mashpee tribe paid Abramoff's former lobbying firm, Greenberg Traurig, $40,000 to lobby on behalf of the tribe in their pursuit of federal recognition, Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Council Chairman Glenn Marshall told the Times in May.

Tribe officials have never had any direct dealings with Abramoff, he said, though Greenberg Traurig did pro bono work on behalf of the tribe for eight months in 2003 before collecting $40,000 in fees.

Sean Gonsalves can be reached at

(Published: July 19, 2005)

Copyright © Cape Cod Times. All rights reserved.

Everybody's problem

Tuesday July 19, 2005
The Guardian

In the run-up to the G8 summit this month there was much talk of the need for "good governance" in Africa and other developing nations. Frustrated at the slow pace of poverty reduction and the poor returns for aid, wealthy donors have been focusing on governance as the solution to the corruption that has leaked too much money into the wrong pockets. Nigeria's new anti-corruption commission, for example, estimates that $375bn in funds has been skimmed off in one way or another since the country first gained independence 45 years ago. But governance - as the development expert Matthew Lockwood suggests - should not be used as a non-political means to circumvent government - since the role of government remains vital. The experience of the world's better-off countries suggests that corruption is easier to rail against than eradicate.
In Brazil, the government has seen the president's trusted chief of staff resign after a scandal uncovered instances of bribing opposition politicians for their votes. In Germany, the architect of the country's labour reforms is in the centre of a storm of allegations that Volkswagen used luxury holidays and prostitutes to win favours from workers' representatives on the company's board. In the US, a long-serving Republican congressman announced his retirement last week after a questionable property deal with an arms manufacturer. Meanwhile, the powerful Senate majority leader, Texas Republican Tom DeLay, remains mired in an investigation into his relationship with a Washington lobbyist named Jack Abramoff, who paid for Mr DeLay's $70,000 golfing holiday to Scotland.
What this proves is not simply that the world's donor nations are hypocrites. It is that scandals in public life are an ugly fact in even the most well-established democracies. Mr Abramoff, for example, once used his highly paid skills to win a US visa for Mobutu Sese Seko, the rapacious Zairean dictator. Too much of Africa's aid moves too easily into bank accounts held off-shore in the west. That should be halted. In cases such as this, charity really does begin at home.


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