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

Thursday, November 03, 2005 / Home UK - The Hammer under the cosh

Published: November 3 2005 22:20 | Last updated: November 3 2005 22:20

Tom DeLay’s face was almost as red as the leather congressional tomes behind him as he read a statement to reporters on Tuesday afternoon. “This morning, in an act of blatant political partisanship, a rogue district attorney in Travis County, Texas, named Ronnie Earle, charged me with one count of criminal conspiracy. This is one of the weakest, most baseless indictments in American history.”

That Mr DeLay’s response to his indictment was combative was no surprise to those who have followed the rise of the Texas conservative, known as “the Hammer”, to become House majority leader – a post he has used to consolidate the power of the Republican party in Washington. After his resignation, under party rules that forbid anyone under indictment from holding a leadership position, the Democratic National Committee could hardly contain its glee: “THE HAMMER GETS NAILED!” it said.

The indictment of such a high-profile leader could not have come at a worse time for Republicans as their party looks to the 2006 congressional elections. President George W. Bush is embattled and unpopular, while the party faces internal battles over huge federal spending following Hurricane Katrina and divisions over key policies such as immigration reform and social security. Ominously, Mr DeLay’s indictment carries an echo of the early 1990s when Democrats came under fire for a series of ethics violations, leading to the Republican takeover of Congress in 1994 (see below).

Mr DeLay has been under investigation in Texas for about two years. He is alleged to have used his state political action committee, a fundraising vehicle, to bypass state campaign finance laws that forbid corporations from donating directly to political candidates. Funds raised by Mr DeLay were critical in helping Republicans seize control of the Texas legislature in 2002; as a reward, the legislature redrew the state’s political boundaries to help Republicans pick up several House seats in the 2004 federal election.

Mr DeLay’s woes come as Bill Frist, the Senate majority leader, faces a probe into possible insider share dealing for the sale of shares in his family’s healthcare company. Last week, David Safavian, a chief procurement official at the White House Office of Management and Budget with links to Republican lobbyists, was arrested and charged with obstruction of justice.

The Safavian arrest is part of a separate investigation into Jack Abramoff, a “super-lobbyist” considered a vital asset to the Republican party. Mr Abramoff’s close relationships with the party elite and extensive clientele, including the casino-owning Choctaw tribe of Mississippi, helped finance Mr Bush’s march to the White House. But his considerable clout began to wane last year when congressional investigations into his activities revealed allegations of corruption, abuse of charities for political purposes and influence-pedalling.

Finally, White House officials – including Karl Rove, Mr Bush’s top political adviser, and a senior aide to Dick Cheney, the vice president – remain under investigation by a special prosecutor into whether they broke US laws by leaking the name of a covert CIA agent. That grand jury investigation, which is expected to wrap up next month, is looking into whether Valerie Plame was exposed in an effort to discredit her husband, who publicly challenged White House claims that Iraq was seeking to obtain nuclear weapons.

The array of scandals threatens to embroil the White House and the Republican party in the ugly cycle of allegations and investigations that has damaged every two-term president since Richard Nixon. Indeed some analysts think the charges could be harder to fend off than the “arms for hostages” scandal during Ronald Reagan’s second term and the Monica Lewinsky affair that embarrassed Bill Clinton.

“Democrats will taunt them with the charge of corruption and cronyism,” says David Gergen, professor of public service at Harvard, who worked in the White House for both Republican and Democratic administrations. “The problem for [Mr Bush] is that scandals are usually containable, with a definable event that can be acted on and resolved, like Iran-Contra. Even the Monica scandal could be purged through the impeachment process. Here you have a series of intertwined things.”

Potentially the easiest allegation to clear up, and with the fewest wider ramifications, is the Securities and Exchange Commission probe into Mr Frist. The sale share was a one-off: in July he sold his remaining stake in HCA, the company founded by his father and brother, just before the shares fell 9 per cent on an earnings warning. Mr Frist has denied having insider knowledge and says he started consulting ethics advisers about selling the shares in April. He sold the stock to avert the appearance of conflicts of interest as he mulled a run for president. “The Frist case is straightforward and he will be vindicated, sooner or later,” predicts Charlie Black, a Republican strategist.

The DeLay indictment is potentially far more damaging politically and is unlikely to be resolved as speedily. As House majority leader he has led an effort to consolidate the power of conservative Republicans in Washington by forging a web of contacts between corporations, lobbyists and the politicians they seek to influence.

His success had already met with resistance before Tuesday’s indictment. The man who once declared “If you want to play in our revolution, you have to live by our rules” had presided over a clumsy attempt to have the House ethics committee rewrite its rules this year to allow him to remain majority leader even if he were indicted. The committee backed down under criticism from Democrats and moderate Republicans.

In addition Mr DeLay has faced three rebukes from the ethics committee. In one case, he improperly ordered the Federal Aviation Authority to track down a group of Texas Democrat legislators who were fleeing the state by aircraft to prevent the legislature from voting on redrawing congressional districts.

Even before the indictment there were signs of Republicans deftly distancing themselves. A report from Public Citizen, a liberal group, in April noted that contributions to Mr DeLay’s legal defence fell sharply. “It looks like members of congress are trying to distance themselves from Tom DeLay’s ethics problems by closing their wallets,” it said. In the first quarter, the defence fund raised $47,750, less than one-fifth of the amount raised in the last quarter of 2004. Only nine members of Congress contributed a total of $30,000, an 83 per cent drop.

“Tom DeLay is gone. I don’t think he will come back or run again. He will not want to return to office unless he in a leadership position,” predicts James Thurber, director for congressional and presidential studies at American University.

While Mr DeLay’s political future remains uncertain, at issue for Republicans is whether there is any further fallout from the machine he helped create. “He combined a centralisation of power with a money operation that was unique,” says Mr Thurber.

At the heart of this effort is the “K Street Project”, a reference to the street that is home to the most established lobbying firms in Washington. As part of the congressional takeover in 1994, a small group of conservative activists – including Mr Delay, Mr Abramoff and Grover Norquist, head of Americans for Tax Reform – set off to oust Democrats from lucrative and influential lobbying jobs and replace them with Republicans.

“They created a machine that built and underpins the Republican majority, from fundraising and tying interest groups to elected officials. Then they re-districted and got new Republican cohorts into congressional seats. They were hardball players. Grover is a give-no-quarter Republican activist who says you shouldn’t give liberals any patronage,” says Cal Jillson, professor of political science at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

Last year, for example, the Motion Picture Association of America, which represents largely Democrat-leaning Hollywood producers, resisted pressure from Republicans and hired Dan Glickman, the former agriculture secretary to Mr Clinton, as its top lobbyist. House Republicans responded by stripping away tax breaks for the industry worth as much as $5bn over the next decade. Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper, quoted one Republican lobbyist as saying: “The Glickman thing is going to cost them. No Republican will fight for the movie industry.” The MPAA has since hired several Republicans for top positions.

They are not alone. The K Street project has been remarkably successful for the party and lobbyists. According to the Washington Post, since Mr Bush came to office the number of lobbyists has doubled to 34,750 to become a $2.1bn industry.

As an investigation by the Indian Affairs Committee has revealed, the flood of money has led to enormous excesses, even by Washington standards. Hundreds of emails released by the committee have outlined how Mr Abramoff overcharged Indian tribes by millions of dollars in lobbying fees. It also showed how he paid for golfing trips to Scotland for legislators. Although Mr Abramoff has not been formally charged, in August he was indicted by a state grand jury in Fort Lauderdale on five counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy alleging that he faked a $23m wire transfer for the purchase of casino boats. He has pleaded not guilty.

Emails from the committee show financial ties between Mr Abramoff, Mr Norquist and Ralph Reed, former head of the Christian Coalition. One Washington business lobbyist who works closely with House Republicans said: “You can connect all these dots. It’s obviously not good that Grover and Ralph are connected to these people, but there is so much that we don’t know about what is going to transpire over the next 6, 12, 18 months. There are going to be trials, [but] this is an old story for Washington.”

Many Republicans view the revelations with a sense of shame. Last week, Andrew Ferguson, a senior editor at the Weekly Standard, the in-house magazine for the conservative movement, wrote: “Jack Abramoff's lucrative self-dealing, involving as it does such movement stalwarts as Ralph Reed and Grover Norquist, may seem lunatic in its excesses, but the excesses aren’t the point. The point is the ease with which the stalwarts commandeered the greasy machinery of Washington power. Conservative activists came to Washington to do good and stayed to do well."

Federal investigators have signalled that indictments may be on the way in the Abramoff case. Last week the scandal lapped at the White House when Mr Safavian was arrested on charges that he lied to investigators when asked about his business dealings with Mr Abramoff.

Barbara Van Gelder, Mr Safavian’s lawyer, said she believed prosecutors brought the charges for “leverage” over other cases. “This case by itself has little to do with him – it really has to do with ‘What can we get on Jack Abramoff?’”

While the spotlight on these activities may curb the more egregious excesses, Mr Jillson concludes it may not be fatal to the Republican machine. “You can’t just kick them out because they know too much and have to continue winning elections. They are central to the Republican advocacy machine in DC and nationally.”

Republicans are doing poorly in the polls, but there is little evidence linking that to the scandals. Polls show low approval ratings for both congressional parties. A Gallup poll in April, when the DeLay allegations surfaced prominently, found just 8 per cent of Americans were watching it “very closely”.

Even so, Democrats scent electoral advantage. For months the party’s national committee has tried to stitch the scandals into a unifying theme of a “culture of corruption”. “This is how the revolution ends: with indictments,” says Marshall Wittman, fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute.

Whether those charges stick will depend on whether more indictments emerge, says Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster. “I am confident there is no pattern of widespread wrongdoing and that Democrat attempts to paint it as such will fail. It is not like 1993, when you had dozens of congressmen writing checks from a non-existent account. How many elected officials are involved in this? Just Mr DeLay. Unless they have elected officials or senior officials in the administration involved, this is a non-starter. Lobbyists and activists are not the kind of stuff on which people base voting decisions.”

That political equation could change fast if the prosecutor looking into the CIA leak case finds evidence of wrongdoing. If a senior Bush confidante is implicated, it would be very hard to staunch the image of a scandal-hit party.

With Mr Bush already weakened by fears about Iraq and the economy, his second term agenda remains vulnerable to more self-inflicted ethics blows.

Additional reporting by Stephanie Kirchgaessner and Edward Alden News | Abramoff-Scanlon School of Sleaze

Wednesday's Senate hearings yielded more scandalous revelations about how the dynamic lobbying duo bilked American Indian tribes out of millions and used the money to win elections for their Republican clients.
By Michael Scherer

Nov. 03, 2005 | Up-and-coming Republican hacks would do well to watch closely the ongoing Senate investigations of superstar lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his former business partner Michael Scanlon. The power duo stand accused of exploiting Native American tribes to the tune of roughly $66 million, laundering that money into bank accounts they controlled and then using it to buy favors for powerful members of Congress and the executive branch.

But they sure did know how to play the game.

Consider one memo highlighted in a Capitol Hill hearing Wednesday that Scanlon, a former aide to Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas, sent the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana to describe his strategy for protecting the tribe's gambling business. In plain terms, Scanlon confessed the source code of recent Republican electoral victories: target religious conservatives, distract everyone else, and then railroad through complex initiatives.

"The wackos get their information through the Christian right, Christian radio, mail, the internet and telephone trees," Scanlon wrote in the memo, which was read into the public record at a hearing of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee. "Simply put, we want to bring out the wackos to vote against something and make sure the rest of the public lets the whole thing slip past them." The brilliance of this strategy was twofold: Not only would most voters not know about an initiative to protect Coushatta gambling revenues, but religious "wackos" could be tricked into supporting gambling at the Coushatta casino even as they thought they were opposing it.

Another lesson from the Abramoff-Scanlon school: Pad your public numbers. In October 2001, the lobbying team decided to inflate the amount they were billing Indian tribes so Abramoff could make it into a "top ten" ranking of Native American lobbyists. They planned to tell the Coushatta tribe that $1 million was needed for a "public affairs" strategy. Then, by apparently falsifying an invoice from Abramoff's law firm, Greenberg Traurig, they would reroute the money to a charity Abramoff had founded, which was paying to build a school for his children and give "sniper training" courses in Israel.

It worked like a dream, mainly because nobody knew what was happening -- not the tribe, not the law firm, and certainly not the readers of the "top ten" ranking. Oversight was so lacking that it did not even matter that someone misspelled the name of Greenberg Traurig on the fraudulent invoice. "I doubt we would be issuing an invoice with our name misspelled," said Fred Baggett, the head of Greenberg Traurig's governmental affairs shop, who once worked closely with Abramoff. Asked to describe his former colleague, Baggett offered this faint praise: "He is an amazingly gifted person at having two sides to him."

Others were less kind. Kevin Sickey, the chairman of the Coushatta Tribe, described Abramoff as greedy and corrupt. "He is the golden boy gone bad of the American political system," Sickey said. William Worfel, a former Coushatta Tribal Council member, was even more blunt about the lobbying team. "In my mind, they are educated thieves who must be brought to justice," he said.

Wednesday's hearings provided just the latest in a long line of scandalous revelations about Abramoff's lobbying operation, which is now under investigation by two Senate committees and the Justice Department. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who chaired the meeting, said his committee was preparing "many" legal reforms that could prevent a repeat of the Abramoff debacle. "We'll be coming out with that in about a week," he said. The Indian Affairs committee is scheduled to hold one more hearing on Abramoff before issuing a report; it still needs to gather testimony from Italia Federici, a close associate of Interior Secretary Gale Norton. Federici is accused of setting up a meeting for Abramoff with Interior Department officials after her nonprofit company, Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy, received six-figure donations from Abramoff's clients. Environmentalists charge that Federici's company -- which was founded by Norton -- is a front for big industry polluters. Federici was scheduled to testify Wednesday, but has so far ducked a Senate subpoena. "I believe U.S. marshals will do their duty," McCain said. "She has been unable to be located."

Abramoff, meanwhile, is already facing the prospect of significant jail time. He has been charged with fraud in connection with an unrelated casino deal in Florida, which ended in a gangland-style killing of the man Abramoff is alleged to have defrauded. (Several people have been charged with that killing, including two employees of a company controlled by Abramoff's business partner, Adam Kidan.) At the same time, the former top procurement official in the White House, David Safavian, has been arrested on charges of lying about a trip he took to Scotland with Abramoff. Another former White House official, Timothy Flanigan, recently withdrew his nomination to become deputy attorney general, after it became clear that he would have to testify under oath to the Senate about his relationship with Abramoff.

On Wednesday, a third former Bush administration official, J. Steven Griles, was asked to account for his relationship with Abramoff, which is detailed in dozens of e-mails obtained by the Senate. Griles claimed that he had never done Abramoff's bidding, despite Abramoff's own boasts that Griles was working on his behalf, and might even consider a job at Greenberg Traurig after he left government. "I can't reconcile what Mr. Abramoff put in e-mails to anyone," said Griles, a former coal industry lobbyist who recently served as deputy secretary of the interior.

Griles' denials were disputed by Michael Rossetti, a former counsel to Interior Secretary Gale Norton, who said Griles had shown a "very keen interest" on one matter where Abramoff had an interest. "Mr. Rossetti has a different memory on that issue than I do," said Griles, who appeared distraught, at times, during his testimony. "I don't want to dispute a former friend of mine and a former colleague." After the hearing, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said the conflicting testimony created confusion about the facts. "Mr. Rossetti is very credible," McCain said. A reporter asked if Griles was also credible. "He is certainly sincere," said the senator.

There was much less doubt, however, about the skills of Abramoff and Scanlon. They collected huge amounts of money from their unwitting clients. In September of 2001, Abramoff wrote to Scanlon asking how much money he was set to collect from two of their Native American clients. "I need to assess where I am at for the school's sake," he wrote, in an apparent reference to his children's Jewish day school, the Eshkol Academy, which Abramoff was secretly bankrolling with the Indian money. Scanlon wrote back, "Your project on the project as proposed is at least 800k." All in all, Abramoff was set to earn "a total of 2.1" million dollars, Scanlon wrote.

Abramoff responded to his business partner, "How can I say this strongly enough: YOU IZ DA MAN."

If political infamy is the measure of a man, nobody in Washington doubts that now.

-- By Michael Scherer

Interior ex-official denies helping lobbyist for casinos

Suzanne Gamboa
Associated Press
Washington - The Interior Department's former No. 2 official denied on Wednesday that he gave preferential treatment to a lobbyist under investigation for his work on behalf of Indian tribes and their casino interests.

Steven Griles' assertion was challenged by a one-time colleague and by senators who cited e-mails by the lobbyist, Jack Abramoff.

To the Senate committee investigating Abramoff and his partner, Michael Scanlon, Griles said it was "outrageous" and "un true" that they had special access to him, as they claim.

But Michael Rossetti, a former legal counselor to Interior Secretary Gail Norton, told senators he was alarmed when Griles "all of a sudden had an inexplicable desire to be involved" in meetings with Norton dealing with the Jena Band of Choctaws' effort to open a casino near the Texas- Louisiana border.

"Repeatedly on at least half a dozen occasions, he insisted on being in on meetings" affecting the Jena Band, Rossetti said.

Griles resigned in December as the department's deputy secretary.

Rossetti described an exchange in front of at least two witnesses in which he challenged Griles on "whose water he was carrying on this issue."

Abramoff and Scanlon were hired as lobbyists by the Louisiana Coushatta tribe to work against efforts by the rival Jena Band of Choctaws to open a casino that could compete with the Coushatta's gambling operation near Lake Charles, La.

The Senate Indian Affairs Committee is investigating Abramoff and Scanlon and the more than $80 million they were paid between 2001 and 2004 by six Indian tribes with casinos, in cluding the Coushattas.

Abramoff's lobbying work also is under investigation by the Justice Department. Abramoff has been indicted by a federal grand jury in Florida on charges of fraud and conspiracy stemming from his role in the 2000 purchase of a fleet of gambling boats.

Andrew Blum, a spokesman for Abramoff, said that because of the various investigations, the lobbyist "is put into the impossible position of not being able to defend himself in the public arena until the proper authorities have had a chance to review all accusations."

Blum also said the fees related to Abramoff's work "were more than justified given the cost savings and economic benefit realized by his clients."

Griles testified that his relationship with Abramoff was the same as with other lobbyists, senators or interest groups. "Nothing more, nothing less," he said.

But the committee chairman, Sen. John McCain, the Arizona Republican, and the top Democrat, Sen. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, read e-mails in which Abramoff suggested a closer relationship with Griles.

"There are e-mails, e-mails, e- mails about Abramoff saying he's meeting with you," Dorgan said.

Griles suggested Abramoff could have made up the information.

"I can't reconcile what Mr. Abramoff put in e-mails, and today, based on what I heard, I don't believe anyone can," Griles said.

McCain also questioned Griles about his relationship with Italia Federici, president of the Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy.

The senator said Abramoff directed at least four of his tribal clients to give $250,000 to the group.

© 2005 The Plain Dealer

AP: DeLay's staff tried to help Abramoff


WASHINGTON -- Rep. Tom DeLay's staff tried to help lobbyist Jack Abramoff win access to Interior Secretary Gale Norton, an effort that succeeded after Abramoff's Indian tribe clients began funneling a quarter-million dollars to an environmental group founded by Norton.

"Do you think you could call that friend and set up a meeting," then-DeLay staffer Tony Rudy wrote to fellow House aide Thomas Pyle in a Dec. 29, 2000, e-mail titled "Gale Norton-Interior Secretary." President Bush had nominated Norton to the post the day before.

Rudy wrote Abramoff that same day promising he had "good news" about securing a meeting with Norton, forwarding information about the environmental group Norton had founded, according to e-mails obtained by investigators and reviewed by The Associated Press. Rudy's message to Abramoff was sent from Congress' official e-mail system.

Within months, Abramoff clients donated heavily to the Norton-founded group and the lobbyist and one of the tribes he represented won face-to-face time with the secretary during a Sept. 24, 2001, dinner sponsored by the group she had founded.

Abramoff's clients were trying to stop a rival Indian tribe from winning Interior Department approval to build a casino.

DeLay, who has temporarily stepped aside as House majority leader because of criminal charges in Texas, eventually signed a letter with other GOP House leaders to Norton on behalf of Abramoff's clients, records show.

Federal and congressional investigators obtained the DeLay staff e-mails from Abramoff's former lobbying firm as they try to determine whether officials in Congress or the Bush administration provided government assistance in exchange for the vast amounts of money Abramoff's clients donated to Republican causes.

The e-mails, however, weren't provided to Senate Indian Affairs Committee Chairman Sen. John McCain, whose committee held hearings Wednesday into Abramoff's dealings at the Interior department. It has drawn attention, however, among other government investigators examining whether any federal actions were taken in exchange for donations.

The assistance to Abramoff from DeLay's staff occurred just a few months after DeLay received political donations, free use of a skybox to reward donors and an all-expense paid trip to play golf in Scotland arranged by Abramoff and mostly underwritten by his clients.

DeLay's lawyer said this week his client likely didn't know about the assistance his aides gave Abramoff five years ago and does not believe his office would ever provide government assistance in exchange for political donations.

"On its face it's not unusual for staffers to assist people trying to get a meeting with an executive branch agency and that would be something a member of Congress would not typically be involved with. That's staff work," attorney Richard Cullen said in an interview.

"Tom DeLay conducts himself consistent with the highest standards of conduct and he mandated the same for his staff," Cullen said.

Shortly after the e-mail exchanges, the two DeLay aides, Rudy and Pyle, left DeLay's office for private sector jobs. Rudy went to work for Abramoff while Pyle went to work for the Koch pipeline company, Neither returned calls to their offices this week seeking comment.

The December 2000 e-mails show DeLay's office identified - as an avenue for winning a meeting with the new interior secretary - Norton's former political fundraiser, Italia Federici, and a conservative environmental group called the Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy (CREA).

Norton founded the group in 1999 with Federici and conservative activist Grover Norquist, a close ally of President Bush. When Norton was named interior secretary by Bush, Federici took over as president of CREA.

Pyle reported to Rudy that he was trying to reach a contact close to Norton and that Federici might be helpful. "Yes, I spoke to her yesterday and she is scrambling right now to get in touch with Gale. Italia helped co-found CREA with Gale and worked on her Senate campaign," Pyle wrote.

Rudy gave an update to Abramoff, forwarding Pyle's information to the lobbyist and suggesting Norquist might provide another avenue to help secure a meeting with the interior secretary.

"Good news. I think she (Norton) knows Grover," Rudy wrote in an e-mail from his official congressional account to Abramoff.

Federici helped Norton raise money for an unsuccessful bid for a Senate seat in Colorado and she, Norquist and Norton formed CREA in 1999 as a tax-exempt organization highlighting Republican ideas for the environment.

Within a few months of the e-mail exchange, Abramoff's Indian tribal clients began sending more than a quarter-million dollars to CREA.

Abramoff sent an e-mail to one of the tribes, the Coushattas, suggesting Interior officials wanted the donations to go to Norton's group. "I met with the Interior guys today and they were ecstatic that the tribe was going to help. If you can get me a check via federal made out to `Council for Republican Environmental Advocacy' for $50K that would be great," Abramoff wrote in one e-mail made public by McCain's investigation.

The tribe obliged. And a short while later, Federici left a message with Norton's office seeking a meeting for that tribe's leaders, according to evidence gathered by investigators. That meeting in April 2001 was rejected by Norton's staff, Interior officials told AP.

Coushatta tribal counsel Jimmy Faircloth told AP that Abramoff instructed the tribe to give donations to CREA of $50,000 in March 2001 and $100,000 in March 2002 "for the purpose of building a lobbying presence in Washington."

The tribe eventually scored face-to-face time with Norton and her top deputy, Steven Griles, on Sept. 24, 2001 at a private fundraising dinner arranged by CREA. Tribal chairman Lovelin Poncho and Abramoff sat at Norton's table while tribal attorney Kathy Van Hoof sat with Griles, Fairchild said.

The Coushattas weren't alone in donating to CREA. Federal investigators have tracked more than a quarter-million dollars in tribal money to the group, including donations from the Saginaw Chippewa tribe of Michigan and the Tiguas of Texas.

At the time, Abramoff's tribal clients were trying to get Interior to reject efforts by rival tribes to get into the casino business. Interior rejected or delayed some of the rivals' bids for extended period of times, although they were recently approved.

Interior spokesman Dan DuBray confirmed that Norton met with the tribal leaders at the CREA dinner, but said he could not comment about any conversations because the matter is under investigation.

Federici attorney Michael Scheininger did not respond to an AP request for comment.

The Gun Lake tribe of Pottawatomi, one of the rivals of Abramoff's tribal clients, said Tuesday that it believed Abramoff's lobbying stalled Interior's approval of its casino by at least 14 months.

"The more we learn about the allegedly corrupt relationship between Jack Abramoff and a key high-ranking government official, the clearer it becomes that a full investigation should be conducted," said Gun Lake Tribal Chairman D.K. Sprague.


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