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

Friday, November 04, 2005

Reed's fees all paid by casino |

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 11/03/05
WASHINGTON — Ralph Reed's anti-gambling work in Texas and Louisiana was funded by an Indian tribe that derives all of its income from a single casino, according to U.S. Senate testimony Wednesday.

Reed, the former Christian Coalition leader who is running for lieutenant governor of Georgia, is an avowed opponent of legalized gambling. He has said he never knowingly accepted gambling money.

But Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who hired Reed to manage the campaign, made it clear to Reed that he was working for the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana, according to a Feb. 11, 2002, e-mail released after the hearing.

And testimony Wednesday before the U.S. Senate Indian Affairs Committee indicated that the tribe has no source of income besides its Grand Casino Coushatta, Louisiana's largest land-based casino with 3,000 slot machines and an annual income of $300 million.

In a prepared statement after the hearing, Reed said he had been assured by Abramoff's law firm that his payments did not come from gambling. If they did, Reed said, "it was contrary to my understanding. Nevertheless, I accept responsibility for any difficulty this may have caused the grass-roots citizens and religious leaders with whom we worked, which I deeply regret."

Source of cash obscured

The revelations of Wednesday's hearing and documents released later follow months of reports about Reed's anti-gambling work as a subcontractor to Abramoff, his longtime friend. Abramoff is now the target of several congressional and criminal investigations into whether he defrauded his tribal clients. Reed has not been accused of wrongdoing.

Wednesday's hearing, the fourth in a series, examined Abramoff's dealings with the Coushatta tribe, which wanted to block competition — whether from rival tribes or private gaming interests.

Payments to Reed's firm, Duluth-based Century Strategies, were sent through third-party organizations that obscured the source of the money, according to testimony and documents. U.S. Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) alleged the shuffling of funds was conducted "at the request of Mr. Reed ? because of Reed's concern about being publicly associated with gaming money."

The e-mails indicate Reed was aware of the circuitous route his payments were making, but Reed's campaign staff disputed that it was done at his request.

"The false charges of Senator Dorgan have a lot more to do with partisan politics than they do with the facts," said Reed spokeswoman Lisa Baron. "The law firm [of Abramoff], not Ralph, directed how Century Strategies was paid for its work."

A staffer for Dorgan said his allegation was based on unpublished testimony from a witness, not the 318 pages of documents released Wednesday.

According to testimony at earlier hearings, Reed was paid a total of at least $4 million to drum up public opposition to the expansion of gambling in Louisiana and Texas, with money from the Coushattas.

Reed engaged in sophisticated TV, radio and grass-roots campaigns that involved some of the biggest names in the American evangelical movement, including James Dobson of the Family Research Council and Pat Robertson, founder of the Christian Coalition.

But according to the e-mails, Reed's connection to the Coushattas was a closely guarded secret. In a March 21, 2001, e-mail to Robertson, Reed declared that he was working "on behalf of the pro-family forces in Louisiana and we would love to have a message from you."

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, described the activities of Abramoff — once the most powerful Republican lobbyist in Washington — as "breathtaking."

Testimony ranged from Abramoff's alleged attempt to influence officials in Washington who decide which tribes are permitted to open casinos, to Reed's involvement with the Coushattas.

Tribal leaders and their attorney testified that Reed was hired by Abramoff to address threats — some real, some exaggerated — to the tribe's prize jewel: the Grand Casino Coushatta in Kinder, La.

In past statements, Reed has said that while he knew of Abramoff's long list of gambling clients, he didn't know his anti-gambling efforts in Louisiana and Texas were being financed by casino cash. That distinction has become important to his current Republican campaign for lieutenant governor, which has relied in large part on his connections to the Christian evangelical community.

In e-mails, Reed and Abramoff often relied on euphemisms, making references to "our clients" or "our friends" or even "the originating entity."

But on Feb. 11, 2002, Reed e-mailed Abramoff with a local Louisiana newspaper article that noted the Coushattas were attempting to block a bid by the rival Jena Band of Choctaws to open a competing casino.

Within the hour, Abramoff replied: "That's our client. We did the [press] release."

Baron, the Reed spokeswoman, said the e-mail exchange carried no significance. "We did not know that the Louisiana Coushattas were contributing to our efforts until press accounts in 2004," Baron said.

'Bring out the wackos'

In testimony, current and former Coushatta leaders described the path that $400,000 took to reach Reed's consulting firm. It went from the tribe to Southern Underwriters, a company run by the tribe's chief financial officer. From there it went to the American International Center, a think tank whose chief officer was an odd-jobbing lifeguard. Then the money went to Reed's firm.

"The payments were made to Ralph Reed. This was done with the whole council's approval," William Worfel, a former tribal government official, testified. Asked if Reed knew the origin of the money, Worfel replied: "I don't want to speculate, but he should know."

Reed's activities fit a pattern explored in a previous hearing of the Indian Affairs committee.

Two years earlier, Reed had worked with Abramoff, fighting a state lottery and video poker legislation in Alabama, largely through that state's Christian Coalition chapter. Financing came from the Mississippi Band of Choctaws, another Indian tribe with casino interests to protect.

In that case, Reed and the Choctaws said the money came from the tribe's non-gaming businesses — although e-mails indicated Reed helped hide the cash's origins by funneling it through other organizations.

Reed had also helped kill a proposed ban on Internet gambling on behalf of eLottery Inc., an Abramoff client eager to sell state lottery tickets on-line. But the Coushattas may have been Abramoff's richest client.

"As Mr. Abramoff had learned with other clients, mobilizing and manipulating the Christian Coalition was an effective way to turn back potential gaming competitors," Dorgan said.

In an e-mail sent to Kathryn Van Hoof, a former outside lawyer for the Coushatta tribe, Abramoff's partner, Michael Scanlon, boiled down Reed's importance to the project: "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 wackos get their information [from] the Christian right, Christian radio, e-mail, the Internet and telephone trees," Scanlon wrote.

Jim Galloway reported from Washington. Alan Judd reported from Atlanta.

DOJ subpoenas Ney

By Josephine Hearn

The Justice Department delivered a subpoena to Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio) this week, requesting documents to aid in its ongoing investigation of GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff, Ney disclosed Friday.

Ney has not been informed that he is the subject of any investigation, according to his spokesman, and said he would cooperate with the probe.

"As I have said repeatedly, we will cooperate fully with any inquiry. I voluntarily provided information to the Senate Indian Affairs Committee last year and I have offered to make myself available to meet with the House Ethics Committee," Ney said in a statement.

Abramoff was recently indicted on wire and mail fraud charges in Florida stemming from his acquisition of a casino boat chain. He remains under investigation in Washington by a task force of federal agencies led by the Justice Department. The Senate Indian Affairs Committee and Senate Finance Committee have also been conducting separate inquiries into Abramoff.

Ney said he could not comment on the specifics of the DOJ investigation.

"I believe…that although the government's investigation of Mr. Abramoff has been well-publicized through other sources, it is inappropriate for my office to comment in any detail about an ongoing investigation," he said.

A source close to Ney said the subpoena sought documents rather than testimony.

House rules require that members of Congress or their staffs inform the chamber when they receive a subpoena. This information is reprinted in the Congressional Record.

Ney had several dealings with Abramoff in recent years. In 2000, he inserted statements into the Congressional Record on two occasions that may have helped Abramoff in his dealings with Sun Cruz, the Florida casino boat chain. In one statement, he praised Abramoff's then-partner Adam Kidan, who was indicted with Abramoff in Florida earlier this year.

Ney has said he regrets making the statements.

In August 2002, Ney accompanied Abramoff on a golfing trip to Scotland paid for by Abramoff's Indian tribe clients. David Safavian, a former top administration official, came along as well. Safavian has since been indicted for making false statements to investigators and obstructing a federal investigation into Abramoff's attempt to acquire land in the Washington area for use by a Jewish school he founded.

Ney has also been accused of trying to insert a provision into the 2002 Help America Vote Act that would have helped one of Abramoff's Indian tribe clients, the Tigua tribe of El Paso, reopen its casino. The provision was never included in the bill, but Ney did receive over $30,000 in contributions from the Tiguas.

Ney has said he was "duped" by Abramoff and that he only supported the provision because he was led to believe that Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) was backing it.

E-mails show DeLay's office tried to aid lobbyist, tribes - The Boston Globe

By John Solomon and Sharon Theimer, Associated Press | November 4, 2005

WASHINGTON -- Investigators have unearthed e-mails indicating that Representative Tom DeLay's office tried to help lobbyist Jack Abramoff get a high-level Bush administration meeting for Indian clients, an effort that succeeded after the tribes began making a quarter-million dollars in donations.

Tribal money went both to a group founded by Interior Secretary Gale Norton, the Cabinet secretary Abramoff was trying to meet, as well as to DeLay's personal charity.

''Do you think you could call that friend and set up a meeting," Tony Rudy, then a DeLay staffer, wrote to fellow House aide Thomas Pyle in a Dec. 29, 2000, e-mail with the subject line ''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's official e-mail system.

Within months, Abramoff clients donated heavily to the group founded by Norton and to DeLay's personal charity. The Coushatta Indian tribe, for instance, wrote checks in March 2001 for $50,000 to the Norton group and $10,000 to the DeLay Foundation, tribal records indicate.

The lobbyist and the Coushattas eventually 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.

Federal and congressional investigators have 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 money Abramoff's clients donated to Republican causes.

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

DeLay's lawyer said this week his client probably 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."

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. U.S. | Abramoff Probe May Spur Move by Lawmakers to Rein in Lobbyists

Nov. 4 (Bloomberg) -- Jack Abramoff, the high-powered Republican lobbyist accused of bilking clients out of millions of dollars, may become the symbol that transforms the world of Washington influence-peddling.

Senator John McCain, the Arizona Republican who has led a congressional probe of Abramoff, may introduce legislation to tighten regulations on lobbyists. McCain's old partners on campaign-finance overhaul, Senator Russell Feingold of Wisconsin and Representative Martin Meehan of Massachusetts, both Democrats, are proposing that lawmakers detail payments for travel, and lobbyists disclose whom they contact on behalf of clients.

``A culture of corruption has developed,'' Meehan said. ``As the investigations continue and more wrongdoing is uncovered, I believe momentum will continue to build for real reform.''

Abramoff, 46, charged his clients for services he never delivered, diverting the funds to his own companies, according to e-mails and other documents released by two Senate committees during the last year. The House ethics committee is preparing to investigate whether he improperly funded overseas trips for former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas and other lawmakers.

Fred Wertheimer, president of Washington-based watchdog group Democracy 21, said new legislation will probably delve into how ``gifts'' to lawmakers are defined and the way lobbyists make contributions and raise funds for lawmakers.

Moving Money

Lawmakers may also look into the methods lobbyists such as Abramoff use to move money around, Wertheimer said. Abramoff, who along with partner Michael Scanlon took $66 million from Indian tribal clients, directed the tribes to contribute to outside groups, which then sent checks to Abramoff's political allies, e-mails released by McCain's Senate Indian Affairs Committee show.

Wertheimer, who's advising lawmakers on legislation, said he expects McCain, Feingold, Meehan and Representative Christopher Shays, a Connecticut Republican, to come up with measures jointly. The group also worked on a 2002 campaign- finance measure that eliminated unlimited donations to political parties known as ``soft money.''

``If you look at the numerous abuses that lobbyist Jack Abramoff engaged in, that will be a guidepost for trying to figure out the remedies necessary,'' Wertheimer said. ``There's a good chance that what they will do is take the Meehan and Feingold bills that have already been introduced and come up with comprehensive legislation before Congress adjourns.''

Loose Regulations

The 26,932 registered lobbyists operating in Washington are only currently required to file twice a year with the Senate and House, detailing the issues they are working on and the money spent to influence Congress and federal agencies. Lobbyists are allowed to engage in practices such as arranging trips for lawmakers and their staffs, and lawmakers can negotiate for lobbying jobs while still in office.

The publicity surrounding the probe of Abramoff -- who's also the subject of a Justice Department-led investigation and was indicted by a federal grand jury in a separate case on conspiracy and fraud charges -- may change the rules of the game.

McCain, speaking at a Nov. 2 hearing by the Indian Affairs Committee, said the lobbyist's activity was ``breathtaking in its reach.''

The Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana alone spent almost $37 million on fees and donations directed by Abramoff and Scanlon, according to the committee. In e-mails released by the panel, the pair discussed the money they would make off their client. ``Coushatta is an absolute cake walk,'' Scanlon, a former aide to DeLay, wrote to Abramoff on Sept. 10, 2001, according to an e-mail released at this week's hearing.

Revolving Door

Abramoff was trying to prevent another tribe from opening a casino in Louisiana that would rival one run by the Coushattas. As he worked to get the U.S. Interior Department to block the move, Abramoff offered former Deputy Interior Secretary J. Steven Griles a job, Griles said during the hearing.

Griles said he rejected the offer and reported it to ethics officials. He also said he never participated in decisions regarding the casino, though his testimony on that point was contradicted by former Interior counsel Michael Rossetti.

Abramoff spokesman Andrew Blum declined to comment.

The connection between public officials and the lobbying world is also a focus of the proposals made by Feingold and Meehan. The lawmakers want to slow down the ``revolving door'' between government and lobbying firms by requiring departing officials to wait two years rather than one before registering to represent clients.

Feingold and Meehan would also eliminate the ability of lawmakers who become lobbyists to mingle with former colleagues in congressional chambers and adjacent cloakrooms. And they are looking at preventing such new lobbyists from using unspent campaign funds to make donations on behalf of their new clients.

`Huge Windfall'

``It's a huge windfall for a lobbyist to suddenly have a half-million bucks to dole out to the people he's trying to influence,'' said Frank Clemente, director of Public Citizen's Congress Watch, a Washington-based group that supports stronger campaign-finance and lobbying laws. ``Former members who become lobbyists ought to turn their money over to charity or return it to donors instead of being able to use it as a slush fund to ingratiate themselves with people who they are now lobbying.''

Fifteen of the 18 lawmakers who joined lobbying firms or trade associations after their congressional terms expired in January kept their campaign accounts open. Ten donated to former colleagues or the political parties. Five converted their campaign accounts to political action committees.

`Helps With Access'

``It helps with access to clients, it keeps me involved in the political process and it keeps the fire alive if I choose to run again,'' said former Representative Jack Quinn, who converted his ``Quinn for Congress'' committee into JackPAC. The New York Republican is now president of Washington-based Cassidy & Associates, which represents such companies as Atlanta-based BellSouth Corp. and Bethesda, Maryland-based Lockheed Martin Corp.

While individuals can give no more than $4,200 to a House candidate every two years, PACs can give a maximum of $10,000.

Former Representatives Jim Turner of Texas and Scott McInnis of Colorado each left the House with more than $1 million in their campaign bank accounts. ``It has enabled me to help some of my former colleagues and friends,'' Turner said.

Wertheimer said new legislation should give the public ``a real sense of the way in which lobbyists are using money to try to influence members of Congress.''

To contact the reporters on this story:
Jonathan D. Salant in Washington at;
Kristin Jensen in Washington

Letter by Rep. Pryce revealed in Indian casino scandal

Friday, November 04, 2005
Sabrina Eaton
Plain Dealer Bureau

-- A letter by Columbus Republican Rep. Deborah Pryce is among the latest details to surface in a Washington scandal that surrounds lobbyist Jack Abramoff's representation of Indian casinos.

On Wednesday, the Senate Indian Affairs Committee released material it obtained from Abramoff's former employer, the Greenberg Traurig lobbying firm, that included a letter Pryce wrote to Interior Secretary Gale Norton about a Louisiana casino proposal.

The Sept. 12, 2003, letter from Pryce, the No. 4 Republican in the House, insisted that approving a casino proposed by the Jena Band of Choctaw Indians would "set forth a dangerous precedent" and encourage "reservation shopping" by tribes.

Republican Whip Roy Blunt signed a similar letter to Norton dated May 21, 2003. A third letter, dated June 10, 2003, was signed by Blunt, House Speaker Dennis Hastert, Majority Leader Tom DeLay, and Republican Chief Deputy Whip Eric Cantor. Identical wording appears in all three letters.

An aide to Senate Indian Affairs Committee chairman John McCain said investigators believe the letters were authored by Abramoff and his employees and signed by the congressmen. A Greenberg Traurig spokeswoman declined comment on the letters.

A Pryce spokesman said she sent the letter at the request of Louisiana Republican Rep. Jim McCrery, in whose district the casino would have been built, and that his office gave Pryce sample text. He said Pryce's contact with Abramoff was "very limited," and Abramoff did not ask her to write the letter.

McCrery yesterday confirmed that he asked Pryce and the other legislators to write the letters, and said he had no idea why they'd be among Abramoff's documents.

"It would be terribly unfair to link Deborah Pryce to Abramoff, at least in terms of her writing that letter, because I asked her to do it and Abramoff had absolutely nothing to do with it," McCrery said.

A rival Louisiana tribe hired Abramoff to oppose the casino because they thought it would compete with their own operation. Wednesday's Senate Indian Affairs committee hearing focused on Abramoff's efforts to sway the Interior Department for his client.

The Interior Department approved the casino against Abramoff's wishes, but it wasn't built because of opposition from Louisiana's former and current governors.

Federal Election Commission records compiled by PoliticalMoneyLine indicate that Pryce's Promoting Republicans You Can Elect political action committee got $8,000 in donations from Abramoff's Indian gambling clients from 2002 through 2004.

Several agencies are investigating Abramoff's dealings with Indian tribes and ties to Republican congressional leaders. Abramoff is facing wire fraud charges in Florida in connection with his purchase of a casino boat chain.

Florida authorities told the Miami Herald they are investigating whether Rep. Bob Ney, a Licking County Republican, put statements in the Congressional Record to improperly influence Abramoff's casino boat purchase.

Ney also agreed to sponsor legislation to let one of Abramoff's tribal clients reopen a closed casino in Texas. Records released yesterday showed that a 2002 golf trip to Scotland that Ney took with Abramoff was underwritten by a sham charity of Abramoff's called Capital Athletic Foundation. The trip's total cost was $166,634.

The Los Angeles Times reported that McCrery's chief of staff, Bob R. Brooks Jr., took a similar Scotland trip with Abramoff in 2003. McCrery said yesterday that he did not believe the trip gave Abramoff clout with his office.

To reach this Plain Dealer reporter:


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