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

Monday, November 07, 2005 E-mail@Foot-In-Mouth.Gov -- Nov. 14, 2005 -- Page 1

Don't people get it? E-mail is dangerous, especially if you dash it off without thinking about where it's going. A few politicos, including former FEMA director Michael Brown, learned their lesson last week when careless office repartee became national must-reads.

Aug. 31, 2005, 12:24 p.m. MICHAEL BROWN, responding to the FEMA official in New Orleans who informed him that evacuees had no food and the city was near chaos: "Thanks for update. Anything specific I need to do or tweak?"

Sept. 4, 2005, 10:17 a.m. FEMA's press secretary to BROWN after he appeared alongside George W. Bush at a post-Katrina press conference: "Please roll up the sleeves of your shirt ... all shirts. Even the President rolled his sleeves to just below the elbow ... you look more hard-working ... ROLL UP THE SLEEVES!"

June 20, 2002, 10:15 a.m. A lobbyist to his co-worker Tony Rudy, former chief of staff for Texas Congressman TOM DELAY, on their boss Jack Abramoff presumably agreeing to funnel corporate donations to DeLay via a charity: "I'm sensing shadiness. I'll stop asking. I'll break it up over the various requests to a total of $25K." Rudy replies: "Your senses are good."

Oct. 26, 2005, 12:04 p.m. Cheryl Long, aide to Kentucky state representative DAVID OSBORNE, mistakenly sending a constituent comments she meant to forward to her boss concerning the voter's push for Osborne to support gay rights: "Seriously, these people really can get out of hand! ... This particular group is much worse than pro-lifers! If you reply to Ms. Amanda, make sure you delete my e-mail! ;-)"

Oct. 26, 2005, 3:09 p.m. After trying to call back the message at 12:06 p.m., Long apologizes: "Recognizing that all [constituents] have a different political agenda, viewpoint, and belief system, [legislators] have to be very careful in their response."

Philadelphia Inquirer | 11/07/2005 | GOP's best friend could be its nightmare

Lobbyist Jack Abramoff helped fuel conservative successes, but his dealings could lead to powerful ethical fallout.

By Jeff Shields

Inquirer Staff Writer

WASHINGTON - Lobbyist Jack Abramoff was not at the Senate Indian Affairs Committee hearing last week, but he was the central topic, as Congress continued to probe what some call one of this generation's most outrageous political scandals.

It was J. Steven Griles' turn to testify Wednesday, but it could have been any number of people.

Griles, a former Interior Department deputy, was called to address suggestions that Abramoff had improperly influenced his federal work. Griles, who denies wrongdoing, is just the latest in a line of Republican officials and conservative leaders to be linked to Abramoff, who has been accused of mocking the laws that govern money and influence in American politics.

The hearing was a sharp reminder that while White House aides Karl Rove and I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby dominate the headlines, Abramoff remains - according to some observers - the Republican Party's most dangerous problem.

"I don't think we have had something of this scope, arrogance and sheer venality in our lifetimes," Norman J. Ornstein, resident scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, wrote recently. "It is building to an explosion, one that could create immense collateral damage within Congress and in coming elections."

Abramoff and his friends are some of the biggest players in the conservative revolution that took over Congress, the White House, and the lobbying industry.

Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who once called Abramoff one of his "closest and dearest friends," has requested a House ethics investigation to clear his name relating to trips he took at Abramoff's expense; DeLay has said he thought the trips were paid for by other sources.

Christian Coalition founder Ralph Reed, antitax guru Grover Norquist, members of Congress, administration officials, and a host of lobbyists have been drawn into Senate or Justice Department investigations of Abramoff's lobbying activities.

It goes on: Abramoff and a business partner were indicted in Florida in August on charges of fraud and conspiracy for their 2000 purchase of a gambling-boat fleet.

Former White House official David Safavian has been indicted on charges that he lied about his Abramoff ties and has pleaded not guilty. Rep. Bob W. Ney (R., Ohio) has been subpoenaed by a grand jury investigating Abramoff and is himself under federal criminal investigation on suspicion of taking bribes in the form of campaign contributions. Ney has denied wrongdoing.

Because Abramoff was so close to the power structure and fund-raising mechanisms of the Republican Party, "he knows where a lot more of the bodies are buried," said Bill Allison, spokesman for the Center for Public Integrity, a nonpartisan ethics watchdog group.

"Abramoff goes to the much broader issue of how the Republicans have held their majority together," Allison said.

Abramoff, who was president of National College Republicans in the early 1980s, wrote and produced a B movie and once organized a meeting of anticommunist guerrillas and mujaheddin in Africa, became one of Washington's most powerful influence peddlers when Republicans took over Washington in 1994.

He opened a restaurant, Signatures, and leased skyboxes at sports arenas, where he held fund-raisers. According to documents released by Senate investigators, he directed his clients - often unregulated entities that included U.S. territories, Indian tribes and Internet gaming clients - as to how much and where to direct their political contributions.

Abramoff invoked Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination when called before the Senate Indian Affairs Committee last year. Through a spokesman, he denies wrongdoing.

"Mr. Abramoff 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," spokesman Andrew Blum said in a statement. "Any fair reading of Mr. Abramoff's career would show that his clients benefited immensely from the hard work he and his team did on their behalf."

Thousands of e-mails subpoenaed by Senate investigators indicate a man who was publicly dedicated to conservative ideals while privately committed to enriching himself. His public descent began before the Indian Affairs Committee in September 2004, where he and partner Michael Scanlon, DeLay's former press secretary, were found to have charged Indian tribes more than $66 million while privately referring to their clients as "monkeys" and "troglodytes."

"What sets this tale apart, what makes it truly extraordinary, is the extent and degree of the apparent exploitation and deceit," Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.), chairman of the Indian Affairs Committee, said at one of four hearings he has used to shame Abramoff over the past year.

Chairman Kevin Sickey of the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana, one of Abramoff's aggrieved clients, testified Wednesday that the e-mails also offered a rare glimpse into the legal "underworld of government affairs."

"He is the golden-boy-gone-bad of the American political system," said Sickey, whose tribe paid Abramoff and partner Scanlon more than $32 million over three years.

Senate hearings and published reports have alleged that Abramoff and Scanlon often charged their tribal clients for work they never performed; paid to fly members of Congress and their staffs to places such as Saipan in the Northern Marianas Islands and Scotland, a violation of ethics rules; and secretly hired Reed with tribal gaming money to shutter a rival casino in the name of Christian family values. When Abramoff's gambling business venture in Florida went sour, a business rival was slain. Abramoff was not implicated, but two men hired by Abramoff's business partner are charged with the killing.

Abramoff, a major fund-raiser for the Republican Party, was a "pioneer" for President Bush, meaning he raised at least $100,000 for the 2004 campaign, and his clients gave much more. He boasted of access to White House deputy chief of staff Karl Rove, dined with Interior Secretary Gail A. Norton, and hired away key members of DeLay's staff as his lobbying partners.

"The Congress and the United States Government became Jack Abramoff's personal playground," said Rep. George Miller (D., Calif.), who has long complained of Abramoff's influence in the Northern Marianas Islands, a U.S. territory that Abramoff helped keep free from U.S. minimum-wage and immigration laws. "But Abramoff was only able to succeed because he had willing partners within the Congress and this administration."

The Abramoff story "is breathtaking in its reach," McCain said at Wednesday's Indian Affairs hearing, before leaning on witnesses, including former Interior Department deputy Griles, with gusto.

That same day, Griles was called to answer questions about why, according to Norton's former chief counsel, he suddenly became interested in a decision on whether the Jena Band of Choctaw Indians - a potential competitor of Abramoff's clients, the Louisiana Coushattas - would be permitted open a casino in 2002. E-mails showed that Abramoff, at the time, was channeling $250,000 from the Coushattas to an environmental nonprofit formed by Norton before she became Interior secretary, and now run by a friend of Griles'.

"I was alarmed that Mr. Griles had an inexplicable desire to become involved in this particular decision," said Michael Rossetti, Norton's former counsel. Rossetti said he challenged Griles, asking, "Whose water was he carrying?" - and Griles backed down.

Griles said he didn't recall being so interested and was "confused" by Rossetti's testimony.

In the end, the testimonies of Rossetti and Griles stood in direct conflict, but the 318 pages of e-mails had provided another revealing day, courtesy of Jack Abramoff.

"I've learned so much today," Griles said. "I'm really disappointed in what I've learned about today."


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