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

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Philadelphia Inquirer | 11/15/2005 | Casey assails Santorum's tie to lobbyists

Inquirer Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON - Democratic challenger Robert P. Casey Jr. lashed out yesterday at Sen. Rick Santorum (R., Pa.) for leading meetings that he said pressure lobbying firms and trade associations to hire more Republicans.

"At best, what happens at those meetings is of questionable ethics," Casey said.

Casey, the Pennsylvania state treasurer, was in Washington to announce an ethics reform plan that he said would correct what he called abuses of power by lobbyists and lawmakers. One provision is a same-day disclosure requirement for lobbyists who have "substantive" conversations with lawmakers.

Casey accused Santorum of saying little about this "culture of corruption." He said the senator "has more power than I do, right now," to introduce reforms.

A spokesman for Santorum, Robert Traynham, declined to respond to the specifics of Casey's plan but said the senator was ready to debate it and other issues "in a public way."

Casey spoke at a Washington restaurant, called Signatures, that until recently was owned by GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who is under investigation by the Justice Department. Abramoff is an ally of former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R., Texas), who has been indicted in an alleged Texas campaign-finance scheme.

DeLay, Santorum and other GOP activists have been involved in a longtime effort known as the "K Street Project" to ensure that Republicans are considered for openings with lobbying firms and trade associations.

K Street is a Washington address traditionally favored by lobbyists.

Santorum has been holding a regular Tuesday morning meeting as part of this effort.

"These aren't just casual, chance meetings," Casey said. He said there was "enormous pressure" and "undue influence" by congressional leaders on hiring practices by lobbyists and trade associations.

"I think it could amount to coercion," Casey said. "What are you going to do, skip the meeting? Unfortunately, if you want to be a successful lobbyist, a lot of them are going to say, 'Yes, sir.' "

Casey said the K Street Project was "an abuse of power" and should be closed. He also proposed doubling the lobbying ban for former members of Congress to two years and requiring members to reimburse corporations for the full cost of accepting a ride on a chartered flight.

At present, members are required to reimburse corporations for the price of a first-class commercial ticket.

The Democrat said that this year he had accepted a chartered flight to Texas from a law firm, which he intended to reimburse.

Much of what Casey proposed is contained in pending Senate and House legislation. The new wrinkle was the same-day disclosure, which a lobbyist would file to an Internet site.

Traynham, Santorum's spokesman, defended the K Street Project as "a program to make sure that issues important to Pennsylvanians are discussed with large organizations."

He said that Santorum "has spent all of his congressional career making sure there is transparency in government."

Traynham declined to directly address Casey's ethics plan, but challenged the leading Democratic contender for Santorum's seat to public debates on all the issues.

"What's more important is to talk about the issues that are important to Pennsylvanians - jobs and the economy, taxes and the like," he said.

In a statement issued by Santorum's reelection campaign, the senator proposed 10 debates, with eight of them devoted to a single issue. The Casey campaign had no immediate response.

Casey's Washington schedule yesterday included three fund-raising meetings, including an evening event at a private home in McLean, Va., at which outgoing Virginia Gov. Mark Warner was scheduled to appear.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- | Cornyn disputes claim about casino work, lobbying

Reed had said he 'choreographed' decision from then-attorney general.

By Jason Embry


Tuesday, November 15, 2005

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, the former Texas attorney general, on Monday downplayed former Christian Coalition Director Ralph Reed's 2001 claim that he choreographed Cornyn's forthcoming efforts to limit casino gambling in the state.

Cornyn said his efforts, including the filing of a lawsuit in 1999 to shut down an Indian casino, began well before Reed's boast.

"When I ran for attorney general in 1998, I ran in part on my commitment to enforce Texas law, including our laws against casino gambling," said Cornyn, a Republican. "And of course, when I was elected, I did exactly that."

The Associated Press reported last week that Reed had claimed in a 2001 e-mail to lobbyist Jack Abramoff that he knew what Cornyn, then attorney general, would do to shut down the Alabama-Coushatta tribe's casinos in East Texas.

Abramoff worked that year as a lobbyist for the Louisiana Coushatta tribe and was trying to fend off other casinos from cutting into its business. Abramoff hired Reed as a consultant, and Reed lobbied to have the Alabama-Coushatta and Tigua casinos closed in Texas.

In the November 2001 e-mail, Reed told Abramoff that a group of pastors would meet with Cornyn to urge him to shut down the Alabama-Coushatta tribe's casino near Livingston.

"We have also choreographed Cornyn's response," Reed's e-mail said, according to the AP. "The AG will state that the law is clear, talk about how much he wants to avoid repetition of El Paso and pledge to take swift action to enforce the law."

Cornyn had filed a lawsuit in 1999 to shut down a Tigua casino in El Paso, saying it violated the state's limited gambling laws. Federal courts closed the casino in 2002, and Cornyn used that ruling to shut down the Alabama-Coushattas' casino.

"The fact is, the big litigation was in 1999 against the Tiguas," Cornyn said Monday before a speech to the Texas Civil Justice League. "That was the one that had been operating illegally for almost 10 years when I became attorney general and I committed to enforce Texas law. It wasn't personal, but it was a matter of Texas law. And really what happened with the Alabama-Coushattas was that shutting them down depended on a final decision in the Tigua case."

Abramoff and his partner are now under federal investigation, accused of defrauding six Indian tribes of about $80 million between 2001 and 2004. The e-mail from Reed was released recently as part of the investigation.

Cornyn, who has not been accused of wrongdoing, said he could not recall talking to Reed about the casino issue or ever meeting Abramoff.

"We've looked as best we can to try to reconstruct the record, but to my knowledge I've never met Jack Abramoff," he said. "I don't think anyone can be held accountable for communications that they weren't aware of and which claim credit for something that happened three years earlier."


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