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

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

U.S. Newswire : Releases : "Democracy 21 Calls for Ethics Investigations Concerning..."

11/22/2005 2:48:00 PM


To: National Desk

Contact: Elenia Saloutsi of Democracy 21, 202-429-2008 or

WASHINGTON, Nov. 22 /U.S. Newswire/ -- In a letter sent today to the House Ethics Committee, Democracy 21 President Fred Wertheimer called on the Ethics Committee to conduct an investigation ''to determine whether a number of House Members engaged in official acts to influence a case-specific regulatory matter at the Interior Department that benefited lobbyist Jack Abramoff's clients, and received contributions and financial favors from Abramoff and these clients, in violation of House ethics rules.''

A similar letter was sent to the Senate Ethics Committee concerning Abramoff's clients and official acts taken by a number of Senators.

Copies of both letters are available at

The letters followed an Associated Press story published on November 17, 2005, which reported that numerous Representatives and Senators intervened in a case-specific regulatory matter with Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton to urge the Interior Department to reject a request from the Jena tribe of Choctaw Indians for a new casino in Louisiana.

''According to the AP story, 'Nearly three dozen members of Congress, including leaders from both parties, pressed the government to block a Louisiana Indian tribe from opening a casino while the lawmakers collected large donations from rival tribes and their lobbyist, Jack Abramoff,''' the letter states.

''Many intervened with letters to Interior Secretary Gale Norton within days of receiving money from tribes represented by Abramoff or using the lobbyist's restaurant for fundraising, an Associated Press review of campaign records, IRS records and congressional correspondence found,'' the AP story further stated.

According to the Democracy 21 letter, ''the House Ethics Committee must investigate and determine whether the intervention by House Members in a case-specific Executive Branch regulatory matter was a scheme organized by Jack Abramoff and his agents; whether House Members or House staff were involved with Abramoff in organizing such an intervention scheme; and whether contributions and financial favors were provided to House Members by Abramoff, his associates and his clients as part of such an intervention scheme.''

Democracy 21 called for a similar investigation and determination to be made by the Senate Ethics Committee regarding the intervention by Senators.

The Democracy 21 letter was accompanied by the AP article and a chart released by AP, which listed 24 House members ''who wrote letters urging the Bush administration to reject a Louisiana Indian casino as they collected political money from rival tribes, their lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his associates between 2001 and 2004.''

According to the letter, ''These 24 House members received total contributions of $454,225 during the period, according to the information in the AP chart.''

The Democracy 21 letter states, ''Top recipients of these contributions during the period, included Representatives Dennis Hastert (R-IL), $103,500; John Doolittle (R-CA), $64,500; Tom DeLay (R-TX), $57,000; Chris John (D-LA), $56,625; Jim McCrery (R-LA), $36,250; Eric Cantor (R-VA), $31,500; Ernest Istook (R- OK), $29,000; Pete Sessions (R-TX), $22,500; and Roger Wicker (R- MS), $20,100.''

''The stonewalling by the House Ethics Committee of an investigation into lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his activities with various House Members, including former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX), must come to an end,'' according to Democracy 21 President Fred Wertheimer.

During the past year, Democracy 21 has written on three previous occasions to the House Ethics Committee calling for an investigation of Jack Abramoff's activities with various House members. Copies of the three previous letters sent by Democracy 21 to the Ethics Committee, on December 28, 2004, February 16, 2005 and March 1, 2005, are available at

''In the 1970s and 1980s when the Tongsun Park and ABSCAM scandals engulfed the House, the House Ethics Committee met its institutional responsibilities and investigated these scandals,'' Wertheimer stated.

''During 2005, with the Abramoff scandal engulfing the House, the House Ethics Committee has done nothing to investigate the scandal, and has failed the House and the American people by abrogating its responsibilities,'' according to Wertheimer.

The Democracy 21 letter sent today to the Senate Ethics Committee also was accompanied by the AP article and a chart released by AP, which listed nine Senators "who wrote letters urging the Bush administration to reject a Louisiana Indian casino as they collected political money from rival tribes, their lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his associates between 2001 and 2004."

According to the letter sent to the Senate Committee, ''These nine Senators received total contributions of $388,984 during the period, according to the information in the AP chart.''

The Senate Ethics committee letter states, ''Top recipients of these contributions during the period included Senators Trent Lott (R-MS), $92,000; Thad Cochran (R-MS), $82,500; Harry Reid (D-NV), $67,441; Charles Grassley (R-IA), $62,500; and Mary Landrieu (D-LA), $32,000.''

The Democracy 21 letters conclude by strongly urging the House and Senate Ethics Committee to exercise their inherent jurisdiction, explicitly granted by the Committees' rules, to investigate the serious ethics issues raised in the AP story.

Corruption guilty plea raises heat for Ney

Tuesday, November 22, 2005
Sabrina Eaton
Plain Dealer Bureau
Washington - A political consultant who has been cooperating in a federal corruption probe admitted Monday his role in a bribery scheme that targeted Licking County Republican Rep. Bob Ney.

Documents released as part of Michael Scanlon's plea agreement in U.S. District Court revealed new details of trips, tickets to concerts and sporting events and campaign contributions that were allegedly provided to Ney and his staffers "in exchange for a series of official acts and influence."

Ney's office denies that improprieties occurred and says many of the actions detailed in Scanlon's plea agreement never took place. The congressman has been subpoenaed by federal investigators and has started a legal defense fund.

"All that this plea agreement shows is that Mr. Scanlon had a deliberate, secret and well-concealed scheme to defraud many people, and it appears, unfortunately, that Rep. Ney was one of the many people defrauded," said Ney spokesman Brian Walsh.

Scanlon, 35, a former aide to Rep. Tom DeLay of Texas, faces up to five years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000 and restitution of $19.7 million when he's sentenced by Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle. That will occur after federal authorities finish their corruption investigation. Scanlon has been cooperating with them since June, said one of his attorneys, Plato Cacheris.

In a crowded federal courtroom, Scanlon pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy, admitting in his plea agreement that his crime involved elements of bribery as well as mail and wire fraud.

The plea agreement says Scanlon's political communications firm charged exorbitant fees to four Indian tribes that operated casinos in western and southern states, and kicked back half his profits to "Lobbyist A," who has been publicly identified in a Senate investigation as lobbyist Jack Abramoff. It says the two provided "a stream of things of value" to public officials in exchange for official actions.

Justice Department officials would not discuss the scope of their inquiry or whether Ney and other members of Congress are targets. Asked by a reporter whether Scanlon's testimony would pose trouble for Ney, one of Scanlon's attorneys, Stephen Braga, replied, "Yes."

Scanlon's plea agreement refers to actions by "Representative No. 1," who Ney's lawyer, Mark Tuohey, acknowledges is his client. It says that "things of value were offered to and given to" the congressman, including:

A trip to the 2001 Super Bowl in Tampa, a golf trip to Scotland in 2002 and a staffer's trip to the Northern Marianas Islands in 2000.

Fund-raising events in luxury suites at sports venues and at a restaurant owned by Abramoff, as well as regular drinks and meals at Abramoff's restaurant.

Campaign contributions, including a $4,000 contribution to Ney's 2000 re-election campaign and a $10,000 contribution to the National Republican Campaign Committee at Ney's request.

Frequent golf and related expenses at courses in the Washington, D.C., area.

The documents claim that in exchange for such perks, Ney and members of his staff used "their official positions and influence" to put two statements in the Congressional Record to influence a casino boat line purchase that Abramoff was negotiating in Florida.

Ney also helped three Indian tribes represented by Abramoff with legislative matters pertaining to casinos, taxes and a California post office, according to the plea agreement.

And Ney helped an Abramoff client get a contract to wire the House for cellular telephone service, the documents say.

Tuohey, Ney's lawyer, said in an e-mail late Monday that he hadn't seen the latest court documents, "but the items described to me never happened, or they were categorically rejected by the congressman."

The State | 11/22/2005 | Probe connects DeMint, lobbyist

32 other lawmakers have similar ties


Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON ? U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint took campaign money from colleagues of embattled Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff and intervened with the Bush administration in a way favorable to Abramoff?s clients.

But the Greenville Republican said the money ? $2,750 from four people who worked with Abramoff ? has nothing to do with the 2002 letter he and other lawmakers sent to Interior Secretary Gale Norton, asking her to oppose a Louisiana Indian tribe?s bid for a casino in that state.

The contributions to DeMint and the letter to Norton came to light in a recent Associated Press investigation. The investigation found 33 lawmakers, including DeMint, had pressured the Interior Department on the casino and also had received donations from Abramoff, his associates or rival tribes.

Rival tribes were clients of Abramoff, who is the focus of a federal bribery investigation.

DeMint said he is a well-known opponent of Indian casino gaming, so it makes sense that he would sign such a letter. Nothing supports the idea the contributions from Abramoff?s firm influenced his actions, he said Monday.

?No one has ever lobbied me on behalf of? Abramoff?s clients, he said.

Lachlan McIntosh, executive director of the S.C. Democratic Party, stopped short of condemning DeMint for accepting the contributions. He said the letter and the money raise questions.

?We hope the Republicans in our delegation are working for the people of South Carolina and not seedy lobbyists like Jack Abramoff and his crowd,? McIntosh said.

DeMint, who took the money when he was a congressman, is hardly the most vulnerable on the list of 33 lawmakers who took action to block the casino and accepted money from Abramoff, others in his firm, or rival tribes opposed to the new casino.

The letter DeMint signed is from February 2002, and the donations were received between August 2003 and October 2004. With other lawmakers, the time between their correspondence to Norton and the receipt of contributions is a matter of days.

Other lawmakers also received far larger amounts.

DeMint sees no need to give the money back since it is not from gaming interests.

?The Democrats are trying to criminalize politics,? he said.

Even without Abramoff, Choctaws still have clout

By Jonathan Allen

The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, best known for operating a pair of lucrative casinos and spending freely on Washington superlobbyists, would be eligible for millions in cultural-development grants from the Education Department under legislation rejected by the House last week.

A Senate provision tacked onto the back end of the education title of the fiscal 2006 spending bill for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services (HHS), and Education would make the tribe eligible for no less than $2 million from a $10 million pot of Education through Cultural and Historical Organizations (ECHO) grants previously reserved for native Alaskans, native Hawaiians and a pair of museums in Massachusetts.

According to the Education Department?s website, the ECHO grant program ?supports culturally based educational activities, internships, apprenticeship programs, and exchanges for Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, and children and families of Massachusetts.? The money supports such programs as an annual storytelling festival sponsored by the Alaska Native Heritage Center.

The Mississippi Choctaws, one of the nation?s most influential tribes, would receive ECHO-program money for the first time if the new provision makes it into law.

The Senate approved its version of the labor-HHS-education bill, 94-3 ? with the Choctaw provision intact ? on Oct. 27. The language did not appear to be a significant factor in last week?s House defeat, 209-224, of the conference report.

The earmark survived the conference report even though Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) said he had stripped members? pet projects from the bill to finance more spending on home-heating subsidies for low-income people, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and community health centers.

?If it looks like an earmark and it wastes like an earmark, then it must be an earmark,? Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) said of the tribe-specific provision and a handful of other items in the labor-HHS conference report.

But eliminating the language regarding the Mississippi Band of Choctaws would not by itself have resulted in any savings. The same amount of money ? $10 million ? would be available to the groups. The provision simply allows the Choctaws a slice of that sum.

The ECHO grant provision is not the only item for the tribe in a spending bill this year. Still, critics say it is an example of how well-heeled interests end up with special carve-outs in the federal budget.

The Choctaw Resort Development Enterprise pulled in $251 million in revenue from its Golden Moon and Silver Star casinos in a nine-month period ending June 30, 2004, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The tribe has about 10,000 members and fewer than 2,000 students in its school system.

?For many years, the tribe had so many unmet needs for housing, schools, healthcare and jobs that there were no resources to develop the kinds of educational programs that would protect and preserve Choctaw tribal culture but that could also respond to the many requests the tribe receives from public schools, museums, and other community organizations in not only Mississippi but other southeastern states,? Chassidy Wilson, a spokeswoman for the Mississippi Choctaws, wrote in an e-mailed response to questions about the earmark.

?The tribe is just now beginning to catch up and is working to develop educational services and cultural materials,? she wrote. Wilson would not discuss more recent figures on the tribe?s income from gambling.

The Mississippi Band of Choctaws gained national attention this year during the Senate Indian Affairs Committee?s investigation into whether lobbyists defrauded American Indian clients. Michael Scanlon, a key figure in a Justice Department probe, pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiring to defraud Indian tribes and bribe public officials. Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio), who was referred to but not named in the Scanlon charge, has denied any wrongdoing.

In a filing that covers a broad range of activities, prosecutors allege that Scanlon conspired with ?Lobbyist A? ? widely presumed to be former lobbyist Jack Abramoff ? to bilk the Choctaws: ?From in or about June 2001 until in or about April 2004, Scanlon, through [Scanlon public-relations firm Capital Campaign Strategies], sought and received from the Mississippi Tribe approximately $14,765,000, all the while concealing from the Mississippi Tribe that 50 percent of the profit, approximately $6,365,000, was kicked back to Lobbyist A pursuant to their secret arrangement.?

Abramoff, the subject of multiple investigations, has been indicted in a case involving his purchase of a gambling cruise line, a relatively obscure private sale that nonetheless was the subject of two statements inserted into the Congressional Record by Ney. But, as the Labor-HHS provision indicates, Abramoff?s former clients still have top connections in Washington.

In fact, the Choctaws have retained several lobbyists who worked with Abramoff and Scanlon on tribal issues even though they moved on to other firms after the Indian gaming scandal erupted.

Earlier this year, Indiana-based Barnes and Thornburg hired three lobbyists to beef up its Washington practice: Edward Ayoob, former legislative counsel for Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.); Kevin Ring, former aide to Rep. John T. Doolittle (R-Calif.); and Neil Volz, Ney?s former chief of staff. All are registered lobbyists for the Mississippi Band of Choctaws, according to forms filed in the Senate. The firm made $200,000 from its work on behalf of the tribe in the first half of this year, according to one filing. Volz did not return a call seeking comment before press time.

Even though the tribe has hired several members of its lobbying team, the ascension of Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran (R) as chairman of the powerful appropriations panel may give the tribe more influence in spending matters.

?They lost their power base in Abramoff, but now it?s replaced in probably the only place you can go up and that?s the Senate Appropriations chairman,? said Keith Ashdown, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, a budget watchdog group.

Cochran became chairman of the spending committee at the start of the 109th Congress. Jenny Manley, a spokeswoman for Cochran, said her boss did not write the provision but acknowledged that he supports it. A day before the House rejected the measure, Cochran claimed no knowledge of the language.

?Sounds fair to me, at first blush,? he said.

?It doesn?t bother me,? added former Appropriations Committee Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), even though the provision would force native Alaskans who receive funding for the ECHO program to share the same pot of money with the Mississippi tribe.

?There is an interest on the part of the federal government to see cultural heritage preservation for Choctaw Indians,? Manley said.

The House version of the labor-HHS-education spending bill did not add Mississippi Choctaws to the list of entities eligible for the money. Several House members, led by Education and the Workforce Chairman John Boehner (R-Ohio), have sought to repeal the original provision as part of a larger campaign to cut spending.

Flake and Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), members of the conservative Republican Study Committee, noted the provision as one of several Senate-backed earmarks that rubbed House members the wrong way. It was not clear, however, that any of the 22 Republican votes against the bill were based solely on those provisions.

House GOP leaders could try to bring a revised version of the labor-HHS conference report back to the House floor for consideration. They could also try to couple the measure with a must-pass conference report on defense spending, which GOP leaders are eyeing as a vehicle for other controversial legislative priorities.

But House Republican leaders have also suggested that they could support funding the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education departments under a full-year continuing resolution, which would rob lawmakers of their pet projects and likely fund agencies below the levels supported by Democrats and centrist Republicans.


(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. Intoxination has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is Intoxination endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)