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

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Records Show Burns' Abramoff Meetings

The Associated Press
Tuesday, December 6, 2005; 5:59 PM

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Conrad Burns and his staff met Jack Abramoff's lobbying team on at least eight occasions and collected $12,000 in donations around the time that the lawmaker took legislative action favorable to Abramoff's clients in the Northern Mariana Islands, records show.

The 2001 donations to Burns, a Montana Republican, included money directly from Abramoff and a key garment company executive in the Pacific islands who was part of the coalition paying Abramoff's firm to fend off stronger U.S. regulations on the islands.

In addition, two Burns staffers had accepted a trip arranged by Abramoff to attend the Super Bowl in Florida earlier that year.

At the time, Burns served on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee that was considering legislation the Marianas opposed. He also ran a Senate appropriations subcommittee that controlled spending for the Interior Department, which regulates U.S. territories including the islands.

On May 23, 2001, Burns voted against a bill in the Senate Energy Committee that would have phased out a nonresident contract worker program benefiting the Marianas' garment industry. The committee approved the bill, but it never saw action on the Senate floor. In 1999, it had moved through the same committee by unanimous consent without objections from Burns or any other member.

Burns' office told The Associated Press this week that he could not recall why he didn't object to the bill in 1999 but that his opposition in 2001 was prompted by a report indicating changes to immigration laws could hurt the islands' economy. He said it wasn't influenced by Abramoff or any donations.

Abramoff's billing records, which AP obtained from the U.S. territorial islands under an open records request, show that in the three months before the vote, the lobbyist's team met twice with Burns and several more times with his Senate aides to discuss Marianas issues.

One of those meetings, between Burns' staff and Abramoff associate Todd A. Boulanger, occurred just six days before the vote.

Abramoff donated $5,000 to Burns' political action committee in February, just before the meetings started. His firm, Greenberg Traurig, donated $2,000 to Burns in March and Eloy Inos of Saipan donated $5,000 in April.

The Inos donation was first reported by The Billings Gazette on Dec. 3. Inos listed his employer as Tan Holdings, a member of the Saipan Garment Manufacturers Association, another Abramoff client.

The Justice Department is investigating whether Abramoff, already charged with fraud in a Florida case, won any undue influence through donations and favors.

Burns defended the meetings, saying they are part of the democratic process.

"Advocates, paid and unpaid, exercising their right to petition their government provide information on many issues but you always know that they are representing a particular position based upon their client or issue preference," he said Dec. 5.

In all, AP stories over the last few months have documented how more than four dozen lawmakers, Republicans and Democrats, took actions favorable to Abramoff clients around the time that they received large donations from the lobbyist and his clients.

Burns, who is up for re-election to a fourth term in 2006, received about $150,000 in donations from Abramoff, his firm and his clients between 2001 and 2004.

In addition to the Marianas, Burns wrote a letter backing an Indian school building program sought by Abramoff's tribal clients and helped arrange for Congress to provide money for it.

Burns said he hasn't been contacted by federal investigators in the Abramoff probe nor received any subpoenas. On Nov. 28, Burns wrote to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, urging that his conduct be reviewed so he could be cleared of wrongdoing.

"I welcome your thorough and expeditious review of this matter so that it may be disposed of officially once and for all and these outrageous and wrongful allegations may be put to rest before we get into the 2006 re-election cycle," Burns wrote.

The billing records detail several meetings regarding the Marianas.

For instance, Abramoff associates met at least five times with Burns' staff as well as members of the Interior appropriations subcommittee staff he oversaw in spring 2001. At least some of the meetings, the billing records say, involved a federal matching funds program that helped the island with local construction projects.

The Marianas wanted relief from a requirement that the islands match some of the federal money it received.

In June, Burns' Senate subcommittee approved a committee version of the legislation including a provision that urged the Interior Department to re-evaluate the requirement, citing hard economic times in the islands.

Burns spokesman James Pendleton said he doesn't know whether Burns inserted the provision, but he did support it.

� 2005 The Associated Press

The Modesto Bee | Abramoff donated to Pombo

Most giving came after Tracy legislator took over committee


Last Updated: December 6, 2005, 05:23:09 AM PST

WASHINGTON ? Tribal lobbyist Jack Abramoff sent a calling card of sorts when Tracy Republican Richard Pombo became chairman of the House Resources Committee.
Two weeks after Pombo took over the committee that oversees tribal issues in January 2003, Abramoff contributed $2,000 to Pombo's re-election effort. Later that year, Abramoff gave an additional $5,000 to Pombo's leadership committee.

"He was a big Republican donor, and I had become chairman," Pombo said Monday night, "and he obviously had a lot of clients who had business before the committee."

Some of those clients likewise began cutting checks for Pombo once he vaulted over more senior members and became committee chairman.

These include at least $27,000 from members of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe of Massachusetts, who would benefit from tribal recognition legislation backed by Pombo.

Abramoff and the Mashpee Wampanoag have not been alone in their targeting of the one-time Tracy City Council member. Since 1999, Pombo has collected $326,100 from tribes and tribal members, a tally by Political Money Line shows. The bulk of that came following his 2003 promotion to chairman, and it's made him the third-leading recipient of tribal funds in Congress.

"Obviously, they want to have some access," Pombo said of the contributors, adding that tribal disputes "are tough issues; they're things that Congress normally doesn't deal with. No matter what you do, you're going to make half of the people unhappy."

`Investigators are delving into Abramoff's business and that of some of his tribal clients. A one-time Republican high-flier, Abramoff is in serious trouble: He's already under indictment on fraud charges in Florida, and he faces a separate Justice Department investigation into his Capitol Hill dealings.

No allegations against Pombo

There is no indication that Pombo or his staff have been linked to Abramoff's alleged misdeeds, and Pombo said he has been neither subpoenaed nor questioned by investigators. He said he didn't think his staff had been, either, and he stressed Monday that his dealings with Abramoff were strictly casual.

"He never lobbied me," Pombo said. "There's nothing I could tell them."

Spokesmen for the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe could not be reached for comment late Monday.

Other tribes, and Abramoff's own lobbying practices, have been getting much more of the attention as Senate and Justice Department investigations proceed.

Skybox events, trips scrutinized

Abramoff, for instance, treated some lawmakers to foreign trips or evenings in luxury skyboxes atWashington-areasporting events. Pombo said he doesn't recall ever visiting any of Abramoff's skyboxes, nor did he travel with the lobbyist.

Once or twice, Pombo said, he did dine at Abramoff's pricey steak restaurant, Signatures, because some constituents asked about it.

"That's not the kind of place I would normally hang out at," Pombo said.

It's possible that Abramoff's one-time colleagues at the lobbying firm Greenberg Traurig did contact staffers with the Resource Committee's tribal affairs staff, Pombo said. In early 2004, the Cape Cod Times reported, Pombo and his staff met several times with a high-ranking Mashpee official named Glenn Marshall.

Marshall and other Mashpee leaders had long been seeking federalrecognitionofthe 1,468-member tribe, with Resources Committee spokesman Brian Kennedy calling it "the poster tribe for the need to reform the Bureau of Indian Affairs."

Until 2003, though, federal records show that the Mashpee tribal leaders were not very active in contributing to congressional candidates.

In September of that year, Marshall gave $2,000 to Pombo's leadership committee. Marshall later followed up with an additional $7,000 to two of Pombo's committees.

In March 2004, the Vietnam veteran got a chance to testify at a hearing Pombo convened. The tribe for which he spoke had been the same one that greeted the Pilgrims on the Massachusetts coast in 1620.

"We find it hard to resolve our history on this land and our dedication to this country with the lack of recognition by the government we helped shape," Marshall testified.

Pombo backed legislation that would speed federal decision-making on tribal recognition petitions that ? like the one filed by the Mashpee Wampanoag ? had been submitted before 1988. The legislation is still pending.


(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.)