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

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Sen. Reid calls US Congress 'most corrupt in history' |

By Thomas Ferraro

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid called the Republican-led Congress "the most corrupt in history" on Sunday, and distanced himself from lobbyist Jack Abramoff, at the center of an escalating probe.

The Justice Department is investigating whether Jack Abramoff directed illegal payoffs to lawmakers, including Rep. Tom DeLay of Texas, who was forced to step down as House Republican leader in September after indicted in his home state of Texas on unrelated charges.

"Don't lump me in with Jack Abramoff. This is a Republican scandal," Reid told Fox News Sunday, saying he never received any money from Abramoff.

Reid, like many members of Congress, Democrats and Republicans, has received campaign contributions from Abramoff clients. Some lawmakers have returned those donations, but Reid gave no indication he would do so.

The Securities and Exchange Commission has been examining stock sales by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a Tennessee Republican, and last month Randy "Duke" Cunningham, a California Republican, resigned from the House after pleading guilty of taking more than $2.4 million in bribes involving defense contracts.

Democrats have accused Republicans of "a culture of corruption," and plan to make it an issue in next year's congressional elections.

"America can do better than what we've done," said Reid. "The most corrupt Congress in the history of the country. We have such significant problems with what's going on in this country."

Most of the federal investigative focus is now on Abramoff, whose lobbying activities, particularly on behalf of Indian tribal clients, are also being examined by Congress.

Appearing on Fox TV, Reid said, "Abramoff gave me no money. His firm gave me no money. He may have worked (at) a firm where people have given me money."

A Reid aide later explained that the senator received money from a political action committee affiliated with a firm where Abramoff had worked, but Abramoff did not contribute to it.

"I feel totally at ease that I haven't done anything that is even close to being wrong," Reid said.

� Reuters 2005. All Rights Reserved.

Big on money, short on memory - Los Angeles Times

Jonathan Chait

December 18, 2005

DURING THE HEIGHT of his power, nobody in Washington had any doubts about super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff's partisan loyalties. Now that Abramoff is being accused of bilking Indian tribes, misappropriating funds, bribing members of Congress and generally being held up as a symbol of Washington corruption, memories on the GOP side are growing hazier.

As President Bush told Fox News last week, "Abramoff ? I'm not, frankly, all that familiar with a lot that's going on over at Capitol Hill, but it seems like to me that he was an equal money dispenser, that he was giving money to people in both political parties." Not much of a Republican at all, you see. Really a bipartisan figure. Sort of the David Broder of corruption.

May I refresh the presidential memory?

Abramoff came into politics by way of the campus-based, student-run College Republicans, where he served with future party big shots such as Ralph Reed and Grover Norquist. While running the College Republicans, he said: "It is not our job to seek peaceful coexistence with the left. Our job is to remove them from power permanently."

The apotheosis of this mentality was something Republicans called the "K Street Project." The idea was that, once Republicans had won control of Congress in 1994, they would not permit the business lobbies centered on K Street in Washington to split their loyalties between the two parties, as they had always done. Henceforth they had to employ, and donate funds to, Republicans, mostly if not exclusively.

Abramoff was a key figure in this project. "It was my role to push the Republicans on K Street to be more helpful to the conservative movement," Abramoff recalled to Michael Crowley in a recent New York Times Magazine profile. Republicans concurred at the time.

"He is someone on our side," Tom DeLay's chief of staff, Ed Buckham, explained to National Journal magazine in 1995. "He has access to DeLay." DeLay once called Abramoff "one of my closest and dearest friends." Abramoff hired multiple DeLay staffers as lobbyists, and his assistant later went to work for Karl Rove.

Abramoff epitomized the new breed of partisan lobbyist who advanced the GOP cause even as he enriched himself. As Norquist enthused at the time: "What the Republicans need is 50 Jack Abramoffs. Then this becomes a different town." By this Norquist, who continued to work with Abramoff, meant that Republicans would gain an insurmountable financial advantage by destroying the old bipartisan culture. (Indeed, Norquist once compared bipartisanship to date rape.)

It's true, as Bush noted, that Abramoff gave money to some Democrats ? about a third of his donations. But giving some money to the other side does not make you bipartisan. Anybody who's anybody in Washington, even the most committed partisans, find it useful to recruit members of the other party to advance their goals from time to time.

Does this mean that Republicans are inherently more corrupt than Democrats? Of course not. Corruption tempts right and left alike. The difference is that Republicans gained a near monopoly on power, and hence a near monopoly on opportunities for graft. Indeed, they've spent much of the last decade reveling in their power, gloating openly that anybody who wanted to do business in town had to deal with them. "If you want to play in our revolution," DeLay famously declared, "you have to live by our rules."

They openly threatened, and carried out, retaliation against lobbies that dared to stray. In 2003, the Washington Post reported that House Financial Services Committee Chairman Michael Oxley offered to ease up on his investigation of the mutual fund industry if the industry replaced its top lobbyist, a Democrat, with a Republican. The next year, when the motion picture industry resisted entreaties that it hire a Republican as its top lobbyist, Norquist threatened that the industry's "ability to work with the House and Senate is greatly reduced." Sure enough, the motion picture industry was left out of the 2004 corporate tax package, which was otherwise an indiscriminate smorgasbord of favors to every lobbyist in town.

Republicans were happy to broadcast their close ties to lobbyists back when they brought little scrutiny and lots of money. Now that Abramoff and other lobbyists are suddenly a political liability, Republicans are retroactively happy to share power with the other side. If they'd been a bit less greedy then, they'd be in a bit less trouble now.

Great Falls Tribune -Rehberg turns back money

Checks distributing Abramoff, client funds are 'out the door'

HELENA (AP) ? U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg has relinquished $19,900 in campaign donations received from indicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his clients, a spokesman for the Montana Republican said.

The $2,000 from Abramoff himself has been given to domestic violence centers on Montana's Fort Belknap and Fort Peck Indian reservations, spokesman Erik Iverson said Friday. Other donations were returned to the American Indian tribes that were Abramoff's clients, Iverson said. None of the tribes are in Montana.


"It's all done," Iverson told the Lee Newspapers of Montana. "The checks are out the door."

Rehberg's announcement came a day after Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont., said he was returning $150,000 in Abramoff-related donations. The senator's possible actions on behalf of Abramoff clients are under examination.

Abramoff is at the center of an ongoing U.S. Justice Department investigation into lobbying practices. The investigation focuses on allegations that Abramoff cheated tribes out of millions of dollars for lobbying and directed them to make contributions to lawmakers and political groups.

Records show Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., received $6,000 from Abramoff's tribal clients in 2001 and 2002. Baucus will be "more than happy" to return money if an analysis by his staff finds anything questionable, spokesman Barrett Kaiser said, adding the senator has not met Abramoff nor worked with him.

Staff for the state Democratic and Republican parties went through records to look for donations from Abramoff or his clients.

Chuck Denowh, executive director of the Montana Republican Party, said none were found by Friday afternoon. "If we do have any, we'll return it," Denowh said.

Records show the Montana Democratic Party received $5,000 from an Abramoff tribal client in 2002. Party executive Jim Farrell said efforts to confirm the donation continued Friday.

There was no decision about returning money, Farrell said.

"First, I'm going to verify that we do have such money," he said.


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