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

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Lobbyist Nears Terms on Plea Deal - New York Times

WASHINGTON, Dec. 21 - Jack Abramoff, the Republican lobbyist under indictment for fraud in South Florida, is expected to complete a plea agreement in the Miami criminal case, setting the stage for him to become a crucial witness in a broad federal corruption investigation, people with direct knowledge of the case said.

One participant in the case said the deal could be made final as early as next week.

The terms of the plea deal have not been completed, and the negotiations are especially complicated because they involve prosecutors both in Miami and in Washington, where Mr. Abramoff is being investigated in a separate influence-peddling inquiry, participants said. Details of what he feels comfortable pleading guilty to are "probably largely worked out," the participant said, while the details of the prison sentence are less resolved.

Some of the details are still "in flux," said a participant who, like others interviewed, was granted anonymity because of the sensitivity of the talks.

"Anything can happen," the participant said, adding that the agreement could fall apart. Another person with detailed knowledge of the case said that while negotiations were continuing, the deal could take longer than another week to be settled.

But after a lengthy bargaining phase, Mr. Abramoff's lawyers and prosecutors in the Florida case appear closer to resolving several of the central issues in the plea deal, in which the defendant would receive a reduced prison sentence - most likely in the range of five to seven years, though that is fluid - in exchange for pleading guilty and agreeing to testify against his former associates.

Mr. Abramoff was indicted in Florida on Aug. 11 on charges stemming from his purchase of a fleet of casino boats in 2000. Prosecutors said Mr. Abramoff and a business partner, Adam Kidan, falsified documents and lied about their financing in order to complete the purchase. Mr. Kidan pleaded guilty last week, leaving Mr. Abramoff to face six criminal counts and up to 30 years in prison as case's sole defendant.

At the same time, prosecutors in Washington have been sifting through evidence of what they believe is a corruption scheme involving at least a dozen lawmakers and their former staff members, many of whom worked closely on legislation with Mr. Abramoff and accepted gifts and favors from him. Although Mr. Abramoff is also in negotiations in that case, it is unclear whether a settlement can be reached in time for both agreements to be announced at once.

Michael Scanlon, a close business associate of Mr. Abramoff in Washington who also worked on the SunCruz casino boat deal, pleaded guilty in October in exchange for testifying in both inquiries. The case, being worked on by dozens of investigators as part of a multiagency task force, has expanded in recent months to put senior Republican officials and prominent party lobbyists under immense scrutiny.

Ohio Congressman Fights Taint of Abramoff -

By ANDREW WELSH-HUGGINS , 12.21.2005, 12:20 PM

The way Kiki DeLancey sees it, Rep. Bob Ney is a hardworking congressman who comes to town, eats with the regulars at the Bob Evans, helps people with their problems and watches out for the industries vital to his district.

"He's worked his butt off for American steel," said DeLancey, a 46-year-old bookseller who was raised a Democrat but now votes Republican. "He's done a lot to promote the coal industry."

Ney is caught up in a lobbying scandal that has Democrats dreaming about winning his seat. But some constituents from both parties are in no hurry to judge.

A popular Republican in a district that voted overwhelmingly for President Bush last year, Ney has been subpoenaed in an investigation into whether lobbyist Jack Abramoff tried to defraud Indian tribes out of millions of dollars.

A guilty plea by Michael Scanlon, a former Abramoff partner, alleged that Ney received campaign donations and gifts such as a 2002 golf trip to Scotland in return for official acts such as supporting legislation favorable to Abramoff's clients.

Ney, 51, has not been charged with anything, has denied wrongdoing and said he was duped by Abramoff.

The six-term congressman has received at least 60 percent of the 18th District vote the past four elections. Two years ago, no one ran against him.

That is not likely to happen next year. Although no Republicans are challenging Ney, at least two Democrats say they are going after the seat.

The district stretches 212 miles from Appalachia in southern Ohio up through coal country in the far eastern part of the state. It is a largely rural, strongly conservative region of farms, working and abandoned mines, churches and small Rust Belt cities tucked into rolling hills. Unemployment has crept up the past five years.

In St. Clairsville, where Ney lived for several years, Democrat Bob Sall said Ney has been good for the small city, which has been trying to overcome years of job losses in the steel factories and coal mines.

"It'd have to be really bad for me to vote against him," said Sall, 72, a retired construction worker. "He's good for the area because it takes years to build up clout in D.C."

Ney opposed Bush's rolling back of steel tariffs on foreign imports, pushed for federal grants to retrain unemployed coal miners and regularly brings home money to help local governments - a $425,000 grant for a Cambridge sewer project last month, for example.

But at the Country Boy restaurant in Cambridge, a city of 11,500, Democrat Bonita Delbert had little good to say about Ney, considering him part of a scandal-ridden state GOP.

"He's on golfing trips, and those people at Ormet don't have jobs," said Delbert, 61, who retired as a psychologist at a state mental hospital. Ormet Corp., an aluminum maker based in nearby Wheeling, W.Va., is recovering from bankruptcy.

"I've just had a lot of red flags that have popped up," said Republican Jim Gray, 53, a retired bank executive. "I'm really going to keep my eyes open and keep reading on what's going on to see if he's behaving himself."

Ney's troubles are the latest in a string of GOP embarrassments in Ohio.

Gov. Bob Taft pleaded no contest to ethics charges for accepting golf outings and other gifts he did not report. And Tom Noe, a prominent GOP contributor and fundraiser, is under indictment on charges he skirted federal campaign finance laws by funneling $45,000 to Bush's re-election campaign through colleagues and associates.

The lobbyist investigation could give Democrats a shot in the district, but it won't be an easy campaign, said Walter Huber, a Muskingum College political scientist.

"You're not going to beat Ney by running significantly to the left of him, not in this district," Huber said. "You almost want to run a campaign that says, 'I support the values that Ney has, but he's abandoned them.'" U.S | Abramoff's `Equal Money' Went Mostly to Republicans

Dec. 21 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. President George W. Bush calls indicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff ``an equal money dispenser'' who helped politicians of both parties. Campaign donation records show Republicans were a lot more equal than Democrats.

Between 2001 and 2004, Abramoff gave more than $127,000 to Republican candidates and committees and nothing to Democrats, federal records show. At the same time, his Indian clients were the only ones among the top 10 tribal donors in the U.S. to donate more money to Republicans than Democrats.

Bush's comment about Abramoff in a Dec. 14 Fox News interview was aimed at countering Democratic accusations that Republicans have brought a ``culture of corruption'' to Washington. Even so, the numbers show that ``Abramoff's big connections were with the Republicans,'' said Larry Noble, the former top lawyer for the Federal Election Commission, who directs the Washington-based Center for Responsive Politics.

``It is somewhat unusual in that most lobbyists try to work with both Republicans and Democrats, but we're already seeing that Jack Abramoff doesn't seem to be a usual lobbyist,'' Noble said.

Abramoff, 46, is under investigation by a Justice Department-led task force; he has already been indicted in Florida in a separate case involving the purchase of a casino boat company.

Abramoff is talking with prosecutors about providing testimony against former political and business associates in exchange for a reduced sentence, the New York Times reported today, citing unidentified people with knowledge of the case.

`Glass Houses'

The National Republican Senatorial Committee has set up a Web page, dubbed ``Glass Houses,'' featuring pictures of Democratic senators and a tally of funds they took from Abramoff or his associates.

In the last week, two Democrats have said they're returning donations from Indian tribes represented by Abramoff and from his associates. Senator Byron Dorgan of North Dakota -- the top Democrat on a committee investigating the lobbyist -- gave back $67,000. Senator Max Baucus of Montana is returning $18,893.

Mostly Republicans

Between 2001 and 2004, Abramoff joined with his former partner, Michael Scanlon, and tribal clients to give money to a third of the members of Congress, including former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, according to records of the Federal Election Commission and Internal Revenue Service. At least 171 lawmakers got $1.4 million in campaign donations from the group. Republicans took in most of the money, with 110 lawmakers getting $942,275, or 66 percent of the total.

Of the top 10 political donors among Indian tribes in that period, three are former clients of Abramoff and Scanlon: the Saginaw Chippewa Tribe of Michigan, the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, and the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians of California. All three gave most of their donations to Republicans -- by margins of 30 percentage points or more -- while the rest favored Democrats.

Abramoff faces allegations that he bilked the casino-owning tribes out of millions of dollars and attempted to corrupt public officials. E-mails released by the Senate Indian Affairs Committee during a year of hearings offer evidence that he directed the tribes to donate funds to specific lawmakers.

Continued to Give

Abramoff's tribal clients continued to give money to Democrats even after he began representing them, although in smaller percentages than in the past.

The Saginaw Chippewas gave $500,500 to Republicans between 2001 and 2004 and $277,210 to Democrats, according to a review of data compiled by Dwight L. Morris & Associates, a Bristow, Virginia-based company that tracks campaign-finance reports. Between 1997 and 2000, the tribe gave just $158,000 to Republicans and $279,000 to Democrats.

The Republican senatorial committee is sending information out to state campaigns and to all Republican press secretaries on Capitol Hill about the Democrat-Abramoff connections, spokesman Brian Nick said. The cover sheet asks, ``They Don't Know Jack???'' in red ink and features a picture of Abramoff surrounded by Democrats including Dorgan and Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada.

Reid's Response

Reid spokeswoman Tessa Hafen said the senator is still considering whether to return the $60,000 in donations he received from Abramoff associates and clients. The money includes contributions that came from Abramoff's former employer, Greenberg Traurig LLP, a lobbying and law firm with multiple issues in Congress.

Bush, in the Fox News interview, said of Abramoff: ``It seems to me that he was an equal money dispenser, that he was giving money to people in both political parties.''

White House spokeswoman Erin Healy said yesterday that Bush was making the point that Abramoff's links weren't exclusively Republican. ``The president was referring to press reports showing Mr. Abramoff, his clients and associates have contributed to both Democrats and Republicans alike,'' Healy said.

``Republicans are bending over backwards to exaggerate the links'' between Democrats and Abramoff, said Phil Singer, a spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. ``This is a Republican scandal that involves Republican lawmakers doing favors for a Republican lobbyist.''

`Representative No. 1'

Scanlon, Abramoff's former partner, has pleaded guilty to attempted fraud and corruption of public officials and is cooperating with the Justice Department's investigation. His plea agreement refers to efforts to corrupt U.S. lawmakers, including a ``Representative No. 1,'' identified by lawyers in the case as Ohio Republican Robert Ney.

The other names most frequently mentioned in connection with Abramoff are both Republicans: DeLay, a one-time friend who has cut off contact with the lobbyist, and Senator Conrad Burns of Montana. Burns, who is facing criticism in his home state for being the top recipient of Abramoff-related donations, said on Dec. 16 he planned to give back to the tribes about $150,000 in contributions from Abramoff, his associates and tribal clients.

In the Florida case, in which Abramoff has already been indicted, prosecutors allege that he and partner Adam Kidan conspired to defraud lenders when buying SunCruz Casino Ltd. in 2000. Kidan pleaded guilty Dec. 15, and his lawyer said he's willing to testify against Abramoff.

Mashpee tribe got Abramoff boost - The Boston Globe

Concerns that tie will hurt cause
By Michael Kranish, Globe Staff | December 21, 2005

WASHINGTON -- In the three-decade struggle by the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe to win federal tribal recognition -- a key requirement for building a possible Massachusetts casino -- the money that passed hands in September 2003 stands as a turning point.

Six members of the Cape Cod tribe gave a combined $12,000 to a political action committee that is led by a California Republican, Representative Richard William Pombo.

As chairman of the House Committee on Resources, Pombo has jurisdiction over most matters concerning Indian interests.

The donations to Pombo's committee that month also included one from a Detroit casino developer who is bankrolling the tribe's recognition effort. The developer, Herbert Strather, kicked in an additional $2,000.

But the biggest contribution to Pombo's committee, $5,000, came from Jack Abramoff, the lobbyist whose firm represented the Wampanoags.

Pombo took up the tribe's cause. Working with Representative William D. Delahunt, a Massachusetts Democrat who also received contributions, Pombo introduced a bill urging the administration to speed up its review of cases such as Wampanoags'. The government -- prodded by a federal judge who was handling a lawsuit by the tribe -- agreed this summer to speed the review by at least seven years.

As a result, the 31-year fight by the Wampanoags appears to be coming to a close; the Bush administration is to decide in March whether to recognize the tribe on a preliminary basis.

But the connection to Abramoff, revealed in e-mail messages that were recently released by a Senate committee, may have come at the worst possible time for the tribe. Abramoff is under investigation into whether he defrauded other tribes of millions of dollars, and on suspicion that he funneled contributions to powerful legislators in exchange for favors.

Recently, tribal members met to discuss whether the ties to Abramoff could diminish their chances of winning federal recognition, according to two people familiar with the meeting.

Some tribal members urged that the tribe cut its ties to two lobbyists, Kevin A. Ring and Michael D. Smith, who have left the Abramoff firm but who still represent the tribe. Ring has invoked his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination rather than testify before the Senate about his knowledge of Abramoff's business matters.

''It does bother me . . . that our tribal leadership chose not to distance themselves from lobbyists who are in question," Paula Peters, a member of the tribe who has criticized the hiring of Abramoff's firm, said in a telephone interview.

But the tribal chairman, Glenn Marshall, has expressed satisfaction with Abramoff's firm, and with the work of Ring and Smith. Marshall declined comment, but his spokesman, Scott Ferson, stressed that the Wampanoags needed influence in Washington.

''The Mashpee were in a position where they had waited 30 years for their case to be heard, and the best information at the time told them they would have to wait another dozen years for it to be heard," Ferson said.

''The process was clearly flawed. So they undertook a strategy to sue the [government] over issues of due process and to bring their case to people of influence in Washington."

The Mashpee tribe, which is separate from the Wampanoags on Martha's Vineyard, has a unique place in American history: It is the tribe that met with the Pilgrims in Plymouth. The group first petitioned for recognition in the 1970s, a decade before a federal law cleared the way for Indian casinos.

Ferson said that the tribe is satisfied with the lobbying by Abramoff's firm because it created ''a very high understanding in Washington that the tribe that met the Mayflower is not recognized by this government."

Ferson said the tribe went to Abramoff several years ago because his firm ''had a very solid reputation for being effective in its lobbying effort. . . . Part of this effort was to let as many people know about the Mashpee story, and Jack Abramoff was reported to be extremely well known in Washington."

Ferson confirmed that FBI agents had visited the tribe to collect documents about Abramoff's work for the tribe a year ago, but he said there has been no follow-up.

Tribal representatives fear they could be tarnished by their association with Abramoff.

Members stress that the tribe's ties to Abramoff are small in comparison to what Abramoff allegedly did for other tribes. The Wampanoags said they paid the two lobbyists $50,000 when they worked at Abramoff's firm, a far cry from the millions of dollars paid by some other tribes to Abramoff and his associates. There has been no allegation of wrongdoing involving anyone in the tribe, Ferson said.

Abramoff's work for the tribe did not surface during widely publicized hearings this year.

The hearings involved Abramoff's dealings by the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. But emails released in recent weeks by the committee show that Abramoff was involved in pushing the tribe's cause.

On Dec. 6, 2002, for example, Smith wrote to Abramoff that ''the tribe believes that a bureaucrat in the Solicitor General's Office has unfairly held them up."

One month later, Abramoff wrote an e-mail message with the subject line ''Mashpee Indians (Cape Cod Massachusetts Area)."

''Is there any way you might be able to discreetly find out whether this recognition is being held by one of our guys, or one of the bureaucrats?" Abramoff said. ''They want me to help, but I don't want to get into something which might cause any problems for Steve or the secretary." That alluded to Interior Secretary Gale Norton.

The e-mail trail suggests that Steve may have been a reference to the former deputy Interior Secretary, J. Steven Griles, whose name has surfaced in the investigation. Abramoff wrote a subsequent e-mail message to an aide, with the subject line, ''Mashpee for Griles." In that email, Abramoff wrote, ''This regards the tribe in Massachusetts and is quite urgent . . ."

Griles's lawyer, Barry Hartman, said ''All of the evidence we have seen confirms Mr. Griles' recollection that he never worked on the Mashpee Wampanoag tribal recognition issue."

At some point in 2003, Marshall, the tribal chairman, came to Washington and met with Abramoff. Ferson said $50,000 had been paid to Abramoff's firm by Strather, the Detroit casino developer who has bankrolled the Mashpee Wampanoags' effort to win recognition.

Strather did not return calls seeking comment.

In addition, Ferson said that at the suggestion of Abramoff's firm, Strather donated $50,000 to Americans for Tax Reform, which is run by the antitax activist Grover Norquist, according to Ferson. Norquist, a Weston native and a longtime friend of Abramoff from days organizing college Republicans in Massachusetts, has argued against US taxing of tribal profits.

Norquist did not respond to a request for comment.

The Mashpee Wampanoags and their backers provided campaign contributions to Pombo in September 2003, apparently hoping the congressman would help push their petition along. Pombo introduced his bill urging speedy review a year later.

A Pombo spokesman, Brian Kennedy, said that the bill affected about a dozen tribes.

These included the Mashpee Wampanoags, who ''are what one could consider a poster tribe on the need to reform the recognition process."

Delahunt, who represents the Mashpee area on Cape Cod, also played a role. He received at least $1,000 from tribal members and $2,500 from Strather for his 2004 campaign. Delahunt, who has long been supportive of effort to speed up review of the tribe's case, said he never talked with Abramoff about the tribe.

On Sept. 27, 2004, the Pombo-Delahunt legislation passed the House Resources Committee. It did not pass the full House.

A similar effort was sponsored by the ranking Democrat on the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, Senator Byron Dorgan of North Dakota. While denying any wrongdoing, Dorgan last week returned $67,000 in donations from Abramoff associates and clients.

The Mashpee Wampanoags cited the support of members of Congress when it subsequently sued the government for failing to act on its request for recognition in a timely manner. The case went to District Court Judge James Robertson, who denied the government's motion for dismissal.

That prompted the government to negotiate with the tribe, resulting in a pact to reach a preliminary decision by the end of March 2006. If that is granted, the government would give final approval by March 2007.

If so, the tribe would likely attempt to build a casino in Massachusetts. NewsFlash - Source: Abramoff lawyers in talks with DOJ

WASHINGTON (AP) ? Lawyers for Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff are in discussions with the Justice Department about his possible cooperation in a congressional corruption probe, a person involved in the investigation said Tuesday night.

The probe involves a number of members of Congress as well as staff. A former aide to ex-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, has already pleaded guilty.

Abramoff would plead guilty under an arrangement that would settle a criminal case against him in Florida as well as potential corruption charges in Washington, said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the talks.

The person describing the ongoing discussions said they have been going on "a long time, months." Only in the past week or so have they come "close to any kind of fruition," the person said.

The person cautioned that unspecified issues remain to be worked out.

The New York Times first reported on the talks Tuesday night in a story its Web site. NewsFlash - Source: Abramoff lawyers in talks with DOJ

WASHINGTON (AP) ? Lawyers for Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff are in discussions with the Justice Department about his possible cooperation in a congressional corruption probe, a person involved in the investigation said Tuesday night.

The probe involves a number of members of Congress as well as staff. A former aide to ex-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, has already pleaded guilty.

Abramoff would plead guilty under an arrangement that would settle a criminal case against him in Florida as well as potential corruption charges in Washington, said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the talks.

The person describing the ongoing discussions said they have been going on "a long time, months." Only in the past week or so have they come "close to any kind of fruition," the person said.

The person cautioned that unspecified issues remain to be worked out.

The New York Times first reported on the talks Tuesday night in a story its Web site.


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