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

Thursday, December 22, 2005

ABC News: Lawmakers Hasten to Return Abramoff Gifts

Lawmakers Scramble to Return Donations, Fearing Abramoff Will Become Prosecution Witness
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON - Not since the 1992 House banking scandal that led to the retirement or ouster of 77 lawmakers has a corruption probe like the one involving lobbyist Jack Abramoff struck fear in so many hearts on Capitol Hill.

Some lawmakers Republican Sen. Sam Brownback became the latest are scrambling to return or give away campaign donations, while others are the target of ethics complaints back in their home states by their political foes.

The turmoil over Abramoff is taking place as his lawyers and the Justice Department, which is investigating possible congressional bribery, try to negotiate a deal for the ex-lobbyist to tell everything he knows.

And he knows a lot.

Even without Abramoff's cooperation, the Justice Department is focusing on as many as 20 lawmakers and aides, a person familiar with the investigation said.

The person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation was ongoing, said Abramoff could decide suddenly to take a deal and a plea could happen quickly, before the end of the year. The expectation, the person said, was that it wouldn't happen until the New Year.

Abramoff has not been charged in the corruption investigation.

In a five-year span ending in early 2004, Indian tribes represented by the lobbyist rolled millions of dollars in casino income into congressional campaigns, frequently by routing the money through political action committees for conservative members of Congress who opposed gambling.

Also part of the Abramoff treatment were trips, skybox fundraisers, golf fees, frequent meals, entertainment, and jobs for lawmakers' relatives and aides.

On Wednesday, a lawyer close to the Abramoff plea negotiations said, "The desire is that a deal be done before the year is out. It ain't done yet." The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the discussions were at a sensitive stage.

This week, President Bush said it seemed to him that Abramoff "was an equal money dispenser, that he was giving money to people in both political parties."

Historically, tribal money had been going to Democrats almost exclusively. Abramoff changed that.

The lobbyist ordered one tribal client to make hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign donations. A list, obtained by The Associated Press, earmarked $90,000 of the money for the Republican Party, none for Democrats.

Of the hundreds of thousands of dollars that Abramoff directed the tribe to donate to congressional campaigns, the Republican-Democrat breakdown was 11-to-1.

The Abramoff case is the flip side to the House banking scandal of 14 years ago which hurt mostly Democrats, who long had been in control of Congress. Republicans have held majorities in both Houses for most of the past 11 years.

In the scandal of 1992, 269 members casually and repeatedly bounced checks on the House bank one congressman had 127 overdrafts at a time when the rest of the country was suffering through high unemployment and a stagnant economy. Ultimately, four ex-congressmen and the former House sergeant-at-arms were convicted of wrongdoing.

Exploiting the House banking scandal, Rep. Newt Gingrich and freshmen Republicans dubbed "The Young Turks" encouraged a full investigation, with most of the fallout hitting Democrats.

It remains to be seen whether the Republicans' strategy from the early 1990s will work in reverse for Democrats in the Abramoff case.

A former aide to ex-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, already has pleaded guilty in the probe. Court papers in the plea by former DeLay aide Michael Scanlon say Scanlon and Abramoff "provided a stream of things of value to public officials in exchange for a series of official acts."

The court papers referred repeatedly to one of the officials as Representative No. 1, acknowledged by his lawyer to be Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio. Both Ney and his lawyer deny wrongdoing.

Among those returning the most money is Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont., for an estimated $150,000.

Brownback's now-defunct Restore America Political Action Committee received $42,000 from four Indian tribes represented by Abramoff in 2002, according to Federal Election Commission records, and now he is giving it away.

Brownback, who is weighing a presidential bid, always has preferred to either return or donate to charity any campaign or leadership funds that have even the appearance of impropriety, said a spokesman.

In Montana, the state Republican party filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission, alleging that Democratic Sen. Max Baucus violated federal campaign finance laws by failing to properly report the use Abramoff's skybox for a fundraising event.

The complaint alleges the Montana Democrat violated finance laws by waiting almost five years to report costs associated with the fundraiser.

A Baucus spokeswoman called the complaint "complete and total hogwash."

Karl Ohs, chairman of the Montana Republican Party, said what Baucus did with the Abramoff skybox contribution is illegal, unethical and a prime example of "why we need tougher campaign finance laws.

In Florida, Abramoff is scheduled to go on trial Jan. 9 for allegedly concocting a fake $23 million wire transfer to make it appear he and his business partner were putting a significant portion of their own money into the 2000 purchase of a fleet of gambling boats.

The ex-business partner, Adam Kidan, pleaded guilty last week and agreed to testify against Abramoff, putting pressure on the Washington lobbyist to reach a settlement to reduce any potential prison term.

Associated Press writers Toni Locy, Sam Hananel and Mary Clare Jalonick contributed to this report.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Copyright ? 2005 ABC News Internet Ventures

Ex-Director of Md. GOP Testified on Ties to Abramoff

By Matthew Mosk
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 22, 2005; Page B08

A former executive director of the Maryland Republican Party was brought before a U.S. Senate committee to testify about his ties to embattled lobbyist Jack Abramoff last month, making him the second local link to the unfolding scandal in Washington.

Christopher Cathcart, who served as the party's executive director for a year, was asked to testify Nov. 2 about his work for Michael Scanlon, Abramoff's former partner. Before working for the party, Cathcart was an assistant to Scanlon at the firm Capitol Campaign Strategies.

On Nov. 21, Scanlon pleaded guilty to conspiring to bribe a congressman and other public officials and agreed to pay back more than $19 million he fraudulently charged Indian tribal clients.

Cathcart left the state party in May to attend business school, said state GOP Chairman John Kane. Cathcart did not respond to an e-mail sent to his university account.

Kane said the Republican National Committee sent him Cathcart's name and those of two other candidates for the party job and that neither Scanlon nor Abramoff served as references. Kane said the young director was a consultant, never officially on the state party's payroll, but "did a good job. I'd hire him back."

His name has never surfaced as a Maryland link to the Abramoff affair, despite efforts by Maryland Democrats to find ties between the unfolding scandal and Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., who served four terms in Congress.

Until now, that effort has focused on Ehrlich's deputy chief of staff, Edward B. Miller, who briefly owned a Silver Spring company named in disclosures about the federal investigation.

Miller's attorney said his client had not engaged in any wrongdoing. Lobbyist plea deal would put heat on Ney

Thursday, December 22, 2005
Sabrina Eaton
Plain Dealer Bureau
Washington - If disgraced super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff, facing trial in Florida in three weeks, takes a plea deal, things could get mighty uncomfortable for Ohio's Bob Ney.

Abramoff might finally explain his motive in providing luxury travel to Scotland, offers of a Super Bowl trip and help in getting tens of thousands of dollars in campaign cash for Ney and other congressmen. If federal prosecut- ors decided that amounted to bribery in exchange for legis lative favors, it could crack open one of the biggest congressional scandals in modern history and potenti ally end the careers of Ney and others who become ensnared, ethics watchdogs say.

"This certainly has the potential to dwarf other congressional scandals that have occurred in recent years," said Fred Wertheimer, president of the Democracy 21 watchdog group who has monitored congressional ethics since 1971.

Numerous publications reported Wednesday that Abramoff is negotiating a plea agreement with prosecutors before his fraud trial begins in Florida on Jan. 9.

The Justice Department declined comment on Abramoff's discussions with prosecutors. Abramoff's attorney, Abbe Lowell, did not respond to The Plain Dealer's requests for comment.

Ney, a Republican congressman from Heath in Licking County, and House GOP leader Tom DeLay of Texas are among legislators who helped Abramoff and his clients while accepting lavish perks from the lobbyist, including a golf trip to Scotland.

Ney entered statements in the congressional record to help Abramoff buy a line of Florida casino boats and agreed to aid Indian tribes that Abramoff represented.

Abramoff's former business partner, Michael Scanlon, has already pleaded guilty to conspiring to bribe Ney and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors. His plea agreement detailed trips, tickets to concerts and sporting events and campaign contributions that were allegedly provided to Ney and his staff "in exchange for a series of official acts and influence."

Ney's office denies that improprieties occurred and said much of what Scanlon described never took place. The congressman has been subpoenaed by federal investigators and started a legal defense fund. Ney spokesman Brian Walsh would not discuss how Abramoff's plea agreement might affect Ney.

"We do not engage in hypotheticals by the Washington media," Walsh said.

Testimony from Abramoff and any transactional records he provides could be central to any case the federal government might build against Ney, said Melanie Sloan, a former federal prosecutor who heads Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. Sloan, who has worked as an attorney for several Capitol Hill Democrats, says it's likely Ney will face bribery charges.

Ohio Republicans will not publicly discuss any plans they might be making in the event of a Ney indictment, but they have privately approached local Republicans about seeking Ney's job if he leaves.

If they decide Ney's troubles endanger their party's hold on his congressional seat, Republicans could encourage a primary challenge to Ney with strong financial backing, said American University political scientist Richard Semiatin.

"It's all speculation, at this point," said Ohio Republican Party spokesman John McClelland. "We would cross that bridge if and when we get to it."

Democrats in Ohio don't expect Ney to step down if he's indicted. Ney wouldn't be the only jobless member of his family if he quit, because his wife and son work for his re-election campaign.

"Bob Ney has become the poster boy for corruption in Ohio and Washington," said Ohio Democratic Party communications director Brian Rothenberg. "He seems pretty stubborn and defiant about all of this."

KLTV 7 Tyler-Longview-Jacksonville, TX: Lawyer: no deal yet for Abramoff

WASHINGTON A lawyer close to plea negotiations in a probe of high-profile lobbyist Jack Abramoff says a deal "ain't done yet."

The lawyer -- who's close to the talks between Justice Department officials and Abamoff's lawyers -- says efforts are being made to try to reach a plea deal by the end of the year.

Officials want Abramoff to cooperate in a big corruption investigation. Even without Abramoff's cooperation, a person familiar with the investigation says the Justice Department is focusing on as many as 20 lawmakers and aides.

In a five-year span ending in early 2004, Indian tribes represented by Abramoff rolled (M) millions of dollars in casino income into congressional campaigns.

Many lawmakers are scrambling to return or give away campaign donations tied to the probe.

A former aide to ex-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas already has pleaded guilty in the probe. Court papers in the plea by former DeLay aide Michael Scanlon say Scanlon and Abramoff "provided a stream of things of value to public officials in exchange for a series of official acts."


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