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

Tuesday, January 03, 2006 - Prosecutor in DeLay case subpoenas Abramoff documents

Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- The prosecutor in the Texas money laundering case against Rep. Tom DeLay issued subpoenas today looking for links between lobbyist Jack Abramoff and fundraising by the former majority leader.

District Attorney Ronnie Earle issued the subpoenas in Austin the same day that Abramoff pleaded guilty in Washington to federal charges of conspiracy, tax evasion and mail fraud.

Abramoff's plea came in a wide-ranging corruption investigation that is believed to be focusing on as many as 20 members of Congress and congressional aides, including DeLay and one of his former aides. Investigators allege Abramoff and his ex-partner Michael Scanlon defrauded several Indian tribes of tens of millions of dollars in a lobbying scheme that also involved bribery of public officials.

In the Texas case, Earle sought records from Abramoff's former employers, legal firms Greenberg Traurig LLP and Preston Gates Ellis & Rouvelas Meeds, LLP. He also subpoenaed records from a lawyer for the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, a former Abramoff client, and from a representative for the Barona Band of Mission Indians, a California tribe.

DeLay attorney Dick DeGuerin said Earle "goes where the fish bite."

"Ronnie Earle is an opportunist," DeGuerin said. "He issues subpoenas to try to make a connection between his case and the latest scandal, whatever it happens to be. The Abramoff thing is the latest he's doing. It has nothing to do with the case in Texas. Nothing. Zip."

DeLay is facing money laundering charges stemming from corporate contributions to a fundraising committee he formed for 2002 state legislative elections. Texas law bans using corporate or union contributions for election or defeat of a candidate.

DeLay is accused with two associates of funneling corporate money through Texans for a Republican Majority, TRMPAC, and the Republican National Committee to several state legislative campaigns in 2002.

DeLay has repeatedly denied wrongdoing and labeled the investigation political.

He was forced to step aside as majority leader after he was indicted on money laundering and conspiracy charges in September. No trial date has been set because of pending appeals filed by Earle and DeLay.

Preston Gates Ellis & Rouvelas Meeds contributed $25,000 and the Barona Band, $5,000 to TRMPAC in 2002. The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians contributed $1,000 in 2001, according to TRMPAC records.

In his subpoenas, Earle asks for correspondence between the subpoenaed parties and TRMPAC; Americans for a Republican Majority, DeLay's national fundraising committee; David Safavian, the Bush administration's former chief procurement official indicted in the Abramoff case; Abramoff, former Christian Coalition director Ralph Reed and DeLay's co-defendants.

Analysis: Abramoff Plea May Rock GOP Boat - Yahoo! News

By TOM RAUM, Associated Press Writer

The plea deal worked out by Jack Abramoff could send seismic waves across the political landscape in this congressional election year. The Republicans, who control Congress and the White House, are likely to take the biggest hits.

The GOP has more seats to lose and has closer ties with the former lobbyist. But some Democrats with links to Abramoff and his associates are also expected to be snagged in the influence-peddling net.

While the full dimensions of the corruption probe are not yet clear, some political consultants and analysts are already comparing its damage potential to the 1992 House banking scandal that led to the retirement or ouster of 77 lawmakers.

"You don't have to be a political genius to sniff the smell of blood in the water," said GOP consultant Rich Galen.

Galen said even lawmakers in seemingly safe districts, and those "who don't have a reputation for being fast and loose with the rules," could be vulnerable if voters rise up in reproach "and everybody drops five or six points" in this year's midterm contests.

Abramoff, a former $100,000-plus fundraiser for President Bush with close ties to former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to conspiracy, tax evasion and mail fraud. That cleared the way for his cooperation with federal prosecutors in bringing charges against former business and political associates.

The investigation is believed to involve up to 20 members of Congress and aides and possibly several administration officials.

The timing couldn't be worse, politically, especially for Republicans. Lawmakers who may be indicted could find themselves coming to trial this summer, just ahead of the midterm elections. Around the same time, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, is expected to stand trial in the CIA leak case.

DeLay, who had to step down as majority leader in September after a grand jury in Texas indicted him in a campaign finance investigation, is awaiting a trial date. And former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, R-Calif., gave up his seat Dec. 1 after admitting he had accepted $2.4 million in bribes from defense contractors.

With so many trials and prosecutions in the works, speculation is swirling over whom Abramoff might bring down and on the possible fallout for others.

"Most seats in Congress are relatively safe this year. But they are not safe from a tsunami," said University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato, author of a book on political scandals. "Iraq, plus economic problems, plus these scandals, could produce a tsunami. That's what every incumbent on Capitol Hill has to fear."

Most Americans are convinced that corruption reaching into all levels of government is a deeply rooted problem. According to an AP-Ipsos poll last month, 88 percent say the problem is a serious one, with 51 percent calling it "very serious."

People need to know "that government is not for sale," Assistant Attorney General Alice S. Fisher said in pledging to pursue the investigation "wherever it goes."

For months, federal prosecutors have focused on whether Abramoff defrauded his Indian tribal clients of millions of dollars and used improper influence on members of Congress. Tribes represented by the lobbyist contributed millions of dollars in casino income to congressional campaigns.

Abramoff also took members of Congress on lavish overseas trips and provided sports tickets, golf fees, frequent meals, entertainment and jobs for lawmakers' relatives and aides.

Some lawmakers have already returned contributions. Others no doubt are nervously scouring their memories and appointment books.

For years, many lawmakers have shrugged off lobbyists' gifts as campaign contributions, harmless wining, dining and socializing. "Now you've got someone admitting exactly what the motivation was and explaining all the avenues they used," said Kent Cooper, a former Federal Election Commission official.

"You're talking about standard operating procedure here in Washington suddenly being turned on its head and a key operator signing a plea agreement that he may have been involved in some kind of public corruption," said Cooper, who tracks lobbying and campaign contributions for the nonpartisan Political Money Line service.

The Democratic National Committee called the situation the latest installment of a Republican "culture of corruption." That notion was disputed by White House spokesman Scott McClellan, who denounced Abramoff's activities as "outrageous" and noted that the lobbyist and his clients contributed to both parties.

That may be so, said Norman Ornstein, a political analyst at the American Enterprise Institute, "but it will disproportionately affect Republicans. They are the majority party and because Abramoff is a conservative Republican."


EDITOR'S NOTE — Tom Raum has covered Washington for The Associated Press since 1973, including five presidencies.

U.S. Newswire : Releases : "Prepared Remarks of Assistant Attorney General Alice..."

To: National Desk

Contact: U.S. Department of Justice, 202-514-2007 or 202-514-1888 (TDD), Web:

WASHINGTON, Jan. 3 /U.S. Newswire/ -- Following is the text of prepared remarks of Assistant Attorney General Alice S. Fisher at the news conference on the guilty plea of former lobbyist Jack Abramoff:

Good afternoon. I'm pleased to be joined here today by Chris Swecker, the Assistant Director of the Criminal Division of the FBI; Eileen O'Connor, the Assistant Attorney General for the Tax Division; IRS Commissioner Mark Everson, and from the Criminal Division, Noel Hillman, the chief of the Public Integrity Section, and Paul Pelletier, the acting chief of the Fraud Section.

Earlier today in U.S. District Court here in Washington, former lobbyist Jack Abramoff pled guilty to three separate felony offenses -- conspiracy, mail fraud, and tax evasion.

Abramoff has agreed to cooperate with an ongoing public corruption probe led by the Justice Department.

In court today, Abramoff admitted to a series of schemes, which fall into three main categories I will describe for you. These schemes involved Abramoff's use of his DC based lobbying practice, through which Abramoff corrupted government officials, and defrauded his own clients.

First, Abramoff admitted to conspiring-- with his former business partner Michael Scanlon -- to defraud four Native-American Indian tribes. These tribes hired Abramoff to provide lobbying and other services related to the tribes' interest in the casino business.

Scanlon, you'll recall, pled guilty to corruption and conspiracy charges in November. Scanlon is also cooperating in this investigation.

Scanlon and Abramoff agreed to defraud their tribal clients in a scheme they joking referred to, between themselves, as "gimme five." Let me explain to you how that worked.

As described in court papers, Abramoff would recommend that his tribal clients hire a company run by Scanlon, Capital Campaign Strategies or "CCS", to perform grass-roots and public relations services on behalf of the tribes.

But the tribes weren't getting the whole picture. Abramoff did not refer tribal clients to CCS solely to further the interests of the tribes. Rather, he did so to further his own interests. And to line his own pockets in ways which were fraudulent. And illegal.

For as they have both now admitted, Abramoff and Scanlon agreed that Scanlon would pay secret kickbacks of 50 percent to Abramoff each time a tribal client hired CCS. These secret kickbacks ran into the millions of dollars, and were never disclosed to the tribal clients.

But Abramoff's fraud on his tribal clients did not stop there. In another instance, Abramoff was so bold as to take fees to assist one client when he was actually working for another client to defeat the first client's interests.

Second, Abramoff admitted today to his participation in an extensive corruption scheme. Abramoff gave things of value to public officials, including foreign and domestic trips, campaign contributions, excessive meals and entertainment and other things of value -- all with the intent, and at times with the understanding, that the public official would act to benefit Abramoff or his clients.

The things of value Abramoff provided to goverment officials included:

-- an all-expense-paid trip to Scotland to play golf on a world-famous course;

-- tickets and travel to the Super Bowl in Florida in 2001;

-- tickets for concerts and other events in Washington;

-- repeated and regular meals at his upscale restaurant;

-- and campaign contributions.

Abramoff provided these things of value with the intent and often with the understanding that his clients would receive the official action they wanted.

As admitted by Abramoff, his actions often produced the official influence he sought.

For example, as he admitted today, Abramoff:

-- had a Congressman insert statements in the Congressional Record;

-- had a Congressman endorse a wireless telephone contract for the House of Representatives,

-- had a Congressman agree to seek passage of legislation favorable to Abramoff's clients.

Government officials and governmental action are not for sale. The Justice Department will aggressively investigate and prosecute these types of cases, which have such a devastating impact on the public's trust of the government. We will not shy away from this responsibility, no matter where the trail leads.

I will note that while Abramoff engaged in the business of lobbying, his activities went far beyond lawful lobbying, to the illegal practice of paying for official acts. Lawful lobbying does not include paying a public official a personal benefit with the understanding, explicit or implicit, that a certain official act will occur. That's not lobbying -- that's a crime.

The third aspect of Abramoff's illegal conduct, as reflected in his admissions in court today, is tax evasion. Abramoff profited tremendously from the illegal arrangements outlined today, receiving an estimated $25 million in undisclosed kickbacks and other fraudulently obtained funds. Abramoff failed to report or pay taxes on these and other illegally obtained funds.

As Abramoff's crimes are serious so too are the consequences he now faces. As provided in his plea agreement, the federal Sentencing Guidelines call for a sentence of between nine-and-a-half to 11 years for Abramoff's admitted criminal conduct. If Abramoff cooperates truthfully and completely with the government's investigation, and otherwise complies with the terms of his agreement with us, he may receive a reduction in his sentence at the discretion of the sentencing court. And he will be ordered to pay a hefty price for his crime -- approximately $26.7 million in restitution and taxes.

As the Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Criminal Division, combating public corruption is a top priority of mine. I am proud to report that over the past 3 years there has been a near 100 percent increase in the number of cases prosecuted by the Public integrity section of the Criminal Division. We have been doing more to combat public corruption at every level of government, and we will continue to do more at the federal, state, and local level.

There are a lot of people who have worked on this case, and will continue to work on this investigation as it moves forward. Here in the Criminal Division, the Public Integrity Section and its chief, Noel Hillman, played an important role in providing leadership to this complex investigation. I also want to thank attorneys from the Division's Fraud Section -- headed by Paul Pelletier -- and the Justice Department's Tax Division -- headed by Eileen O'Connor -- along with prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney's Office in Miami, for their valuable role in this case. And of course, I want to acknowledge the great work of teams of investigators from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Interior, the Internal Revenue Service and the Inspector General at the General Services Administration. Everyone has worked together closely to help uncover the facts and help move this significant case forward.

U.S. Newswire : Releases : "Abramoff Plea Threatens Rep. Bob Ney, Powerful Members of Congress..."

To: National and State Desks

Contact: Toby Chaudhuri or Jessica Mantooth, 202-955-5665, both of the Campaign for America's Future

WASHINGTON, Jan. 3 /U.S. Newswire/ -- The Campaign for America's Future today announced that it will unveil new advertisements next week about Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio) and his involvement in a growing web of corruption in Washington. Court papers released today when Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff pleaded guilty to federal charges of conspiracy, tax evasion and mail fraud, detailed lavish gifts and contributions that he gave Rep. Ney in return for Ney's agreement to use his office to aid Abramoff clients.

"This is the worst corruption scandal to hit Washington since Watergate. Abramoff is fingering Reps. Bob Ney and Tom DeLay as central figures in the scandal," said Campaign for America's Future Communications Director Toby Chaudhuri. "There's a cancer growing on this Congress."

Abramoff today also agreed with U.S. District Court Judge Ellen Huvelle when she said he and others had engaged in a scheme to provide campaign contributions, trips and other items "in exchange for certain official acts," according to the Associated Press. The Washington Post recently reported that Rep. Ney received political contributions, tickets to sporting events and an all-expense paid golf trip to Scotland in exchange for his political favors.

The Campaign for America's Future ran several print and radio ads last year questioning whether Rep. Ney serves his constituents or the lobbyists who fund his campaigns. Arts & Entertainment | The tale of "Red Scorpion"

The strange Hollywood interlude of the most scandal-ridden man in Washington.

- - - - - - - - - - - -
By James Verini

Aug. 17, 2005 | Before fallen lobbyist Jack Abramoff assumed his role as the most scrutinized man in Washington, he had a brief career as a budding Hollywood producer. He made just one movie, the 1989 Cold War bomb "Red Scorpion." With its blatant propaganda, its collaboration with the apartheid South African government, and financial misdealing, it's notable, even for Hollywood, for being one of the seamiest productions in recent memory.

Last week, Abramoff was arrested by the FBI after a grand jury indicted him and a partner on fraud charges (he's out on $2.2 million bail). In Washington the Senate Indian Affairs Committee has been holding hearings on whether Abramoff, 46, bilked millions out of tribes he represented, and a joint task force is picking through his personal papers, including his credit card records, which show Abramoff purchased trips for members of Congress (including Tom DeLay). His days in the Capitol, it seems, are numbered. (Abramoff's spokesman, Andrew Blum, responded to inquiries from Salon for this article with a written "no comment.")

But long before he became the poster boy for the Beltway's back door, the young Jack Abramoff was at a crossroads. It was 1987, he was in his late 20s, and the presidency of his political hero, Ronald Reagan, was winding to a tarnished close. The Iran-Contra hearings covered the front pages, and Oliver North, whom Abramoff knew and admired, was about to be indicted. The Republicans were disillusioned, and after years of service to the party -- as chairman of the College Republicans from 1981 to '85, he'd mentored Grover Norquist and Ralph Reed, had worked for one right-wing think tank, and founded another -- Abramoff apparently was no longer sure he wanted to go into politics full time.

So he took a detour, doing what any other kid from Beverly Hills might when finding himself at a loss: He decided to try his hand at show business. Why not? Hollywood was no more than Washington for good-looking people, as the saying goes, and Abramoff, a student government officer and a football player at Beverly Hills High School, class of '77 (he graduated from Brandeis University in '81), was smart and charismatic and, if not actor handsome, at least physically imposing enough to be a producer. Through his father, a high-up executive at the Diners Club, he'd rubbed shoulders with some of L.A.'s elite.

Abramoff moved back to Los Angeles from Washington after finishing Georgetown Law School, and he and his brother, Robert, formed a production company, Regency Entertainment. They set to work on an action picture, a story about a rogue Soviet Spetsnaz soldier who is sent to quell a rebellion in a fictional African country -- one that very closely resembled Angola -- only to find that he sympathizes with the rebels. "Red Scorpion," starring Dolph Lundgren, would be released in April 1989. The Abramoff brothers raised $16 million for it -- the sources of the funding remain unknown -- an impressive sum for a B-picture with an unproven star. It made a poor impression on audiences and critics. "The movie's reflective moments belong to Mr. Lundgren's sweaty chest," wrote Stephen Holden in the New York Times.

But the story behind "Red Scorpion" is far more captivating. The film was to be a manifesto for Abramoff; a Rambo-like morality tale and a grand indictment of communism -- his Reagan Doctrine parable in action-packed Technicolor. And in the process of conceiving of and making it, Abramoff helped groom an African despot, rose to high levels in the K Street food chain, and got to play international spy.

"There was some indication even in those days that he was not the sort of person who would feel overly constrained by the rules," said Jeff Pandin, who worked closely with Abramoff in the 1980s.

The roots of "Red Scorpion" took hold in the early 1980s, when interventionist-minded folk in Washington had an array of global conflagrations to obsess over. The mujahedin were battling the Soviets in Afghanistan and the Contras were fighting the Sandanistas in Nicaragua. Some circles felt the United States was not doing enough to help them. The gripe heard in the office of CIA chief William Casey and among Oliver North's cabal in the National Security Council was that Reagan was not fully Reagan when it came to foreign policy. A cottage industry of think-tank intellectuals and private crusaders sprouted up to build support for one or another set of freedom fighters. Abramoff was among the most active.

In Angola, the rebel group du jour, the National Union of Total Independence for Angola, or UNITA, had been taking on the Soviet- and Cuban-backed government since the 1970s. UNITA's leader, a savvy warlord named Jonas Savimbi, had become a darling of the right. Savimbi received millions in aid and had even retained Washington lobbyists to press his case. Abramoff was interested in Angola, too. So was Lewis E. Lehrman, the millionaire behind the Rite Aid drugstore chain and the founder of the right-wing group Citizens for America, who made an unsuccessful run for governor of New York in 1982. Through Republican circles, Abramoff met Lehrman at some point in the early '80s, and in 1985 Lehrman hired him. Abramoff came to Lehrman with an idea: What about a convention of disparate anti-communist rebel leaders, put together and paid for by Americans? It screamed of Abramoff's cartoonishly outsized ambitions and worldview, and Lehrman liked it.

Jack Wheeler, a California entrepreneur and anti-communist activist who enjoyed deep entree in Washington at the time, had met Abramoff through the College Republicans in 1984. He immediately took to Abramoff, who had charmed him with a story about scandalizing fellow members of a Beverly Hills athletic club by wearing a T-shirt that read "I'd Rather Be Killing Communists."

Wheeler and Abramoff began discussing the idea of the rebel convention. "The whole point of the Reagan Doctrine was to fight the phenomenon of communism, and if one regime fell, they'd all fall," Wheeler said. "No Afghan knew where Nicaragua was, and no Contra knew where Angola was."

Amazingly, they made it happen, and quickly. In the first week of June 1985, mujahedin, Contras and Laotian rebels joined Savimbi and his men in Jamba, Angola, UNITA's jungle headquarters, for the Democratic International, as Lehrman had titled the event. For several days they commiserated and compared notes, huddling together in thatched huts and signing an anti-Soviet pact. Wheeler organized transportation, and Abramoff dealt with the money and logistics from Lehrman's end. Lehrman himself read a letter of support from Reagan and handed out framed copies of the Declaration of Independence. It received some press coverage. Abramoff had pulled off his first far-right adventure.

In the eyes of many in the administration, particularly in the State Department, Abramoff and groups like Citizens for America were only serving to subvert years of careful negotiation. "These people were trying to undercut and divert official policy," said Chester "Chet" Crocker, assistant secretary of state for African affairs from 1981 to 1989. "Our policy worked because we got Castro to decide the jig was up and go home -- not because of the conservative activists." (Cuba began pulling out of Angola in 1989.)

Loved or hated, Citizens for America was short-lived. Not long after the Democratic International -- or the Jamboree in Jamba, as it was pejoratively known -- funding for the group dried up. "Lehrman pulled the money out all of a sudden, and then Jack dropped out of it, and that was that," Wheeler said. "Then Jack went to make his movie."

According to Pandin, who went to work for Abramoff in 1986, Abramoff and Lehrman had had a falling out. "He was always looking to push the envelope," Pandin said. "It was seen among Jack's friends as a coup -- he got stabbed in the back by people who weren't comfortable with him." When contacted by Salon, Lehrman submitted a short statement via a representative: "I was recruited by President Reagan to set up Citizens for America in 1983. It was a voluntary, part-time position which I held for about three years. Among the paid staff, Jack Abramoff came in well after CFA was started, was there only for a short while, before his termination."

But Lehrman may have also gotten cold feet because it had become clear by the mid-1980s that Savimbi was not a paragon of democratic ideals. There were allegations of murderous purges in his own ranks. It is commonly agreed in Washington that it was Savimbi himself, and not the government of Angola, who in July 1991 had UNITA's envoys to the United States and the United Kingdom, Tito Chingunji and Wilson dos Santos, and their families, killed.

Crocker described Savimbi, who was killed in 2002, as "a brilliant military warlord who operated by the gun, lived by the gun, and died by the gun and ultimately had a failure of judgment, like warlords often do."

Others are less charitable. "He was the most articulate, charismatic homicidal maniac I've ever met," said Don Steinberg, ambassador to Angola during the first Clinton administration.

With Citizens for America disbanded, and law school done, Abramoff moved to Los Angeles. He came up with the premise for "Red Scorpion" and hired Arne Olsen, a young screenwriter with no credits to his name, to write it. The Abramoffs told Olson they wanted to base the fictional African country in the film, Mombaka, directly on Angola, and the rebel leader on Savimbi. Olsen said he churned out a baldly propagandistic script.

"It definitely was an anti-Soviet thing," Olsen said. "It was an easy target."

Of the Abramoff brothers, he said, "This wasn't their profession, what they'd do for the rest of their lives. It was a lark. They wanted to get a message across, but at the same time they were going for exploitation and of course trying to make some money."

Initially, the movie was set to shoot in Swaziland, but at the last minute Abramoff moved the production to Namibia, which was occupied by South Africa's apartheid government. Congress had passed (over Reagan's veto) the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act in 1986, making it very frowned-upon, when not illegal, to do business with South Africa or its proxies. This did not seem to bother Abramoff, who planned to use South African Defense Force vehicles and equipment on the set and soldiers as extras. By 1988, when shooting started on the film, Abramoff likely had connections in the South African government. For a decade, after all, South Africa had been Savimbi's main backer, and according to Crocker and others, Abramoff would not have been able to put together the Democratic International without extensive help from the SADF.

But Abramoff's plan backfired: it was not long before anti-apartheid activists were protesting at the "Red Scorpion" set, and Warner Brothers, who had signed on to distribute the film, pulled out.

James Glickenhaus, whose company, Schapiro Glickenhaus Entertainment, ended up distributing "Red Scorpion" after Warner Brothers jumped ship, said he was not aware of the help provided by the SADF, but he was aware of the controversy over the location. "Look, had the film been made in Nazi Germany, I wouldn't have distributed it," he said. "But I personally felt upon investigating that the Namibian government was more simpatico than the South African government."

The movie seemed like an opportunity to turn a buck -- if not win any awards. "There's some fish for eating and some fish for buying and selling," Glickenhaus said. "This was a fish for buying and selling." In typical Hollywood tradition, Glickenhaus threw a party for the film at Cannes, his feelings about its quality notwithstanding. The Abramoff brothers came, but, he said, they "looked totally out of place."

The actor Carmen Argenziano, who played the villainous Cuban colonel, said he knew that many of the men playing Russian and Cuban soldiers were actual SADF soldiers. There were also rumors going around the set that some of the funding for the film, not just props and extras, was coming from South Africa.

"We heard that very right-wing South African money was helping fund the movie," Argenziano said. "It wasn't very clear. We were pretty upset about the source of the money. We thought we were misled. We were shocked that these brothers who we thought were showbiz liberals -- Beverly Hills Jewish kids -- were doing this."

But there was a lesser-known connection between the apartheid regime and Abramoff.

In the late 1980s, some conservatives in Washington saw P.W. Botha's apartheid government in Pretoria as the last bulwark against communism in Africa. Certain Reagan domestiques had even gone to work for it. "The South African government was the only one that was, shall we say, anti-communist," said Stuart Spencer, who'd help run Reagan's 1980 and '84 campaigns and later became a lobbyist for Pretoria.

Abramoff seems to have shared the sentiment. In 1986, he founded the International Freedom Foundation, whose stated goal was "to foster individual freedom throughout the world by engaging in activities which promote the development of free and open societies based on the principles of free enterprise." More specifically, among the IFF's aims were to oppose the Anti-Apartheid Act and other sanctions and to urge greater support in Washington for Pretoria and less support for the African National Congress, the party that would come to power in 1994 under Nelson Mandela. At its height, around the time "Red Scorpion" was released, the IFF employed about 30 young ideologues in offices on G Street in Washington, Johannesburg, London and Brussels. Churning out reports and presentations (for one such presentation on the Contras, it borrowed the slide show that North had used to raise money for his arms-deal network, according to Pandin), the IFF attracted notable members such as Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., and Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind.

"It was meant to be a way to institutionalize the contacts he'd made abroad -- people who were interested in anti-communist stuff, democracy building, that kind of thing," said Pandin, who held directorships at the IFF from its inception until it shut down in the early 1990s. "We were skeptical of the ANC," he went on. "We did not want to see the U.S. imposing sanctions on South Africa."

The IFF, however, could not claim impartiality on the subject. It was, in fact, clandestinely funded by the SADF's military intelligence arm, according to former U.S. officials, ANC documents, and reports published in U.S. and U.K. According to a 1995 Newsday report, the IFF received up to $1.5 million a year from the SADF from 1986 through 1992, as a part of Operation Babushka, a smear campaign meant to discredit Mandela and the ANC by portraying them as allied with communist regimes. An SADF intelligence chief also told the Newsday reporters that the SADF helped fund "Red Scorpion."

"We knew that the IFF was funded by the South African government," Herman Cohen, who ran Africa operations for the National Security Council, told Salon. "It was one of a number of front organizations."

"I would not be shocked if some of the money they were raising in the Johannesburg office was coming from those kinds of channels," Pandin said, referring to the SADF.

Pandin recalled that Abramoff enlisted Russell Crystal, the head of the IFF's Johannesburg office and an advisor to F.W. DeKlerk, to be an informal producer on "Red Scorpion" (whether this meant Crystal helped fund the film, Pandin did not remember). But Pandin says Abramoff refused to compensate Crystal afterward. "It wasn't a good experience," Pandin said of the film. "A lot of people didn't get paid. Russell wasn't entirely enamored of Jack after that."

"Jack was always looking for angles and ways to do interesting things until people slowed him down," he said, obliquely, when asked whether Abramoff, who resigned from a day-to-day position at the IFF in 1987 but remained a chairperson and closely oversaw operations, knew of the connection to the SADF. "He needs somebody to cool him down sometimes. Left to his own devices he'd be inclined to go a little crazy."

"Maybe he should have paid more attention in some of his law school classes and spent less time making movies."

Peter Roff, who is listed as Abramoff's personal assistant in the credits of "Red Scorpion," said he worked for Abramoff out of the latter's Washington office during the time of the production in 1987 and '88. Roff, however, recalled doing more work for the IFF than for the film. Indeed, he only vaguely remembered the name Regency Entertainment. He never went to L.A. or to the set in Africa. But Roff, who worked on George H.W. Bush's '88 campaign, claimed he too was unaware of the source of the IFF's funding.

"I thought he was an exceptional person," he said of Abramoff. "Creative, good person to work for, very encouraging of my ambitions to be part of something that helped make the world a better place."

The SADF stopped funding the IFF in 1992. Apartheid had come to an end. By 1994, the organization closed its doors.

Asked by Newsday about the South African government's connections to the IFF and "Red Scorpion" in 1995, the last time he seems to have entertained questions on the subject, Abramoff called the allegations "outrageous."

When, inevitably, "Red Scorpion" was released, it was no study in nuance. Directed by Joseph Zito, whose previous credits had included the Chuck Norris movies "Missing in Action" and "Invasion U.S.A," the dramatis personae consist of scheming, cackling communists on the one hand -- the Russians not only tear apart the rebel village with attack helicopters, but also randomly gas a band of peaceful Bushmen and their animals -- and noble guerrillas on the other, and the barely intelligible Lundgren in between. The action sequences have all the panache of a subpar "A-Team" episode.

There are some inspired moments, such as the climax, when Argenziano's character, Col. Zayas, is left groping for his own dismembered arm, which clutches a live grenade (he doesn't reach in time). There is also a rousing speech delivered by the token freewheeling American, a foul-mouthed, boozing journalist played by M. Emmet Walsh: "As a matter of fact, in America, an American can swear whenever, wherever and however much he or she fucking well pleases!" he yells at Lundgren. "A little something called freedom of speech, which I'm sure you Russians aren't real familiar with!" In another nice touch, the closing credits roll over Little Richard's "All Around the World," remixed to include machine-gun and exploding-bomb sound effects.

If only things were as jovial off the set. They weren't. Actors went unpaid; Argenziano said that although he was paid his initial salary, he has never received a residuals check for "Red Scorpion." The manager of one of the major cast members, who did not want to be named, said that, according to her client, many of the actors and crew were never paid at all.

"I just wanted to get the hell out of there," Argenziano said. "It was a very hard shoot. We were all worn out, so no one made a stink."

Glickenhaus, who knew of crew and cast going unpaid, claimed that despite its poor box office receipts, "Red Scorpion" did well in video, television and foreign sales. Nonetheless, at some point prior to its release in April 1989, the Abramoffs and Regency found themselves in enough debt that the film went into the possession of Performance Guarantees, a completion bond company.

Abramoff also borrowed money from friends that he never repaid. During the production, he took a $50,000 personal loan from Ralph Nurnberger, a Georgetown professor and consultant. Nurnberger and Abramoff later worked together (from 1999 to the end of 2000) at Preston Gates Ellis. Abramoff has still not repaid the loan.

Remarkably, there was a "Red Scorpion 2." It went straight to video in 1994 and did not star Lundgren. Abramoff is listed as an executive producer, but he had only a nominal connection to the film, according to its other producers. But by then, Abramoff had decided politics and not political movies were his true calling, and he was back in Washington, a lobbyist at Preston Gates (the lobbying firm run by the father of Microsoft founder Bill Gates). Now, of course, his decades-long ascent into Republican power circles is coming to a crashing end. Investigators are combing through every aspect of his life. He has become Washington's summa persona non grata, disowned even by Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas, for whom he is alleged to have purchased a trip to Scotland.

After Jack returned to Washington, Robert Abramoff stayed in Los Angeles and continued to produce films. He is now a full-time lawyer. Reached at the offices of Burgee & Abramoff in Woodland Hills, he refused to speak about his brother or "Red Scorpion." "It's a family matter and I prefer not to comment on anything," he said.

Raw Story | Abramoff's Statement

01/03/2006 @ 3:52 pm
Filed by RAW STORY

The following are comments from Jack Abramoff and Abbe Lowell of Chadbourne & Parke, attorney for Jack Abramoff, as released to RAW STORY.

This is what Jack Abramoff said in court today:

"Your honor, words will not be able to ever express how sorry I am for this, and I have profound regret and sorrow for the multitude of mistakes and harm I have caused. All of my remaining days, I will feel tremendous sadness and regret for my conduct and for what I have done. I only hope that I can merit forgiveness from the Almighty and from those I have wronged or caused to suffer. I will work hard to earn that redemption."

Statement from Abbe Lowell of Chadbourne & Parke, attorney for Jack Abramoff:

"Eighteen months ago, Mr. Abramoff first made contact with prosecutors to admit his wrongdoing and to seek forgiveness from those he has wronged. He intends to continue to work with the Justice Department and others to fully resolve all matters of interest, to provide restitution to anyone he has harmed, and to seek absolution from all."

Abramoff Pleads Guilty, Will Cooperate on Yahoo! News

By MARK SHERMAN, Associated Press Writer

Lobbyist Jack Abramoff pleaded guilty Tuesday to federal charges of conspiracy, tax evasion and mail fraud, clearing the way for him to cooperate in a massive government investigation of influence peddling involving members of Congress.

"Words will not ever be able to express my sorrow and my profound regret for all my actions and mistakes," Abramoff said when he rose to address the judge. "I hope I can merit forgiveness from the Almighty and those I've wronged or caused to suffer."

He faces 30 years in prison if convicted of the charges.

The filing against Abramoff outlined lavish gifts and contributions that it said Abramoff gave an unnamed House member, identified elsewhere as Rep. Bob Ney (news, bio, voting record), R-Ohio, chairman of the House Administration Committee, in return for Ney's agreement to use his office to aid Abramoff clients.

Ney's lawyer, Mark Tuohey, said Tuesday that the charges against Abramoff were "nothing new." He said they repeated information in the November plea agreement from Abramoff's lobbying partner, Michael Scanlon.

To each of the three charges, Abramoff said, "I plead guilty, your honor."

U.S. District Court Judge Ellen Huvelle and lawyers in the case referred to restitution possibly reaching $25 million in the case.

Abramoff agreed with the judge when she said that he had engaged in a conspiracy involving "corruption of public officials." The lobbyist also agreed when she said he and others had engaged in a scheme to provide campaign contributions, trips and other items "in exchange for certain official acts."

Abramoff also was to plead guilty to two criminal charges in Florida stemming from a 2000 purchase of a fleet of gambling boats, said Neal Sonnett, his attorney there.

A change of plea hearing has been scheduled in the Miami case for Wednesday, Justice officials said.

Any plea agreement likely would secure the Republican lobbyist's testimony against several members of Congress who received favors from him or his clients. The Justice Department is believed to be focusing on as many as 20 lawmakers and aides.

Abramoff's travels with former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay are already under criminal investigation. The lobbyist's interactions with the Texas Republican's congressional office frequently came around the time of campaign donations, golf outings or other trips provided or arranged by Abramoff for DeLay and other lawmakers. In all, DeLay received at least $57,000 in political contributions from Abramoff, his lobbying associates or his tribal clients between 2001 and 2004.

The new charges were contained in a criminal information — a filing made by a federal prosecutor with a defendant's permission that bypasses action by a grand jury.

Prosecutors say Abramoff and Scanlon conspired to defraud Indian tribes in Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi and Texas of millions of dollars. Abramoff reaped roughly $20 million in hidden profits from the scheme, according to the information. Scanlon pleaded guilty in November.

Abramoff and Scanlon also lavished a golf trip to Scotland and other things of value on Ney, the court document said. Ney has denied doing anything wrong.

It also said Abramoff solicited $50,000 from a wireless telephone company and got Ney's agreement to push the company's application to install a wireless telephone infrastructure in the House of Representatives, a job Ney's committee would oversee.

Pressure had been intensifying on Abramoff to strike a deal with prosecutors since another former partner, Adam Kidan, pleaded guilty earlier this month to fraud and conspiracy in connection with the 2000 SunCruz boat deal in Florida.

Abramoff's cooperation would be a boon to an ongoing Justice Department investigation of congressional corruption, possibly helping prosecutors build criminal cases against up to two-dozen lawmakers of both parties and their staff members.

The continuing saga of Abramoff's legal problems has caused anxiety at high levels in Washington, in both the Republican and Democratic parties.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan could not say Tuesday whether Abramoff ever met President Bush. But when asked at the White House about this, the spokesman said that "what he is reportedly acknowledged doing is unacceptable and outrageous."

"If laws were broken, he must be held to account for what he did," McClellan said.

For months, prosecutors in Washington have focused on whether Abramoff defrauded his Indian tribal clients of millions of dollars and used improper influence on members of Congress.

In a five-year span ending in early 2004, tribes represented by the lobbyist contributed millions of dollars in casino income to congressional campaigns, often routing the money through political action committees for conservative lawmakers who opposed gambling.

Abramoff also provided trips, sports skybox fundraisers, golf fees, frequent meals, entertainment and jobs for lawmakers' relatives and aides.

In Florida, Abramoff and Kidan were indicted in August on charges of conspiracy, wire fraud and mail fraud in connection with their purchase of the SunCruz fleet for $147.5 million from Miami businessman Konstantinos "Gus" Boulis.

Prosecutors said the pair faked a $23 million wire transfer to make it appear that they were making a significant contribution of their own money into the deal. Based on that transfer, lenders Foothill Capital Corp. and Citadel Equity Fund Ltd. agreed to provide $60 million in financing for the purchase.

Kidan pleaded guilty Dec. 15 to one count of conspiracy and one count of wire fraud. He faces a maximum of 10 years in prison and up to $500,000 in fines at sentencing scheduled for March 1.

Scanlon agreed to cooperate in the SunCruz case as part of a plea agreement in a separate case with federal prosecutors in Washington. In that agreement, Scanlon admitted helping Kidan and Abramoff buy SunCruz, partly by persuading Ney to insert comments in the Congressional Record designed to pressure Boulis to sell.

G.O.P. Lobbyist to Plead Guilty in Deal With Prosecutors - New York Times

WASHINGTON, Jan. 3 - Jack Abramoff will plead guilty to three felony counts in Washington today as part of a settlement with federal prosecutors, ending an intense, months-long negotiation over whether the Republican lobbyist would testify against his former colleagues, people involved with the case said.

Mr. Abramoff, 46, is pleading guilty to fraud, public corruption and tax evasion, setting the stage for prosecutors to begin using him as a cooperating witness against his former business and political colleagues. In exchange, Mr. Abramoff faces a maximum of about 10 years in prison in the Washington case.

After entering his guilty plea in United States District Court in Washington, Mr. Abramoff will also announce a plea agreement in a related Florida case, in which he was indicted last year. In that case, he is pleading guilty to fraud and conspiracy in connection with his purchase of the SunCruz casino boat line, and will face a maximum of about seven years' prison time.

Mr. Abramoff has been talking to investigators in the corruption case for many months, said participants in the case, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the investigation. They said he had provided a full picture of what evidence he could offer against other suspects.

His participation in Washington has taken place mostly below the radar, as prosecutors made the Miami case the focus of their public work and as Mr. Abramoff and his associates claimed they were preparing to stand trial, facing up to as many as 30 years in prison.

Mr. Abramoff will enter separate pleas in each location. But the deal reached with the Justice Department is all-encompassing, reducing the severe penalties Mr. Abramoff could have faced in either investigation, in exchange for his inside knowledge of certain lobbying work and legislative actions. One element of the deal is that he can serve prison time in the two cases concurrently, although the sentencing will not take place until much further along in the investigation.

Details of the long-sought plea agreement were not made final until after 9 p.m. on Monday night, following weeks of around-the-clock communications between numerous prosecutors in several Justice Department offices and lawyers for Mr. Abramoff. The deal, a so-called "global" arrangement because it encompasses separate prosecutions in Florida and Washington, comes less than a week before Mr. Abramoff was scheduled to stand trial in the Miami case.

Official Washington has been on edge for months awaiting word of Mr. Abramoff's legal future. Once a masterful Republican lobbyist with close ties to the former House majority leader, Representative Tom DeLay, he earned tens of millions of dollars representing Indian casino interests and farflung entities like the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands. Through a complicated web of financial arrangements, he helped funnel donations to his lawmaker friends' and their campaigns, and took members of Congress, mainly the Republicans in power, on lavish trips.

Now, after more than two years of investigations, prosecutors have developed a list of at least a dozen lawmakers, congressional aides and lobbyists whose work appears suspect and who are now at the core of the case. With Mr. Abramoff's cooperation, the Justice Department will have a potentially critical witness to alleged patterns of corruption or bribery within the Republican leadership ranks, which in some cases they believe also took the form of campaign donations and free meals at Mr. Abramoff's downtown restaurant, Signatures.

Already, prosecutors have a key witness in Michael Scanlon, once press secretary to Mr. DeLay. Mr. Scanlon reached a plea agreement last year, putting pressure on Mr. Abramoff to reach his own deal. Now that Mr. Abramoff has done the same, one person involved in the case said: "When some people hear about this, they will clamor to cut a deal of their own."

Chillicothe Gazette - Abramoff plea deal could happen soon

Lobbyist expected to testify against Congressmen

The Gazette Staff

WASHINGTON — Indicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff, whose ties to Rep. Bob Ney are the subject of a Justice Department investigation, is set to take a plea bargain in his case, a source told CNN and NBC News this morning.

Abramoff, a close associate of former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, to plead guilty to corruption, other charges. The agreement is expected to secure the lobbyist's testimony against several members of Congress who received favors from him or his clients.

U.S. Rep. Bob Ney, R-Heath, has been among those named with suspected links to Abramoff, although Ney's office has maintained the Congressman has committed no wrongful acts.

Abramoff and a former partner were indicted in August in Miami on charges of conspiracy and fraud for allegedly lying about their assets to help secure financing to purchase a fleet of gambling boats.

Pressure has been intensifying on Abramoff to strike a deal with prosecutors since former partner Adam Kidan pleaded guilty earlier this month to fraud and conspiracy in connection with the 2000 SunCruz boat deal.

Abramoff's cooperation would be a boon to an ongoing Justice Department investigation of congressional corruption, possibly helping prosecutors build criminal cases against up to 20 lawmakers of both parties and their staff members.

Abramoff and Kidan were charged with concocting a fake $23 million wire transfer to make it appear they were putting their own money into the SunCruz deal. Two lenders agreed to provide $60 million in financing for the purchase based on that false wire transfer, according to prosecutors.

For months, prosecutors in Washington have focused on whether Abramoff defrauded his Indian tribal clients of millions of dollars and used improper influence on members of Congress.

In a five-year span ending in early 2004, tribes represented by the lobbyist contributed millions of dollars in casino income to congressional campaigns, often routing the money through political action committees for conservative lawmakers who opposed gambling.

Abramoff also provided trips, sports skybox fundraisers, golf fees, frequent meals, entertainment and jobs for lawmakers' relatives and aides.

Michael Scanlon, another former Abramoff associate, pleaded guilty in November in a separate case in Washington.

Scanlon said he helped Abramoff and Kidan buy SunCruz by persuading Ney to insert comments into the Congressional Record that were "calculated to pressure the then-owner to sell on terms favorable" to Abramoff and Kidan.

(For more on this story, see Wednesday's Gazette and check back to for breaking news as it happens.)

Originally published January 3, 2006


(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.)