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

Thursday, January 05, 2006 Several NJ lawmakers keeping money given by Abramoff tribes

Associated Press Writer

January 5, 2006, 4:57 PM EST

WASHINGTON -- The New Jersey lawmakers who received campaign contributions directly from Jack Abramoff have either returned or donated that money. However, a handful who received money from Indian tribes that hired the lobbyist are keeping the funds given to them from the tribes, saying they did nothing improper by accepting it.

Abramoff pleaded guilty Tuesday to fraud, corruption and tax evasion charges in Washington. The lobbyist pleaded guilty on Wednesday in Miami to fraud charges stemming from his purchases of a Florida gambling boat fleet called SunCruz.

The plea agreement was part of a deal with federal prosecutors to cooperate in a probe that could involve up to 20 members of Congress and aides, including former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas.

Rep. Frank Pallone, D-Long Branch, received $13,600 from three Indian tribes _ the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians and the Saginaw Chippewa Indians _ during the 2000 through 2006 election cycles.

Matthew Montekio, Pallone's campaign manager, said Thursday that the congressman "has a long-standing direct relationship with these Indian tribes through his work on Indian health care and environmental issues," and would be keeping the money.

"He does not know Jack Abramoff, nor has he received any contributions from Abramoff," Montekio added.

Rep. Robert Menendez, D-Hoboken, received $1,000 apiece in 2004 from the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians and the Saginaw Chippewa Indian tribe, according to federal campaign records. Menendez spokesman Matt Miller said the donations were made during a fundraiser and nobody in the congressman's office has had any dealings with Abramoff. Miller said Menendez is keeping the money.

Sen. Jon Corzine's New Jersey United, Leadership Political Action Committee received $1,000 from the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians in 2004, and $4,000 from the Saginaw Chippewa Indian tribe in 2004. Corzine spokesman Anthony Coley said the governor-elect would be keeping the money since he does not know Abramoff.

"Abramoff, his wife or his firm had nothing to do with these two contributions from tribes that were swindled by this corrupt, power-hungry lobbyist," Coley said.

Rep. Scott Garrett, R-Wantage, received $1,000 in 2002 from the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians and is not returning it, said Garrett's chief of staff, Michelle Presson. Garrett has never had any dealings with Abramoff, Presson added.

Meanwhile, Reps. Jim Saxton, R-Mount Holly; Mike Ferguson, R-Warren; and Frank LoBiondo, R-Vineland, all received campaign contributions directly from Abramoff and have returned that money, their offices said.

Saxton received $1,000 from Abramoff in 2003 and returned it in 2004 when the lobbyist was first being investigated for wrongdoing, said Saxton spokesman Pete McDonough. Saxton has also returned $6,000 he received from the Mississippi Choctaw and Agua Caliente band of Cahuilla Indian tribes, McDonough said. Saxton returned $5,000 of the tribes' donations in early 2005 and the remaining $1,000 on Thursday.

Last August, Ferguson donated the $1,000 contribution received in 2001 from Abramoff to the Children's Specialized Hospital Foundation in Mountainside, said his spokeswoman Abby Bird. In December, Ferguson donated the $1,000 contribution received from SunCruz in 2002 to the Center For Hope Hospice in Scotch Plains, Bird said.

Also last August, LoBiondo returned a $1,000 campaign contribution received in 2001 from Abramoff, said spokesman Jason Galanes.

Copyright 2006 Newsday Inc.

Dems criticize state GOP over Abramoff money -

CONCORD, N.H. --New Hampshire's state Democratic Party is blasting the state GOP for saying it will not return money tied to convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Sens. Judd Gregg and John Sununu say they are donating money from two Indian tribes once represented by Abramoff to charity, but state GOP Chairman Warren Henderson says any money the party got from Abramoff came before he was in charge, and already has been spent.

Democratic Chairwoman Kathy Sullivan says the state GOP received $20,000 from clients of Abramoff. She says Gregg, Sununu and the rest of the congressional delegation must demand that the GOP return it.

Abramoff pleaded guilty this week to three federal charges as part of an agreement requiring him to cooperate in a broad corruption investigation into members of Congress.

ABC News: Tyco Acknowledges $1.6M Link to Abramoff

Tyco Acknowledges It Was Source of $1.6 Million Pocketed by Lobbyist Jack Abramoff
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON - Tyco International, whose former CEO became a symbol of corporate corruption, acknowledged Thursday it is the Jack Abramoff client referred to as "Company A" in court documents describing the lobbyist's scheme to funnel millions of dollars in lobbying fees to himself.

Tyco hired Abramoff in 2003 to lobby for it on a tax issue, said company spokeswoman Sheri Woodruff. She declined to comment further on the New Jersey-based company's relationship with Abramoff or on the lobbyist's activities.

Abramoff pleaded guilty this week in Washington to mail fraud, conspiracy and tax evasion in connection with his lobbying activities and in Miami to conspiracy and wire fraud in a 2000 business deal in which he and a partner purchased the SunCruz Casinos fleet of gambling boats.

Abramoff also agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors trying to find out whether Abramoff bought specific actions from members of Congress, their aides or members of the Bush administration by doling out large campaign contributions and gifts such as meals at his restaurant, use of his skybox and trips abroad. Investigators are examining Abramoff's ties to former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, and House Administration Committee Chairman Bob Ney, R-Ohio, among other lawmakers.

In court documents released Tuesday as part of Abramoff's guilty plea, prosecutors described some of Abramoff's activities, including his alleged use of a side business to fraudulently funnel millions of dollars from lobbying clients to himself.

Abramoff, then employed by the Washington firm Greenberg Traurig, solicited Tyco as a Greenberg Traurig client for lobbying on a tax issue in May 2003, according to the court documents, which refer to Tyco only as "Company A," a manufacturing and services company.

Prosecutors say Abramoff recommended that the company hire both him and a public relations and campaign consulting firm called GrassRoots Interactive, but hid from Tyco that GrassRoots Interactive was his business.

"Additionally, Abramoff represented to Company A that he was negotiating on their behalf with GRI to try to save Company A money, when in fact he was simply setting a high price on services that he controlled and from which he would profit," the court documents say.

Tyco hired Abramoff and GrassRoots Interactive. In May and June 2003, Tyco paid GrassRoots Interactive, directly and through Greenberg Traurig's bank account, about $1.8 million, of which about $1.6 million went to Abramoff and entities he controlled, prosecutors say.

Unlike some of the Indian tribes Abramoff acknowledged defrauding, Tyco was not a newcomer to Washington politics.

Tyco has been a client of several lobbying firms over the years, including that of former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, R-Kan. The company also has been involved in campaign politics, giving several five-figure checks to national Republican and Democratic party committees when they were still allowed to accept corporate donations, a practice banned after the 2002 elections.

More recently, Tyco found itself in the middle of federal investigations into corporate corruption. Last year, Tyco's former chief executive, L. Dennis Kozlowski, and chief financial officer, Mark H. Swartz, were sentenced to prison for grand larceny, conspiracy, securities fraud and falsifying business records. They are accused of conspiring to defraud Tyco of millions of dollars to fund lavish lifestyles. Both are appealing their convictions.

In October, Tyco attorney Timothy E. Flanigan withdrew his nomination to be President Bush's deputy attorney general. Flanigan's confirmation was delayed due to questions about his dealings with Abramoff when Abramoff was a Tyco lobbyist.

On the Net:

Tyco International Ltd.:

Documents: room/press releases/2006 index.html 1

Sources: Prosecutors Look At Abramoff-Doolittle Ties - Yahoo! News

Washington D.C. lobbyist Jack Abramoff pleaded guilty in Florida Wednesday to charges of conspiracy and wire fraud, but the most serious charges surrounding Abramoff involve the accusations that he bribed a dozen members of Congress.

Prosecutors said they've worked out a plea bargain with Abramoff in which he could get less jail time if he starts naming names. One person that news reports have repeatedly linked to Abramoff is Rep. John Doolittle (news, bio, voting record) -- a Republican from Roseville.

Officials from Doolittle's office said Wednesday that he and Abramoff are friends. They pointed out that the congressman has not been charged with any crime. However, sources close to the investigation say Doolittle is one of the politicians that prosecutors will be focusing most closely on.

No one was available to comment at Doolittle's office in Granite Bay, but a spokesperson in Washington, D.C., said that Doolittle is encouraged that the investigation is moving forward.

"Because the faster the truth is revealed, the faster our constituents will know that Congressman Doolittle has done absolutely nothing wrong," said Doolittle spokeswoman Laura Blackann.

Campaign finance records show that Doolittle has received thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from Abramoff and his clients. Doolittle's wife, Julie, runs a business that was hired to plan an event for one of Abramoff's foundations. And Doolittle reportedly used Abramoff's skybox at a Washington sports arena.

Those connections may give federal prosecutors the beginnings of a case, according to political science professor John Syer.

"They can subpoena those people, and they can ask about the contacts and eventually say, 'Well, did any of the actions of the congressman change as a result of these ongoing relationships?'" Syer said.

First elected to congress in 1990, Doolittle is known as one of the house's most conservative members.

Fellow Republican Mike Holmes -- currently the mayor of Auburn -- plans to challenge Doolittle in a primary this summer. He said that the congressman's connections to Abramoff are already helping his campaign.

"Because people are starting to take a closer look at John Doolittle's record," Holmes said.

Congressmen and senators from both parties received money from Abramoff, as did President George W. Bush.

While none of the politicians is saying that the money amounted to bribes, several said they plan to give the money back or donate it to charity.

Doolittle's office said he has not yet decided if he will do the same. | 01/05/2006 | GOP leaders ridding themselves of money linked to Abramoff

By Mary Curtius, Janet Hook and John-Thor Dahlberg
Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON - From the Oval Office to Capitol Hill, prominent Republicans scrambled Wednesday to shed campaign contributions linked to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, as his guilty pleas in fraud and corruption cases opened a painful debate within the party over its leadership and direction.

President Bush, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, and DeLay's temporary successor in that post, Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., joined a lengthening list of politicians whose campaign committees have returned or donated to charities money they received from Abramoff, his associates and his clients.

More lawmakers were expected to follow suit in what was becoming a stampede by lawmakers to distance themselves from a lobbyist who once enjoyed easy access to Washington's corridors of power.

The cloud surrounding Abramoff grew Wednesday when he pleaded guilty in Miami to federal fraud charges arising from his purchase of SunCruz, a Florida gambling boat fleet. Tuesday, he pleaded guilty in Washington to three federal felonies stemming from his lobbying activities.

Anxieties on Capitol Hill are mounting because Abramoff -- once a key player in a lobbying project that DeLay built into a powerful tool to help maintain Republican majorities in the House and Senate -- is cooperating with federal prosecutors in a wide-ranging corruption investigation. The probe is focused on whether at least a half-dozen members of Congress and several aides traded legislative action in return for lavish trips, gifts and campaign contributions orchestrated by Abramoff.

Although some Democrats received Abramoff-linked contributions and favors, the lobbyist -- a Republican activist since college -- focused most of his attention on helping the GOP.

Records have shown he helped funnel at least $100,000 to Bush's re-election campaign. Tracey Schmitt, a press officer for the Republican National Committee, said Wednesday that the campaign had decided to donate to the American Heart Association $6,000 connected to Abramoff. She said that amount covered separate $2,000 donations from Abramoff, the lobbyist's wife and a Michigan Indian tribe he represented.

A representative of DeLay, who had close ties to Abramoff, announced he would donate $15,000 given to his campaign committee by Abramoff and his wife to charities in Texas.

A Frist representative said a $2,000 contribution from the Michigan Indians that Abramoff represented would be given back to the tribe, and Blunt's office said he would be donating $8,500 his campaign received in Abramoff-linked money to charity. | 01/05/2006 | Abramoff pleads guilty to bogus purchase of SunCruz Casinos fleet

Jack Abramoff pleaded guilty Wednesday to fraud charges stemming from his scandal-shrouded purchase of Dania Beach-based SunCruz Casinos.BY JAY WEAVERjweaver@MiamiHerald.comSporting a beige baseball cap, disgraced Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff blew into Miami for a few hours Wednesday to plead guilty to federal fraud charges stemming from his controversial purchase of a South Florida fleet of gambling ships.
Abramoff arrived in a black Lincoln Town Car accompanied by his two lawyers. He took the cap off during his plea hearing, then donned it again as he dashed out the side door of the Miami federal courthouse.
Standing outside the James Lawrence King Justice Building in Miami were a phalanx of reporters, photographers and TV cameramen.
On this day, the one-time powerful lobbyist's biggest worry was not facing U.S. District Judge Paul Huck, but avoiding the media mob.
''Mr. Abramoff almost got knocked over this morning as he was coming in,'' his attorney, Neal Sonnett, told the judge.
To avoid the media, Abramoff was allowed to take care of a presentencing matter in the courthouse instead of having to cross the street to meet with the court's probation office.
Abramoff's brief court appearance in Miami followed his guilty plea on Tuesday in a separate Washington public-corruption case -- a widening Justice Department investigation in which he is the star witness.
The lobbyist, once close to former Republican House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, is expected to name several lawmakers who received millions of dollars in campaign donations, luxury trips and gourmet meals from him and others in exchange for alleged legislative favors.
At his plea hearing in a Washington federal court Tuesday, Abramoff invoked God as he apologized for his corrupt dealings while representing Indian tribes that own casinos.
He wore a black fedora to the District of Columbia court hearing.
In Miami, Abramoff was mostly mum. He answered Huck's questions politely but did not express any remorse for conspiring with a business partner to defraud lenders in their $147.5 million purchase of Dania Beach-based SunCruz Casinos in 2000.
After the short hearing, Abramoff zipped out of the courthouse with his Washington lawyer Abbe Lowell to catch a flight back to the nation's capital.
Abramoff and New York businessman Adam Kidan were charged last summer with lying to lenders about putting up $23 million to qualify for a $60 million loan to seal the SunCruz deal. They never made the down payment, though they sent bogus documents to the lenders that showed they did.
The SunCruz deal allowed the partners to pay themselves $500,000 salaries and to divert $310,000 in SunCruz money for Washington-area sports sky boxes for GOP fundraisers.
''He will face the consequences of his actions,'' said interim U.S. Attorney R. Alexander Acosta, crediting South Florida prosecutors Lawrence LaVecchio, Paul Schwartz and Guy Singer along with FBI agent Susan Sprengel. ``He faces significant jail time.''
In the SunCruz case, Abramoff faces up to seven years in prison and must repay the lenders, but he is expected to get a stiffer sentence in the Washington case -- up to 11 years. His deal with federal prosecutors allows him to serve the time concurrently.
Abramoff, 46, is freeon a $2.25 million bond. A sentencing hearing is set for March 16. Kidan, 41, out on a $500,000 bond, pleaded guilty last month. He faces up to seven years in prison at his March 1 sentencing.
The SunCruz deal, since the beginning, has haunted the pair.
They originally met as young Republican activists in the 1980s when Abramoff was at Georgetown University Law Center and Kidan at George Washington University.
Years later, they teamed up to buy SunCruz from its founder, Konstantinos ''Gus'' Boulis, later executed in a mob-style hit.
To close the deal, Abramoff and Kidan needed to secure a loan. They contacted Foothill Capital, a California-based unit of Wells Fargo & Co. Joining Foothill in the financing was Citadel Equity Fund, based in the Cayman Islands.
Foothill and Citadel agreed to loan the Kidan-Abramoff group $60 million as long as they made an ''equity contribution'' of $23 million. The lenders later learned the partners had given Boulis promissory notes, not cash

The Seattle Times: Abramoff tribal clients donated thousands to state lawmakers

By Hal Bernton and Alicia Mundy
Seattle Times staff reporters

When it came to his own campaign contributions, lobbyist Jack Abramoff was a fierce partisan, shoveling more than $200,000 to Republican candidates and political groups since 1999, federal election records show.

But Abramoff's largely tribal clients had a more bipartisan approach to their giving. Their contributions included more than $34,000 to Sen. Patty Murray, and smaller donations to Sen. Maria Cantwell and three other Washington Democratic congressmen, records analyzed by the Center for Responsive Politics show. The center is a nonpartisan research group that tracks money in politics.

It is unclear, however, how much — if any — of this money was donated at the direction of Abramoff, who pleaded guilty this week to fraud and corruption charges. All the Washington Democrats who received the tribal money say they were never approached by Abramoff to do any favors for his clients and do not plan to return any of the donations.

"The contributions have come directly from the tribes to Sen. Murray," said Alex Glass, the senator's spokeswoman. "She's never had any contact with Abramoff."

Only one Washington state congressman, former Republican Rep. George Nethercutt of Spokane, received money directly from Abramoff since 1999. The lobbyist gave him $1,000 during Nethercutt's unsuccessful 2004 campaign to unseat Murray.

Nethercutt, now a lobbyist in Washington, D.C., also denies any knowledge of Abramoff's lobbying agenda. Nethercutt now works in a lobbying firm with Steven Griles, a former Interior Department official who testified in the Senate in November about his ties to Abramoff.

The campaign contributions to members of Washington state's delegation are part of a much broader flow of cash that is receiving new scrutiny following Abramoff's guilty plea to three felony charges on Tuesday and bank-fraud charges Wednesday. The Justice Department says Abramoff used campaign contributions, expensive trips, meals and entertainment as part of an illegal scheme to win influence for clients and his own business interests.

And Justice Department officials have made clear that now that Abramoff — as part of his plea — has agreed to cooperate, they will widen their investigation of Capitol Hill corruption.

During the past six years, more than $4.2 million in congressional campaign contributions came from tribes and casinos that — at least at some point during that time period — were clients of Abramoff. About $2.6 million of that money went to Republicans, and about $1.5 million to Democrats, the Center for Responsive Politics says.

Most of that money came from tribes with casino interests, which have become increasingly high-profile campaign contributors.

One major congressional contributor has been the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan. It employed Abramoff during a two-year period that ended in December 2003. During that time, the tribe gave more than $12,000 to Murray and a political-action committee she headed.

In an interview Wednesday, a Saginaw Chippewa tribal spokesman said the Murray contributions were not directed by Abramoff but reflected the senator's longtime record in support of tribal sovereignty.

The spokesman said the tribe donated to Murray before Abramoff went to work for the tribe and continued to give after the lobbyist left.

The Agua Caliente Band of the Cahuilla Indians in California was another contributor to Washington Democrats. Some of its money also was donated before Abramoff went to work for the tribe.

While Abramoff worked for the Agua Caliente Band, his lobby firm, Greenberg Traurig, did suggest which politicians should receive donations, said Steve Ross, a lawyer representing the tribe. But Abramoff wasn't the only lobbyist directing the tribe's contributions, Ross said. Some recommendations also came from a Greenberg Traurig lobbyist who worked with Democrats.

According to a review of lobbying records and federal campaign contributions, tribes while under contract with Abramoff donated $3,000 to Cantwell. An aide to Cantwell said that money was a small part of much larger contributions from tribes that rallied around the senator before and after she successfully toppled Republican Sen. Slade Gorton in 2000. Many tribes thought Gorton's policy positions would weaken tribal sovereignty.

Tribes that contracted with Abramoff also contributed $2,000 or less to Reps. Adam Smith, D-Tacoma; Norm Dicks, D-Bremerton, and Jay Inslee, D-Bainbridge Island.

The three congressmen all say they had no dealings with Abramoff.

"Before this story broke, I never even knew that he existed," Smith said. "These were legitimate campaign contributions." | 01/05/2006 | In Abramoff scandal, lobbying's dark side


Lobbyist Jack Abramoff's guilty plea has been anticipated for months, but it still landed in the nation's capital like the detonation of a bomb.

Suddenly, members of Congress were returning donations and distancing themselves from Abramoff, the flamboyant lobbyist who took influence peddling to new heights. No wonder. His guilty pleas to fraud, tax evasion and conspiracy to bribe public officials could unravel the system of money for favors that fuels Washington politics. When the dust settles, a half-dozen or more lawmakers could be implicated and possibly charged.

Serious reforms

While lawmakers closest to Abramoff looked for ways to put a positive spin on their association with him, others tried to detach themselves by finding reason to support legislation for more restrictions on, and greater disclosure by, lobbyists -- legislation that many of them heretofore have shunned. We applaud the sentiment, even as we look askance at the timing. This time, however, Congress should enact serious reforms that make the relationship between lobbyists and lawmakers transparent and accountable.

This would mean full and immediate disclosure by the clients lobbyists represent, the issues they are pushing and all of the favors -- meals, entertainment, sports tickets, travel, etc. -- that they provide to politicians, political staff and relevant government employees in pursuit of their goals. Serious reform would mean that lobbyists disclose not only the checks that they give to candidates and politicians but also the total contributions they are responsible for through cajoling, parties, fund raising and other activities.

Although previous attempts at reform of Washington-style lobbying have either failed or resulted in weak laws, the Abramoff scandal is likely to prompt a raft of new legislation. One reason is that, as an insider who is now playing for the other team, Abramoff is expected to describe in explicit detail how he offered favors in return for access to politicians, favorable consideration of bills, support for his clients' issues or actual votes.

Credibility on the line

Prosecutors only rarely are able to win cooperation from as big and well-connected an insider as Mr. Abramoff. This is why successful prosecution and conviction of elected officials who sell their offices is so difficult.

Abramoff admits that he defrauded some of his clients of millions of dollars, evaded income taxes and conspired to bribe lawmakers and their staff. His revelations and testimony will put a spotlight on a seamy aspect of politics that Americans know exist but who are not privy to the details.

Congress' credibility is on the line. This time, it should really clean house. A whitewash won't do.

Update 10: GOP Politicians Dump Abramoff Donations -

By MICHAEL J. SNIFFEN , 01.05.2006, 03:48 AM

As politicians led by President Bush scrambled to ditch campaign contributions from disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich cautioned Republicans they risk losing control of congressional majorities if they try to put all the blame on lobbyists.

"You can't have a corrupt lobbyist unless you have a corrupt member (of Congress) or a corrupt staff. This was a team effort," Gingrich told a Rotary Club lunch in Washington on Wednesday. He called for systematic changes to reduce the enormous financial advantages that incumbents have in congressional elections.

As head of a conservative movement based on ethics concerns and promises to curb federal growth, Gingrich led the GOP in 1994 to its first House majority in 42 years. But he decided to resign in 1998 when Republicans lost seats a year after Gingrich himself was fined $300,000 for violating House rules barring the use of tax-exempt foundations for political purposes.

He said the GOP leaders, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., and House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., need to resist mere "lobbyist bashing" and push campaign finance changes, along with smaller and more effective government.

"If they intend to retain a majority, then ... they need to take the lead in saying to the country we need to clean this mess up," Gingrich told reporters. "But any effort to push this under the rug, to say this is just one bad apple: That's baloney."

So far the primary response by politicians has been to separate themselves from campaign contributions they took from Abramoff or Indian tribes he represented - either by returning them or donating them to charity.

In just the two days since Abramoff pleaded guilty Tuesday in Washington to three federal felonies, more than 40 elected federal officials have given up Abramoff donations, joining a dozen who did so last year.

This week's list was headed by Republicans Bush, Frist, Hastert, House Majority Leader Roy Blunt of Missouri and former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas, who faces legal problems of his own. But some Democrats joined in, including Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York.

Republicans dominated the list - not surprising given that Abramoff, a friend of DeLay's, gave far more to them than to Democrats.

The scandal's effect on the 2006 election was on the mind of many who jettisoned the donations.

"I wish it hadn't happened because it's not going to help us keep our majority," conceded Rep. Ralph Regula, R-Ohio.

As Abramoff pleaded guilty to a second set of felony charges Wednesday, this time in Florida, officials said Bush's 2004 re-election campaign intended to give up $6,000 in donations from the lobbyist, his wife and a client.

A spokeswoman for Blunt, Burson Taylor, said, "While we firmly believe the contributions were legal at the time of receipt, the plea indicates that such contributions may not have been given in the spirit in which they were received."

Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, under federal investigation over his links to Abramoff, joined in the rush.

The Republican scramble to shed cash that once was eagerly sought underscored the potential political problem the party faces in this election year.

Gingrich told reporters he thinks Republicans should elect a permanent replacement for DeLay. In addition to links with Abramoff, the Texan is battling campaign finance charges in his home state of Texas but hopes to regain his leadership post.

Regula, who came to Congress in 1973 and survived post-Watergate elections that crippled his party, said the implications of the Abramoff plea deals could be devastating for the GOP. "I was in the minority for 22 years and the majority for 11, and having tried it both ways, I definitely prefer the majority."

Frist issued a statement placing ethics issues on the Senate agenda for the year. He said he intends to "examine and act on any necessary changes to improve transparency and accountability for our body when it comes to lobbying."

For their part, House Democrats signaled they intend to make ethics an element in their drive to gain a majority in next fall's elections.

"It's more important for these Republicans to come clean with the American people about ... what (they) did for Jack Abramoff and his special interest friends in return for those campaign contributions," said Sarah Feinberg, a spokeswoman for the House Democratic campaign organization.

Associated Press Special Correspondent David Espo contributed to this story.


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