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

Friday, January 06, 2006

'Friends' of Jack Abramoff - Countdown with Keith Olbermann -

List of who may be implicated in scandal could be extensive

Updated: 11:28 a.m. ET Jan. 6, 2006

That the Bush White House would even want the media focusing on how it is doing in Iraq perhaps a sign of just how much it does not want anyone talking about Jack Abramoff.

Jack Abramoff has already pled guilty and many politicians, including President Bush, are rushing to return money linked to the disgraced former lobbyist. In Mr. Bush‘s case, donating $6,000 of the total of $300 million he raised in 2004 to the American Heart Association. How many Mr. Abramoff could donate to some sort of fund of his own is debatable, “The Wall Street Journal” reporting that the lobbyist has said he has information that could implicate 60 of them.

One of the names on the byline of that article, “The Wall Street Journal” reporter Brody Mullins, joined Keith Olbermann on Countdown to offer his take on who may eventually be linked to the Abramoff scandal.

To read an excerpt from their conversation, continue to the text below. To watch the video, click on the "Launch" button to the right.

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST 'COUNTDOWN': Is there reason to believe Mr. Abramoff when he says he has information that could implicate 60 lawmakers? I mean, the number has been mentioned below 20 in some listings.

BRODY MULLINS, REPORTER, “THE WALL STREET JOURNAL”: Probably not. I mean, that‘s Jack Abramoff saying that he thinks that he can implicate 60 members, the idea that he‘s trying to get his jail term down as low as possible from the beginning of 60 to 70 years, he‘s got it down to 10 years. I think the idea is that if he can talk a big game about how he can bring down a lot of members of Congress and provide that information to the Justice Department, that he may be able to get an even lighter sentence.

OLBERMANN: Even the casual political observer might note that lobbyists paying for trips and for meals, for tickets to events, to make campaign contributions, that happens more or less constantly, maybe 24 hours a day, in Washington. What is it that makes the Abramoff case noteworthy and different?

MULLINS: Right. Mr. Abramoff, Jack Abramoff, did a lot of really what most lobbyists do in D.C., he just did it, everything to an extreme. Instead of taking someone to play golf at Congressional Country Club around here in D.C., he would bring them to Scotland. Instead of giving a few thousand dollars in donations, he would recruit all of his clients and of his friends to give $100,000 in donations to someone.

So the Justice Department is really going after these extreme cases, not bringing someone to a Redskins game out here at FedEx field, but flying somebody to the Super Bowl.

OLBERMANN: Are we looking at something along the lines of Abscam here, at least the dimension of it? Does the scale of this seem to compare to the scale of that?

MULLINS: It could be about the same size, maybe a little smaller, maybe a little bigger. It looks like the Justice Department is probably going after two to four, maybe six, members of Congress, perhaps in total two dozen people, including staffers.

But I don‘t know if they‘re going to send staffers to jail. They just want staffers to flip on their former bosses in order to nail some members.

OLBERMANN: And speaking of that, the members, is this, in fact, going to wind up being bipartisan, the prosecutions? I mean, there are many Democrats who also have seemed to have been on Abramoff‘s money-dispensing list. Does it reflect equally poorly on both sides of the political aisle?

MULLINS: There‘s no doubt that this is a Republican scandal. Politically, Democrats may have a little more difficulty saying that Congress was corrupt if they were also taking these trips, and their staffers have been hired by Jack Abramoff. But at the end of the day, this is a Republican scandal.

OLBERMANN: The race to return funds from him, or to donate them to charity, our show “HARDBALL” was running a crawl of the returns earlier today.

MULLINS: right.

OLBERMANN: And it looked like a list of donations to a local telethon or school closings during a snowstorm. Behind the comedic aspect of that, what is this, what is the race to get rid of the cash all about?

MULLINS: Well, it‘s fascinating. Members are giving back campaign contributions today faster than USC was giving back fourth-quarter leads yesterday. But it seems like people are trying to distance themselves. No one wants to be tarred by Abramoff. More than 200 lawmakers have gotten money from him, and now they‘re all trying to give it back, to act like they never knew the guy.

OLBERMANN: And the last question has to be this—what seems like a piece of trivia, but everyone has commented on it. Is there any explanation regarding the big black hat that he wore in Washington Tuesday, and the baseball cap that he wore in Florida yesterday?

MULLINS: It‘s already next year‘s best Halloween costume.


MULLINS: It‘s just a few months too early.

OLBERMANN: It‘s a little like Boris Badinov from the cartoons.

NIGA Responds to Abramoff's Guilty Plea

WASHINGTON, D.C. – (PRESS RELEASE) -- The National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA) is issuing a formal statement regarding Jack Abramoff's guilty plea agreement on Federal charges of conspiracy, mail fraud and tax evasion.

"It is indeed sad and very wrong that Mr. Abramoff violated the trust of so many. He violated the trust of not only Indian tribes, but also politicians, banks and major corporations, charitable organizations, a Federal territory, his own law firm and the public. Tribal governments, like state and local governments, seek the assistance of lawyers and professionals to protect their government rights and further the legitimate goals of tribal communities. Mr. Abramoff was a member of a major national law firm, and his clients, both Indian and non-Indian, were entitled to the highest standard of professional conduct," said NIGA Chairman Ernest L. Stevens, Jr.

"The United States has a trust responsibility to protect Indian tribes. We are confident that the Justice Department will prosecute Mr. Abramoff and other offenders like Mr. Scanlon, who knowingly conspired with him, to the full extent of the law, and we fully support the Department's efforts," said Stevens.

"Abramoff's conviction makes clear that there is a legal framework in place to protect Indian tribes from fraud. As the court ordered, the tribes that were injured by his fraud deserve to be compensated."

The National Indian Gaming Association is a non-profit trade association comprised of 184 American Indian Nations and other non-voting associate members. The mission of NIGA is to advance the lives of Indian people - economically, socially and politically. NIGA operates as a clearinghouse and educational, legislative and public policy resource for tribes, policymakers and the public on Indian gaming issues, sovereignty and tribal community development.

Abramoff Conviction Gives New Impetus to Moves in Congress to Toughen Curbs on Lobbying - New York Times

WASHINGTON, Jan. 5 - The criminal conviction of the high-powered lobbyist Jack Abramoff is giving new impetus to Congressional initiatives to toughen restrictions on lobbying as Republicans and Democrats vie to establish their credentials on a potentially potent election-year issue.

Both parties are preparing to roll out lobbying reform proposals in the aftermath of Mr. Abramoff's guilty plea to public corruption charges. They are considering a variety of ideas certain to draw resistance from the lobbying community and other lawmakers.

"These are tough changes, and some of them will be quite controversial among our colleagues here," Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, Democrat of Connecticut, said Thursday as he endorsed a plan developed by Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, after his hearings into Mr. Abramoff's bilking of Indian tribes through a lobbying operation.

The plan by Mr. McCain, a chief author of changes in campaign finance law, is one of a handful that have been percolating behind the scenes for weeks.

Now that the Abramoff inquiry has exploded, those plans are unlikely to be quietly shelved. Lawmakers are eager to show that Congress is willing to crack down on practices that have become business as usual in a city increasingly driven by campaign contributions and cozy relationships.

"I will be working with colleagues this session to examine and act on any necessary changes to improve transparency and accountability for our body when it comes to lobbying," said Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee, the majority leader, who late last year assigned a colleague to begin exploring new regulations on lobbying.

Democrats say Mr. Frist and other Republican leaders are latecomers to the call for changes, noting that Democrats in the House and Senate introduced proposals in the spring and summer only to be treated dismissively by Republicans. And they say they are skeptical that proposals from the Republican leadership will be sufficiently tough.

"Congressional Democrats have been pushing to clean up Congress since long before the indictments started coming down on the culture of corruption," John Lapp, executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said Thursday. "We continue to wait for Republicans to join us."

House Democrats announced Thursday that 120 Democratic lawmakers now back a proposed overhaul of House rules that would prohibit any lobbyist involvement in paying for travel of members of Congress. That change follows disclosures that Mr. Abramoff funneled money through organizations to underwrite lavish trips for Republican lawmakers like Representatives Tom DeLay of Texas and Bob Ney of Ohio. Those men say they were unaware of Mr. Abramoff's ruse.

House and Senate Democratic leaders plan to unveil extensive lobbying changes later this month. Like other proposals, they would extend the prohibition on lobbying of Congress by former lawmakers and staff members to two years from one, eliminate floor privileges for former members who are registered lobbyists and put new limits on gifts and Congressional travel. Penalties for violations would be significantly increased.

The McCain measure that Mr. Lieberman is backing would take similar steps, including requiring lawmakers to disclose employment negotiations that could pose a conflict - an area of controversy in recent years as lawmakers and senior aides left Capitol Hill to work for industries formerly under their legislative jurisdiction.

The proposal would institute extensive requirements for financial disclosures by lobbyists. It would also require lawmakers to pay the true costs of flying on private jets owned by outside interests rather than reimbursing the jets' owners at first-class travel rates as is now the practice.

Mr. Lieberman said he believed that new public disclosure of lobbyist activities could curtail some abuse though he acknowledged, as some outside watchdog groups have asserted, that lack of enforcement of current rules by the Congressional ethics committees is an issue.

"I think it's a reasonable question to ask about the work of the ethics committees," he said.

Senior Republican aides in the House and Senate said their proposals were still being assembled and negotiated among lawmakers, but they promised that the measures would have teeth.

"The leader expects a serious and credible lobby reform proposal for the Senate," said Eric Ueland, chief of staff to Mr. Frist, "and the ideas proposed to date fit that bill to bring more transparency and accountability to the lobbying world."

Members of both parties say it is likely some legislation will be enacted, particularly with elections coming up in November and with public regard for Congress at a low in public opinion polls.

"The Congress needs to respond," said Representative Zach Wamp, Republican of Tennessee.


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