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

Thursday, January 12, 2006

GOP Group to Donate Abramoff-Related Funds

The Associated Press
Thursday, January 12, 2006; 3:21 AM

BOSTON -- Days after calling on his party to exhibit higher ethical standards, the chairman of the Republican Governors Association said his group will donate to charity $500,000 in campaign contributions linked to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Gov. Mitt Romney, a potential 2008 presidential candidate, said Wednesday the association will give the money to American Red Cross chapters in five hurricane-ravaged states.

"When influence peddling is alleged, a political institution like the Republican Governors Association wants to be above any possible shadow of complicity," the governor said Wednesday in an interview with The Associated Press.

The move allows Romney and the association to avoid questions about the contributions while they are trying to help Republican governors win elections in 36 states this fall.

The Republican Governors Association received the $500,000 in October 2002 from a public affairs company owned by Michael Scanlon, Abramoff's business partner.

Scanlon, like Abramoff, has pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges as part of a federal probe of influence peddling on Capitol Hill. President Bush, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and House Speaker Dennis Hastert _ all Republicans _ have already given charities sums equal to donations they received from Abramoff or his associates.

Nationally known groups including the Salvation Army and American Heart Association as well as organizations such as shelter for battered women in Colorado, will share more than $430,000 in now-unwanted campaign contributions from Abramoff and his associates.

Romney said an internal review, triggered by questions about the donations from the AP, deemed the donations legal. But he and Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, the association's vice chairman, decided not to keep the money.

Romney on Monday urged his party to emerge from what he termed its "ethical scandal" by seeking resignations of top leaders associated with Abramoff, and by pushing for a line-item budget veto. He said that would allow the president to eliminate special-interest spending supported by lobbyists.

Romney, who gained national prominence for his work to repair the scandal-ridden 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, announced last month that he would not seek re-election this fall and has already visited early-voting Iowa and New Hampshire.

Romney also said he would continue to travel on corporate aircraft, as he did in December when he flew to a governors association meeting on a Gulfstream jet owned by Pfizer Inc., the pharmaceutical firm. Massachusetts is currently debating a health care overhaul, although Romney said Pfizer is not a party to the deliberations and the use of the plane was legal.

"I'm not going to propose to you a new series of laws," he said. "But I can say the best efforts in campaign finance reform to date seem to have driven money into secret corners, and it's had unintended consequences."

Scripps Howard News Service | California tribes worried about fallout from Abramoff affair

Sacramento Bee

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. -- California tribal leaders, including the chairman of a Indian band that paid $10 million to disgraced Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his associates, said Wednesday that they were victimized by the corruption scandal and now fear they may lose political clout.

Abramoff, a powerful lobbyist who raked in millions on dollars to represent interests of Indian gaming tribes, pleaded guilty on charges of conspiracy to commit bribery for doling out lavish vacations, golfing trips and other perks, including jobs for family members, to members of Congress.

The tribes have become major political players in Washington and in state capitals as Indian gambling has flourished and they pushed for casino expansions. They now believe the money they paid Abramoff was diverted from their core interests.

On Wednesday, the specter of the Abramoff scandal dominated discussions on the opening day of a Palm Springs annual conference of the California Nations Indian Gaming Association, the state's leading tribal gaming group.

And one tribal leader, Richard Milanovich, chairman of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians in Riverside County, went so far as to apologize to other tribes for having worked with the disgraced lobbyist.

"It really pains me, hurts me to know that this falls on all of us and is affecting all of Indian country," Milanovich, whose tribe directed $10 million through Milanovich for lobbying services, told representatives of dozens of other tribes gathered at the tribal gaming convention. "We apologize to all of your people."

In the opening address to the conference, Anthony Miranda, chairman of the California Nations Indian Gaming Association and a member of the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians, said he fears the scandal may close the doors of Congress to both gaming an non-gaming tribes that want their issues heard.

"The same people who want to take away our rights are those who will use the disgraceful acts of . . . Abramoff to advance their cause," Miranda said. "This man violated the trust of members of congress, Indian tribes, banks, major corporations and charitable organizations."

As a result, Miranda said Indian tribes should consider bypassing Washington's lobbying establishment, saying: "Now, more than ever, it is vital, absolutely vital, that tribal leaders be the ones to walk the halls of Congress themselves."

But that may not be easy.

"That guy (Abramoff) has done an awful lot of damage to Indian tribes," said former two-term Colorado Senator Ben "Nighthorse" Campbell, who now works for a prominent law firm representing gaming tribes. "What happened in (Washington) D.C. is that a lot of people who were very helpful toward Indian tribes are now scared to death to deal with them.

"But one person _ Abramoff _ was the perpetrator and the tribes were the victims."

In his plea agreement, Abramoff, who at times represented tribes with competing gaming interests, admitted that he lied to his clients and over charged them by tens of millions of dollars. He could face up to 30 years in prison, but federal prosecutors have indicated they will reduce the sentence by as much as two-thirds in exchange for his cooperation in a continuing investigation of members of Congress.

Despite Miranda's call for Indian tribes to shun lobbyists and represent themselves in the halls of Congress, the Congressional Quarterly Weekly newspaper reported that many of Abramoff's former clients _ including the Mississippi Band of Choctaws, the Hope and the Mashpee Wampanoag tribes _ are lining up to sign on with new lobbying firms on Capitol Hill.

"We have to maintain lobbyists," said Milanovich, who said Wednesday his tribe is going through a "cleansing process" of reflection in the wake of the scandal. "We need a presence in Washington. We're no different than a steel company or a pharmaceutical company that has lobbyists in Washington. But we will just be much more diligent on who we are retaining to represent us."


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