Jack Abramoff's 'Cesspool of Corruption'
Update: links to stories about Abramoff’s funneling of charity funds for inner-city youths to ultra-left-wing Jewish groups fighting the Palestinian uprising.Or, jump straight to the constantly updated list of Abramoff-related news stories.
Top Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff is set to sing, and his long list of former buddies in Congress and the Bush administration are quaking in anticipation of possible indictments stemming from the consummate Beltway hustler’s crass reign as the king of K Street.
“Casino Jack,” a former head of the College Republicans and a “Pioneer”-grade fundraiser for the Bush 2000 campaign, pleaded guilty to three felony counts of conspiracy, mail fraud and tax evasion in D.C. yesterday and is set to appear in Florida today to plead guilty to fraud and conspiracy on separate charges. Abramoff and other defendants also must repay over $25 million to defrauded clients and $1.7 million to the IRS.
But most important for the nation is that Abramoff is now detailing the massive web of corruption he spun inside the Beltway which has already snared a top Bush official, procurement chief David H. Safavian, on charges of lying and obstructing a criminal investigation, and reportedly threatens dozens of other D.C. players.
“When this is all over, this will be bigger than any [government scandal] in the last 50 years, both in the amount of people involved and the breadth to it,” Stan Brand, a former U.S. House counsel who specializes in representing public officials accused of wrongdoing, told Bloomberg News. “It will include high-ranking members of Congress and executive branch officials.”
Some of the Wild West feel of this Beltway corruption was captured in Saturday’s Washington Post expose, “The DeLay-Abramoff Money Trail.” It documents in chilling detail how, among other scams, Abramoff funneled a portion of the millions he had been skimming from Indian casino operators with a cool million from two Russian energy moguls through a shell organization called the U.S. Family Network — and from there into the coffers of politicians in a position to help his clients.
Ironically touting its commitment to “moral fitness” for the nation, the front group with the multimillion-dollar budget had a single staff member housed in the backroom of a capital townhouse it owned and rented out to other organizations linked to Abramoff and Tom DeLay–the latter’s staffers called it, ominously, DeLay’s “safe house.” This is apparently why DeLay felt the need to tout the U.S. Family Network in a 1999 fundraising letter as “a powerful nationwide organization dedicated to restoring our government to citizen control.”
It was run by Edwin A. Buckham, DeLay’s former chief of staff, whose lobbying firm, the Alexander Strategy Group, carried DeLay’s wife Christine on its payroll. But the moral “fitness” of such cronyism pales in comparison to the scandal of how Abramoff drummed up support for his varied clients under the cover of conservative morality.
For example, in order to block the ambitions of a rival tribe to the Choctaw Indians, who had paid Abramoff millions, the U.S. Family Network sent a mailing to Alabama residents warning shrilly: “The American family is under attack from all sides: crime, drugs, pornography, and one of the least talked about but equally as destructive – gambling. We need your help today to prevent the Poarch Creek Indians from building casinos in Alabama.” The letter conveniently failed to mention, however, that the U.S. Family Network had received at least $250,000 from the gambling proceeds of the Choctaws.
In another scam detailed in the Post story (which could be quickly optioned by Hollywood for a thriller), players in the mafia-dominated Russian energy industry slid a cool $1 million payment through a now-defunct London law firm into the U.S. Family Network’s account – which was, de facto, a slush fund for the Abramoff-DeLay network.
Citing the Rev. Christopher Geeslin, who served as a titular leader of the U.S. Family Network, the Post reported that Buckham told the reverend the payment was intended to secure DeLay’s support on legislation forcing the International Monetary Fund to bail out the faltering Russian economy without demanding the country raise taxes on its energy and other profitable industries. Right on cue, DeLay found his way onto Fox News Sunday to take up the Russian’s viewpoint: “They are trying to force Russia to raise taxes at a time when they ought to be cutting taxes in order to get a loan from the IMF,” he said. “That’s just outrageous.” The IMF backed down.
This is just an initial peek into the sordid world being revealed by Abramoff and two of his key cronies now spilling the beans to federal investigators. But in the bigger picture, what we are witnessing is the death throes of the GOP “revolution” which once promised to restore morality to Washington but instead sank far deeper into the cesspool of corruption.
More Truthdig Opinion by Robert Scheer
Tonto’s RevengeDec. 07, 2005
| “The outrageous rip-off of Native American tribes by a top Republican lobbyist is leading inexorably to a reckoning for the allegedly morally superior religious and political right.” more
Mr. Abramoff Goes to Washington
- Cheney policy advisors Ron Christie and Stephen Ruhlen
- Former Attorney General John Ashcroft
- White House intergovernmental affairs chief Ruben Barrales
- U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick
- Deputy Interior Secretary Steven Griles
The White House has tried hard to distance itself from Abramoff in the wake of the allegations against him. White House spokeswoman Erin Healy told the Associated Press in May that Bush did not consider Abramoff a friend. “They may have met on occasion, but the president does not know him,” she said.
That may be, but, as the AP reported, Abramoff’s cultivation of President Bush dates as far back as 1997, when the lobbyist secured the then Texas Governor’s support for an issue related to the Marianas islands. Abramoff was also a $100,000-plus fundraiser (a so-called “Pioneer) for Bush, and the AP noted that Mr. Abramoff and his lobbying team logged “nearly 200 contacts with the new administration.”
According to the AP, those contacts included:
In addition, at least two people who worked for Abramoff “wound up with Bush administration jobs: Patrick Pizzella, named an assistant secretary of labor by Bush; and David Safavian, chosen by Bush to oversee federal procurement policy in the Office of Management and Budget.”
Jack Abramoff’s Career OverviewTimeline
| The Washington Post’s timeline of Abramoff’s career. more
Lobbyist’s Downfall Leads to Charities’ WindfallJan. 06, 2006
The “New York Times” allows you to follow the money on Abramoff and the folks he scammed and corrupted. | more
Abramoff Reached Beyond the Limits
Jan. 04, 2006 | The Los Angeles Times chronicles Abramoff’s early years, stretching as far back as 1972, when, in his high school’s race for student council president, Abramoff was disqualified for exceeding an election spending cap. more
Abramoff Pleads Guity To Second Set of Fraud Charges
Jan. 04, 2006 | “Once-powerful lobbyist Jack Abramoff completed the second half of his plea deal with the government Wednesday by admitting to conspiracy and wire fraud charges stemming from his 2000 purchase of a gambling boat fleet,” the Associated Press reports.
The Money Trail: Many Millions in Kickbacks From Tribes
Jan. 4, 2006 | The New York Times details how Abramoff amassed over $20 million from Indian tribes in five states over just three years. more
Abramoff Pleads Guilty, Will Make Deal
Jan. 3, 2006 | Abramoff pleads guilty to federal charges of conspiracy, tax evasion and mail fraud, agreeing to cooperate in a corruption investigation that could rock the Republican Congressional leadersip. more
Lobbyist Nears Terms on Plea Deal
Dec. 22, 2005 | Anne E. Kornblut reported for The New York Times: “Jack Abramoff, the Republican lobbyist under indictment for fraud in South Florida, is expected to complete a plea agreement in the Miami criminal case, setting the stage for him to become a crucial witness in a broad federal corruption investigation, people with direct knowledge of the case said.” more
Lobbyist’s Ex-Associate Pleads Guilty to Fraud
Dec. 16, 2005 | John-Thor Dahlburg of the L.A. Times wrote: ” A former business associate of Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff pleaded guilty Thursday to fraud and conspiracy charges related to a deal to buy a fleet of Florida-based gambling boats, the latest twist in a federal inquiry that has reached to Congress.” more
President Says DeLay Is Not Guilty of Money Laundering
Dec. 15, 2005 | Jim VandeHei reported for the Washington Post, “President Bush said yesterday he is confident that former House majority leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) is innocent of money-laundering charges, as he offered strong support for several top Republicans who have been battered by investigations or by rumors of fading clout inside the White House.” more
Plea Deal Near With 2nd Abramoff Associate: Kidan Has Agreed to Cooperate in Probes
Dec. 9, 2005 | Susan Schmidt and James V. Grimaldi of the Washington Post reported: “Federal prosecutors have all but finalized a plea agreement with a second business partner of former lobbyist Jack Abramoff in exchange for cooperation in the ongoing criminal investigations of Abramoff, congressional aides and Rep. Robert W. Ney (R-Ohio), lawyers in the case said yesterday.” more
Records Show Burns’ Abramoff Meetings
Dec. 7, 2005 | The Associated Press reported: “Sen. Conrad Burns and his staff met Jack Abramoff’s lobbying team on at least eight occasions and collected $12,000 in donations around the time that the lawmaker took legislative action favorable to Abramoff’s clients in the Northern Mariana Islands, records show.”
In a Season of Scandals, Ethics Panels Are on Sidelines
Dec. 5, 2005 | Jeffrey H. Birnbaum of the Washington Post reported: “The House ethics committee, the panel responsible for upholding the chamber’s ethics code, has been virtually moribund for the past year, handling only routine business despite a wave of federal investigations into close and potentially illegal relationships between lawmakers and lobbyists.” more
Senator Byron Dorgan, Leader of Indian Lobbying Investigation, Admits to Collecting Gifts from Abramoff Client
Dec. 3, 2005 | John Solomon and Sharon Theimer of the Associated Press reported: “The Democrat helping to lead the Senate investigation into Jack Abramoff’s Indian lobbying had his own connections to the controversial lobbyist’s team and clients, including using his sports arena skybox to raise money.” more
Doolittle and Abramoff Connections
Dec. 2, 2005| The Sacramento Bee reported: “The Wall Street Journal and Washington Post have reported that investigators and prosecutors in the U.S. Justice Department’s public integrity and fraud divisions are looking into disgraced Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff’s dealings with four lawmakers. One of them is Rep. John Doolittle, a Republican from Rocklin, Calif. (The others are former House Majority Leader DeLay, Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, and Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont.)” more
Lobbyist’s Role in Hiring Aides Is Investigated
Dec. 2, 2005 | Anne Kornblum reported for The New York Times: “With a federal corruption case intensifying, prosecutors investigating Jack Abramoff, the Republican lobbyist, are examining whether he brokered lucrative jobs for Congressional aides at powerful lobbying firms in exchange for legislative favors, people involved in the case have said.” more
The Plot Thickens
Nov. 28, 2005 | Karen Tumulty and Massimo Clabresi of CNN report: “How far will it go? That’s what many nervous officials in Washington are wondering as they brace for what is showing signs of becoming the biggest influence-peddling scandal in decades. An investigation that began nearly two years ago into whether lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his associate Michael Scanlon bilked six Indian tribes out of $80 million now looks as though it could touch dozens of lawmakers, their current and former staff members and Bush Administration officials.” more
Under Scrutiny in Probe of Lobbyist
Nov. 26, 2005 | Ney, DeLay and the Abramoff connection. Susan Schmidt and James V. Grimaldi of The Washington Post report: “The Justice Department’s wide-ranging investigation of former lobbyist Jack Abramoff has entered a highly active phase as prosecutors are beginning to move on evidence pointing to possible corruption in Congress and executive branch agencies, lawyers involved in the case said.” more
Questions on Campaign Fundraising
Nov. 25, 2005 | Carl Hulse of The New York Times writes: “The American system of underwriting political campaigns is often derided as legalized bribery. Now the Justice Department is contending that it can amount to illegal bribery as well.” more
Lawmakers Who Wrote Letters, Got Money
Nov. 17, 2005 | The Associated Press reported: “The 33 lawmakers who wrote letters urging the Bush administration to reject a Louisiana Indian casino as they collected political money from rival tribes, their lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his associates between 2001 and 2004.” See the list
Lobbyist Sought $9 Million to Set Bush Meeting
Nov. 11, 2005 | Philip Shenon of The New York Times reported: “The lobbyist Jack Abramoff asked for $9 million in 2003 from the president of a West African nation to arrange a meeting with President Bush and directed his fees to a Maryland company now under federal scrutiny, according to newly disclosed documents.” more
Abramoff Indicted in Casino Boat Purchase
Aug. 12, 2005| James V. Grimaldi reports for The Washington Post: “Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff and a business partner were indicted by a federal grand jury in Fort Lauderdale on Thursday, charged with five counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy in their purchase of a fleet of Florida gambling boats from a businessman who was later killed in a gangland-style hit….” more
Controversial lobbyist had close contact with Bush team
May 6, 2005 | The Associated Press reported: “In President Bush’s first 10 months, GOP fundraiser Jack Abramoff and his lobbying team logged nearly 200 contacts with the new administration as they pressed for friendly hires at federal agencies and sought to keep the Northern Mariana Islands exempt from the minimum wage and other laws, records show….The records from Abramoff’s firm, obtained by The Associated Press from the Marianas under an open records request, chronicle Abramoff’s careful cultivation of relations with Bush’s political team as far back as 1997.” more
Possible Defense: “Don’t Scapegoat My Client”
May 5, 2005 | A preview of the defense? Abbe Lowell, attorney to Jack Abramoff wrote this opinion piece for USA Today back in May 2005 relating to his client’s dealings with Indian tribes and SunCruz casinos. (Hat tip to reader John Stevenson for pointing out this piece)
Jack Abramoff: The friend Tom DeLay can’t shake
April 7, 2005| James Harding writes for Slate: “Where to begin examining the extraordinary career of Jack Abramoff? His work trying to secure a visa for the great Zairian kleptocrat Mobutu Sese Seko, perhaps, or the bilking of an estimated $66 million out of Native American tribes, clients he described as “monkeys,” “troglodytes,” and “idiots”? Or his leadership of a 1980s think tank financed, unbeknownst to him apparently, by the intelligence arm of South Africa’s apartheid regime?” more
Foundation’s Funds Diverted From Mission
Sept. 28, 2004 | R. Jeffrey Smith, writing in the Washington Post, details how Abramoff channelled nearly $6 million into a charity for purportedly inner-city youths, and spent the money on unrelated political causes, a short-lived religious school and an overseas golf trip, among other things. more
| David E. Rosenbaum reported for The New York Times: ” In the last six months of 2001, the Coushatta Indians, a tribe with 800 members and a large casino in southwest Louisiana, paid $1.76 million to the law firm of Jack Abramoff, a Republican lobbyist here. Last month, the Bush administration handed the tribe a big victory by blocking construction of a casino by a rival tribe that would have drained off much of the Coushattas’ business.” more
INDICTMENTS, PLEA BARGAINS AND LEGAL DOCUMENTS
| Plea Agreement (pdf): Pete Yost of the Associated Press reported: “Michael Scanlon, a former partner to lobbyist Jack Abramoff, pleaded guilty Monday to conspiring to bribe public officials, a charge growing out of the government investigation of attempts to defraud Indian tribes and corrupt a member of Congress. Scanlon, a former aide to Rep. Tom DeLay, entered the plea before U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle and agreed to pay restitution totaling more than $19 million to the tribes. Scanlon, who is expected to cooperate in the investigation of Abramoff and members of Congress, could face up to five years in prison.” more
Adam R. Kidan and Jack A. Abramoff Indicted on Charges of Conspiracy and Wire Fraud
Aug. 11, 2005 | Press release: “R. Alexander Acosta, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Michael S. Clemens, Special Agent in Charge of the Miami Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, announced today the return of an Indictment by a federal grand jury sitting in Ft. Lauderdale charging defendants, Adam R. Kidan and Jack A. Abramoff, with Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud and Mail Fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371, and five (5) counts of Wire Fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1343. The Indictment also seeks criminal forfeiture in the approximate amount of $60 million. The statutory maximum penalty for each of the six (6) counts contained in the Indictment is five (5) years’ imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.” more
Evidence for the Comittee on Indian Affairs Oversight Hearing on Lobbying Practices
Collections of emails, scanned checks, letters and facsimiles entered as evidence in the corruption and bribery investigation and hearing on lobbying practices.
Oversight Hearing on the In Re Tribal Lobbying Matters, et al.June 22, 2005
“JackintheHouse.org explores the world of GOP super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who spent years trading money for influence in the halls of Congress. The site provides a road map to Abramoff’s unscrupulous backdoor deals with ethically challenged members of Congress and provides a means for visitors to urge the chairman of the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct to take action against those who have worked for Jack’s interest, rather than the public interest.” JackintheHouse.org is a project of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW).
CREW’s coverage and to-the-minute clippings of news articles relating to Jack Abramoff’s “Web of Corruption.”
SourceWatch, a project of the Center for Media and Democracy, is an open-access database of people, issues and groups shaping the public agenda.