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Things are Getting Hot in Congress....


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WASHINGTON - Embattled lobbyist Jack Abramoff pleaded guilty Tuesday to federal charges of conspiracy, tax evasion and mail fraud, agreeing to cooperate in an influence-peddling investigation that threatens powerful members of Congress.

 

In a heavily scripted court appearance, Abramoff agreed with U.S. District Court Judge Ellen Huvelle when she said 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.

 

Words will not ever be able to express my sorrow and my profound regret for all my actions and mistakes, Abramoff said, addressing the judge. I hope I can merit forgiveness from the Almighty and those Ive wronged or caused to suffer.

 

To each of the three charges, Abramoff said, I plead guilty, your honor. Huvelle and lawyers in the case said Abramoff had agreed to make an estimated $25 million in restitution to his victims and pay $1.7 million to the Internal Revenue Service for taxes he evaded. As is typically the case in such pleadings, what happened in the courtroom Tuesday was arranged in advance between lawyers for the defendant and the prosecutors.

 

All of my remaining days, I will feel tremendous sadness and regret for my conduct and for what I have done, Abramoff told the court.

 

According to the plea agreement, prosecutors will recommend a sentence of 9 to 11 years, providing he cooperates with federal prosecutors in a wide-ranging corruption investigation that is believed to be focusing on as many as 20 members of Congress and aides.

 

Assistant Attorney General Alice S. Fisher said the Justice Department will pursue the investigation wherever it goes.

 

Were going to expend the resources to make sure people know that government is not for sale, she said at a news conference.

 

Abramoffs travels with former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay are already under criminal investigation. The lobbyists interactions with the Texas Republicans 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.

 

In a turnabout, House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., joined the roster of politicians on Tuesday announcing plans to donate Abramoffs campaign contributions to charity. According to NBC News, those charities have not yet been identified.

 

Hastert received almost $69,000 from Abramoff and his associates, NBC News reported on Tuesday.

 

Court papers released Tuesday also detailed lavish gifts and contributions that Abramoff gave an unnamed House member, identified elsewhere as Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, chairman of the House Administration Committee, in return for Neys agreement to use his office to aid Abramoff clients.

 

In a statement Tuesday, Ney said, At the time I dealt with Jack Abramoff, I obviously did not know, and had no way of knowing, the self-serving and fraudulent nature of Abramoffs activities.

 

Abramoff also was expected to plead guilty in Florida to two of the six charges in a federal indictment, according to his lawyer there, Neal Sonnett. A change of plea hearing has been scheduled in Miami for Wednesday afternoon, Justice officials said.

 

Abramoff attorney Abbe Lowell said in a statement that 18 months ago Abramoff 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.

 

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

 

The Bush administrations former chief procurement official, David H. Safavian, was charged this fall with making false statements and obstructing investigations into the 2002 golf outing. Safavian, former chief of staff of the General Services Administration, the governments procurement arm, has pleaded innocent to those charges.

 

Court documents also said Abramoff solicited $50,000 from a wireless telephone company and got Neys agreement to push the companys application to install a wireless telephone infrastructure in the House of Representatives, a job Neys committee would have overseen.

 

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.

 

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

 

Abramoff raised at least $100,000 for President Bushs 2004 re-election effort, earning the honorary title pioneer from the campaign.

 

In Bushs first 10 months in office in 2001, Abramoff and other members of his lobbying team logged at least 200 contacts with the administration on behalf of at least one client, the Northern Mariana Islands. The meetings included some with high-ranking officials such as then-Attorney General John Ashcroft and policy advisers in Vice President Dick Cheneys office. The Marianas agenda included seeking friendly hires at federal agencies and preservation of its exemption from the U.S. minimum wage.

 

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 acknowledging 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 fund-raisers, 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.

 

So not only was this sleazebag involved in illegal campaign fundings, but he also essentially stole $20 million from a tribe of Native Americans, and THEN tried to buy the SunCruz casino fleet, even though there was no way for him to afford it legally. There's a rumor that he may have been involved in the death of the former owner, which would have made it a lot easier for him to take control of the company.

 

Time will tell if this turns out to be similar to the corruption scandals that caused Democrats to lose control of Congress in 1994.

 

The biggest question of all is, was he the only one doing these illegal things? It's really hard to say. I would seriously doubt that he's the only one, but I hope he was the biggest of them.

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He bribed many of the politicians on both sides of the political spectrum. Many of them are already returning money.

Well, the campaign contributions that are being returned/donated aren't bribes, though I could see your run-of-the-mill, sloppy American citizen misunderstanding media coverage and interpreting it in that way.

 

Stuff like trips to the Superbowl--that's an example of something you could construe as a bribe.

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Guest Moneyball

Sen. Burns Wants Quick Review of Ties to Lobbyist

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

 

WASHINGTON ? Sen. Conrad Burns is taking the offensive in the Justice Department investigation of Jack Abramoff as new information surfaces about Burns' involvement with the lobbyist and his clients.

 

The Montana Republican and his staff met Abramoff's lobbying team on at least eight occasions and collected $12,000 in donations around the time that Burns took legislative action favorable to Abramoff's clients in the Northern Mariana Islands, records show.

 

The 2001 donations to Burns included money directly from Abramoff and a key garment company executive in the Marianas who was part of the coalition paying Abramoff's firm to fend off stronger U.S. regulations on the Pacific islands.

 

In addition, two Burns staffers had accepted a trip arranged by Abramoff to attend the Super Bowl in Florida earlier that year.

 

The Justice Department is investigating whether Abramoff, already charged with fraud in a separate Florida case, won any undue influence through donations and favors.

 

Burns, who is up for re-election to a fourth term in 2006, said he hasn't been contacted by federal investigators in the Abramoff probe or received any subpoenas. On Nov. 28, Burns wrote to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, urging that his conduct be reviewed so he could be cleared of wrongdoing.

 

"I welcome your thorough and expeditious review of this matter so that it may be disposed of officially once and for all and these outrageous and wrongful allegations may be put to rest before we get into the 2006 re-election cycle," Burns wrote.

 

In 2001, Burns served on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which was considering legislation the Marianas opposed. He also ran a Senate appropriations subcommittee that controlled spending for the Interior Department, which regulates U.S. territories, including the islands.

 

On May 23 of that year, Burns voted against a bill in the Senate Energy Committee that would have phased out a nonresident contract worker program benefiting the Marianas' garment industry. The committee approved the bill, but it never saw action on the Senate floor. In 1999, it had moved through the same committee by voice vote without objections from Burns.

 

Burns' office told The Associated Press this week that he could not recall why he didn't object to the bill in 1999 but that his opposition in 2001 was prompted by a report indicating changes to immigration laws could hurt the islands' economy. He said it wasn't influenced by Abramoff or any donations.

 

Abramoff's billing records, which the AP obtained from the U.S. territorial islands under an open records request, show that in the three months before the vote, the lobbyist's team met twice with Burns and several more times with his Senate aides to discuss Marianas issues.

 

One of those meetings, between Burns' staff and Abramoff associate Todd A. Boulanger, occurred just six days before the vote.

 

Abramoff donated $5,000 to Burns' political action committee in February, just before the meetings started. His firm, Greenberg Traurig, donated $2,000 to Burns in March, and Eloy Inos of Saipan donated $5,000 in April.

 

The Inos donation was first reported by Lee Newspapers on Dec. 3. Inos listed his employer as Tan Holdings, a member of the Saipan Garment Manufacturers Association, another Abramoff client.

 

Burns defended the meetings, saying they are part of the democratic process.

 

"Advocates, paid and unpaid, exercising their right to petition their government provide information on many issues but you always know that they are representing a particular position based upon their client or issue preference," he said Dec. 5.

 

In all, AP stories over the past few months have documented how more than four dozen lawmakers, Republicans and Democrats, took actions favorable to Abramoff clients around the time that they received large donations from the lobbyist and his clients.

 

Burns received about $150,000 in donations from Abramoff, his firm and his clients between 2001 and 2004.

 

In addition to the Marianas, Burns wrote a letter backing an Indian school building program sought by Abramoff's tribal clients and helped arrange for Congress to provide money for it.

 

The billing records detail several meetings regarding the Marianas.

 

For instance, Abramoff associates met at least five times with Burns' staff as well as members of the Interior appropriations subcommittee staff he oversaw in spring 2001. At least some of the meetings, the billing records say, involved a federal matching funds program that helped the island with local construction projects.

 

The Marianas wanted relief from a requirement that the islands match some of the federal money they received.

 

In June, Burns' Senate subcommittee approved a committee report including a provision that urged the Interior Department to re-evaluate the requirement, citing hard economic times in the islands.

 

Burns spokesman James Pendleton said he doesn't know whether Burns inserted the provision, but he did support it.

 

 

Abramoff Probe Linked to Dorgan's Political Group

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

 

WASHINGTON ? New evidence is emerging that the top Democrat on the Senate committee currently investigating Jack Abramoff got political money arranged by the lobbyist back in 2002 shortly after the lawmaker took action favorable to Abramoff's tribal clients.

 

A lawyer for the Louisiana Coushatta Indians told The Associated Press that Abramoff instructed the tribe to send $5,000 to Sen. Byron Dorgan's political group just three weeks after the North Dakota Democrat urged fellow senators to fund a tribal school program Abramoff's clients wanted to use.

 

The check was one of about five dozen the Coushattas listed in a tribal ledger as being issued on March 6, 2002, to various lawmakers' campaigns and political causes at the instruction of Abramoff, tribal attorney Jimmy Faircloth said Monday.

 

Many of the recipients were lawmakers who had just written letters to the Bush administration or Congress supportive of Abramoff's tribal causes, documents show.

 

"I am confident of that fact," Faircloth said when asked whether Abramoff had requested the donations listed in a tribal ledger obtained by the AP.

 

The revelation came as Dorgan took to the offensive Monday, saying there was no connection between the $20,000 in donations he got from Abramoff's firm and tribal clients in spring 2002 and a February 2002 letter he wrote urging the Senate Appropriations Committee to fund the tribal school building program.

 

Dorgan's letter noted that the Mississippi Choctaw, one of Abramoff's clients, had successfully used the program and requested lawmakers consider long-term funding for it. It made no mention of Abramoff or any of his other tribes that were interested in the program.

 

Dorgan sharply criticized an AP story last week that divulged he and about a dozen other lawmakers had gotten Abramoff-related donations around the time they sent letters supporting the school building program.

 

Dorgan told a news conference in North Dakota he had never met Abramoff, did not know about the donations from the lobbyist's clients around the time of his letter and saw no reason to step aside from the Senate Indian Affairs committee investigation of Abramoff.

 

"I don't have any idea what was contributed to me, or by whom. No contribution has been made to me that was ever represented as a contribution coming from Mr. Abramoff, or any relationship to things that he was involved in," Dorgan said when quizzed about the $20,000 in donations.

 

Dorgan said he wrote the letter because he supported the tribal school construction program and believed tribes in his state might benefit. "The Bush administration wanted to shut the program down. I disagreed. The program saves the federal government money and gets results. That makes sense to me," he said.

 

Dorgan's staff said Dorgan believes the letter was drafted by Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont., who also signed it and got similar donations from Abramoff's clients in the same time frame.

 

For instance, the Coushattas' check ledger shows the tribe on March 6, 2002, wrote checks for $5,000 to Dorgan's political group, called the Great Plains Leadership Fund, and $25,000 to Burns. That money ultimately landed in Burns' Friends of the Big Sky political group, records show.

 

Other checks listed as being issued that day were made out to groups or campaigns associated with Sens. Trent Lott, Mary Landrieu, Harry Reid and John Breaux and Reps. Tom DeLay, Charles Taylor and Pete Session, all of whom wrote letters favorable to Abramoff tribal client causes, the ledger shows.

 

Those lawmakers, like Dorgan, have denied any connection between the letters and the donations.

 

"The suggestion in the story that I may have supported that school construction program because of Jack Abramoff or because of campaign contributions from Indian tribes is clearly and despicably wrong," Dorgan said.

 

Dorgan's spokesman, Barry E. Piatt, said he believed his boss had pursued the congressional investigation of Abramoff aggressively.

 

Asked why that investigation hasn't focused more on donations to lawmakers who wrote letters favorable to Abramoff's clients, Piatt said, "They're investigating what appears to be massive fraud, and there's lots of ground to cover and it is still early."

 

Dorgan's office also corrected one piece of information it provided last week. In an interview last Wednesday, Dorgan chief of staff Bernie Toon told the AP that congressional aide Peter Kiefhaber worked for Dorgan's subcommittee in late January 2003.

 

Kiefhaber did work for the Democratic staff of the Senate Interior Appropriations subcommittee at the time and Dorgan was a member, but Dorgan didn't formally take over as the top Democrat on the panel until March 4, 2003, his office said Monday.

 

 

Rep. Kennedy to Keep Money from Tribes That Hired Abramoff

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

 

WASHINGTON ? Rep. Patrick Kennedy, citing his support for American Indian causes, says he has no plans to return any of the $42,500 he took from tribes represented by GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

 

"He's proud to have their support," Kennedy chief of staff Sean Richardson said Wednesday. "He's got direct personal relationships with tribes. ... He looks at it as a human and civil rights issue, the fact that they're still not treated with the dignity and respect they deserve."

 

Kennedy, D-R.I., was the top congressional Democratic recipient of Abramoff-linked funds, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a campaign watchdog group that analyzed contributions from 1999 to 2005. He was eighth overall among members of Congress.

 

Abramoff, who has admitted he defrauded some Indian tribes, is at the heart of a burgeoning Capitol Hill corruption scandal.

 

Kennedy was never lobbied by Abramoff or any of his associates and he did not receive any checks from Abramoff, Richardson said.

 

While President Bush and other top Republicans scrambled to give away contributions from tribes linked to Abramoff, Kennedy aides said the congressman's family, beginning with his late uncle Robert F. Kennedy in the 1960s, has championed American Indian causes.

 

 

The congressman co-founded the Native American Caucus in the House in 1997. He also raised money from several tribes for his party as the head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee during 1999 and 2000.

 

The congressman has received contributions from 110 tribes and visited about a dozen reservations, Richardson said. Kennedy has accepted donations from Indian gambling interests since he first came to Congress a decade ago.

 

 

Sen. Baucus to Return Abramoff-Linked Donations

Monday, December 19, 2005

 

WASHINGTON ? Democratic Sen. Max Baucus of Montana is returning $18,892 in contributions that his office has found to be connected to indicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff, his spokesman said Monday.

 

Included in the returned donations was an estimated $1,892 that was never reported for the use of Abramoff's skybox at the MCI Center in downtown Washington in 2001.

 

The state's other two members of Congress, Republican Sen. Conrad Burns and Republican Rep. Denny Rehberg, returned their own contributions last week. Burns returned an estimated $150,000, while Rehberg returned almost $20,000.

 

Abramoff, already charged with fraud in a separate Florida case, is at the center of a federal probe that has entangled at least a half dozen lawmakers and Bush administration officials. The Justice Department is investigating whether he won any undue influence through donations and favors.

 

Spokesman Barrett Kaiser said Baucus has never met Abramoff and never took any contributions directly from him.

 

"He thought it was the right thing to do on principle," Kaiser said.

 

All stories are from FoxNews.com

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