|Tom DeLay- Corporate Whore|
Wednesday, June 29, 2005
CREW Calls for Citizen-Filed Ethics Complaints
In the wake of the scandals surrounding Reps. Tom DeLay (R-TX), Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-CA) and Bob Ney (R-OH), Melanie Sloan of Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington (CREW) has called for an independent investigation into the House Ethics Committee, which has failed to act in any of these cases.
"Cunningham's conduct is serious enough that the FBI has allegedly opened an investigation," Sloan said in The San Diego Union-Tribune. "It is too bad that conduct as egregious as that of Cunningham and Ney is likely to go unexamined by the ethics committee solely because no member has the courage to file an ethics complaint against either man. It is for exactly this reason that outside ethics watchdog groups like mine ought to be able to file complaints themselves.
How a Lobbyist and a Former Tom DeLay Aide Ripped Off Clients and Padded Their Pockets
By Staff and Wire Reports
Jun 23, 2005, 06:59
Lobbyist Jack Abramoff laundered money from a Mississippi tribal client, using it to set up bogus Christian anti-gambling groups and fund other right-wing projects, including gear for a "sniper school" in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, The Washington Post reports in today's editions.
E-mails and testimony before Senate Indian Affairs Committee show an incredible trail of lies, fraud and deceit by Abramoff and Michael Scanlon, public relations executive and former spokesman for scandal-ridden House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.).
Abramoff, under investigation by the Justice Department, directed the Indians to donate to tax-exempt groups that the lobbyist later used for his own purposes. One project involved Abramoff's effort to arrange for military equipment, including night-vision goggles and a "jeep," for the sniper training conducted by a high school friend, Post reporters Susan Schmidt and James V. Grimaldi reported.
Aaron Stetter, who worked for Scanlon, told the committee Scanlon and Abramoff manufactured opposition to casinos proposed by rival tribes by establishing phony Christian phone banks. Callers would identied themselves as members of groups the Christian Research Network or Global Christian Outreach Network and urged voters to contact their representatives.
Stetter' testimony, along with other material given to the committee, contradict claims by former Christian Coalition executive director Ralph Reed, currently running for Georgia lieutenant governor.
While Reed admits getting $4 million from Abramoff and Scanlon to run anti-gambling campaigns in the South. he claimed he did not know the source of the money, but e-mails show he knew a major chunk of funds money came from casino-rich Choctaws.
Other e-mails proved Abramoff padded their bills and expense accounts to the Choctaws by tens of thousands of dollars a month.
Committee chairman, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), said investigators had uncovered evidence of mail and wire fraud along with tax evasion. The Justice Department is investigating $82 million in lobbying and public relations fees Abramoff and Scanlon received from tribes and McCain said information is also being turned over to the Internal Revenue Service.
Three former associates of Abramoff and Scanlon refused to testify, hiding under Fifth Admendment protections. They include lobbyist Kevin Ring, who continues to represent the Choctaw tribe, and Shawn Vasell, who like Ring was a congressional aide before joining Abramoff's lobbying team. The third, Brian Mann, was a director of the American International Center, a foundation set up by Scanlon in Rehoboth Beach, Del.
Mann, a yoga instructor, was an AIC director, along with former lifeguard and Scanlon beach pal Brian Grosh. On its web site, AIC called itself "a premiere international think tank," that was "determined to influence global paradigms in an increasingly complex world."
Grosh testified Scanlon asked him to serve as a director of the AIC, paying him $2,500.
"I'm embarrassed and disgusted to be part of this whole thing," he testified.
Tribe says Abramoff wanted its donations sent elsewhere
Records show checks meant for DeLay groups were rerouted to others that aided the GOP
By ADAM NOSSITER
FOLLOWING THE MONEY
• Inquiry: The Senate Indian Affairs Committee chaired by Republican John McCain is set to examine the relationships between lobbyist Jack Abramoff and the tribes at a hearing today in Washington.
ELTON, LA. - A casino-rich tribe wrote checks for at least $55,000 to House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's political groups, but the donations were never publicly disclosed and the tribe was directed to divert the money to other groups that helped Republicans, tribal documents show.
Lobbyist Jack Abramoff, now under criminal investigation, told the Coushatta Indian tribe, a client, to cancel its checks to the DeLay groups in 2001 and 2002 and route the money to more obscure groups that helped Republicans on Medicare prescription drug legislation and Christian voter outreach.
DeLay's Texans for a Republican Majority and Americans for a Republican Majority never reported receiving any checks from the Louisiana tribe to federal or state regulators, their reports show. The donations, however, are recorded in memos and ledgers kept by the tribe.
"Enclosed please find a check for $10,000 to the Texans for a Republican Majority. This check needs to be reissued to America 21," Abramoff wrote the Coushattas in a May 2002 letter obtained by the Associated Press.
America 21 is a Nashville, Tenn.-based Christian group focused on voter turnout that helped Republican candidates in the pivotal 2002 elections that kept DeLay's party in control of the House.
Several months earlier, the tribe was asked to cancel a $25,000 check to Americans for a Republican Majority and to send that money instead in August 2001 to a group called Sixty Plus that helped Republicans in their two-year effort to get a Medicare prescription drug benefit through Congress.
People familiar with Abramoff's transactions with the Coushattas, who spoke only on condition of anonymity because of ongoing grand jury and Senate investigations, said Abramoff redirected the checks at the request of one of DeLay's assistants.
The aide asked Abramoff to get the checks changed, expressing concern that donations from tribal casinos shouldn't appear on the rolls of DeLay's conservative political groups, the sources said.
Don McGahn, a lawyer who represents one of DeLay's groups, said he had no immediate comment Tuesday. Andrew Blum, a spokesman for Abramoff, declined to comment.
Abramoff is under investigation by the Senate and a federal grand jury over allegations he and a colleague overcharged Indian tribes for their lobbying. Abramoff, whose ties to President Bush and Sugar Land's DeLay are also under scrutiny, denies wrongdoing.
Kent Cooper, a former federal election regulator, said the transactions show how powerful leaders and special interests can hide money from a system that relies on public disclosure as its ethical safeguard.
Tribal leaders who watched $32 million of their casino profits go to Abramoff's lobbying efforts now question why money they intended to benefit DeLay causes was often disguised or routed elsewhere.
"There's a pattern of trying to keep high-profile entities out of the picture," Coushatta council member David Sickey said. "To me it tells me there's some effort at concealment."
The Coushatta tribe had hired Abramoff to lobby in Washington on various pieces of legislation affecting their casinos such as the Indian Gaming Act, labor provisions and efforts to make it tougher to approve new gambling facilities, according to lobbying reports filed on Capitol Hill.
GOP worries ‘DeLay effect’ will cost seats
Dems hope ethics issue will bring ’06 election gains
By Mike Allen
The Washington Post
Updated: 11:16 p.m. ET June 5, 2005
ZANESVILLE, Ohio - After enlarging their majority two elections in a row, House Republicans have begun to fear that public attention to members' travel and relations with lobbyists will make ethics a potent issue that could cost the party seats in next year's midterm races.
In what Republican strategists call "the DeLay effect," questions plaguing House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) are starting to hurt his fellow party members, who are facing news coverage of their own trips and use of relatives on their campaign payrolls. Liberal interest groups have begun running advertising in districts where Republicans may be in trouble, trying to tie the incumbents to their leaders' troubles.
Among those endangered are at least two committee chairmen and several other senior members. Congressional districts that traditionally have been safe for Republicans could become more competitive, according to party officials.
‘Mayor of Capitol Hill’ under attack
Nowhere is the impact of the ethics issue clearer than here in the Appalachian hills of eastern Ohio, where a thicket of weekly newspapers now gives regular coverage to revelations about House Administration Committee Chairman Robert W. Ney (R-Ohio) and his ties to DeLay and Jack Abramoff, the lobbyist now under criminal and congressional investigation for the tens of millions of dollars in fees he and a partner collected from casino-owning Indian tribes.
Ney is known as "the mayor of Capitol Hill," where his committee controls perks that include BlackBerrys, modular furniture and parking spaces. He is a conservative who has thrived in a blue-collar Democratic district, through gestures such as personally giving tours of the Capitol to 5,000 constituents' children each spring. With his warm relations with other lawmakers in both parties and his mastery of the nooks and crannies of the institution, he has been considered a strong contender to move up the House leadership ladder.
Now, all of that is in jeopardy. Ney, 51, has hired a criminal lawyer and is preparing for a grueling inquiry by the House ethics committee. His name also appears frequently in e-mails being studied by investigators at the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, which is looking into lobbyists' dealings with gambling-enriched tribes.
Challengers pile aboard
Democrats are using allegations about influence peddling to recruit opponents for several of the chamber's most senior Republicans. DeLay, who just a few years ago seemed invulnerable, now is certain to face a heavily funded Democratic challenge. Former four-term representative Nick Lampson, who lost in November after a redistricting engineered by DeLay, has filed as a candidate in DeLay's suburban Houston district.
House Resources Committee Chairman Richard W. Pombo (R-Calif.), a rancher who granted leave to his committee staff of about 40 for the 15 days before the November election and has been questioned about his use of taxpayer funds on fliers favorable to President Bush, was the target of radio ads by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee over Memorial Day and could face a challenge from Democratic state Sen. Michael Machado.
Another Republican in the Democrats' sights is Rep. Tom Feeney (Fla.), who as a state official was an aggressive advocate for Bush during the presidential election recount fight of 2000, and has been a key DeLay supporter. Like DeLay, Feeney accepted a trip to South Korea from a group that later declared itself a foreign agent, which would have made the group ineligible to fund trips for lawmakers. Like DeLay, Feeney traveled to Scotland and played golf, accompanied by Abramoff.
Democrats also are going after Rep. Charles H. Taylor (R-N.C.), one of the wealthiest House members, who has battled legal and ethical questions in past campaigns. Republicans hold a 29-seat edge over Democrats in the House (with one vacancy and one independent).
The parties have been so aggressive about redrawing congressional lines to protect incumbents that few seats are in play in any given election. That has made party strategists doubtful that Democrats could retake control until at least 2012, after lines are redrawn following the next census. But Republican officials who had said earlier this year that they would break even in the midterm elections are now talking about possibly losing seats.
‘Join Congress, See the World’
Democrats said they plan to capitalize on the junkets issue the same way Republicans leveraged the House bank check-bouncing scandal when they won control of Congress in 1994: as a vivid symbol, understandable to the average voter, of a majority party that has lost touch with voters. A series of polls in the past two months have shown broad dissatisfaction with Congress in general and the Republican leadership in particular, causing the party's strategists to fret that conditions are ripe for change.
Across the country, lawmakers are being peppered with unwelcome questions from news organizations that are digging into the travel records of their own congressional delegations.
"Join Congress, See the World," stated a front-page report in the Chicago Tribune. "There's no locale too exotic or destination too far for Illinois' delegation to visit in service of its constituents." The Times-Picayune of New Orleans cracked on its front page, "State's politicos like to travel — And they like other people to pay for it." The front page of the May 29 Hartford Courant trumpeted, "Public Trips, Private Funding — State Delegation Frequent Travelers."
Rick Davis, a Republican strategist who was presidential campaign manager for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), said the ethics issue is putting the party "into a bit of troublesome water."
"The combination of gridlock and ethics charges indicate that the system's busted, and the system is the majority party," Davis said. "The contest for us in the bi-election is to explain what we've gotten accomplished in the last two years, and right now, it's not looking so hot. The focus is on the problems, because there isn't that much happening. We need some successes."
Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.), who has said DeLay should step down, said the allegation that House members abused travel privileges "is a big issue" that will make the party's job a lot harder in the upcoming elections.
"At community meetings, some of the most conservative of my constituents are asking, 'What's going on down there?' " Shays said.
Rep. Rahm Emanuel (Ill.), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said that although a particular member's conduct matters only in that person's specific race, the Democrats plan to make "an overarching theme" of the influence that special interests have gained over the legislative process. Republicans are responding with what they call a "muddy-the-water strategy," in which they encourage news coverage about Democrats' ties to Abramoff, and about Democratic travel that was coordinated with lobbyists.
Final straw for some constituents
In the strip malls and along the Cumberland Road where Model T's once caravanned west, Ney's constituents said that they have been shocked by the revelations and that they are starting to wonder whether he is really who they thought he was. Joseph E. Wagner, 60, a Republican and owner of a sports club, has always voted for Ney and recently shook the congressman's hand at a National Rifle Association banquet. But now he is disappointed.
"I'm beginning to think they just ought to bomb every politician out there," Wagner said over a scrambled-egg breakfast at the TeeJay's diner in Zanesville, in the Ohio Valley west of Pittsburgh. "He's just gotten completely out of control. He just got involved with the wrong people."
Ney, in a recent interview, said he has not "stayed in a bunker" throughout the controversy and that he is so busy he does not "have a lot of time to sit and worry." Using the same strategy as DeLay, Ney answers inquiries about specific allegations by saying that he will save his explaining for the House ethics committee.
"Anything questioned is in the package, and that package needs to go to the ethics committee to be discussed," he said. "I feel confident, whenever we can get this into the ethics committee, I can explain my side of it. There'll be hopefully a level there where they'll look at how we function and upon what we thought. I feel good about myself on that."
Asked about his relationship with DeLay, Ney said, "I'm a speaker's guy."
Ney was elected to Congress in 1994, the year of the anti-incumbent revolution. His opponent was Greg L. DiDonato, a Democratic state representative. DiDonato, now a lobbyist, is thinking of seeking a rematch.
DeLay campaign to gather signatures for primary ballot
Democrats claim the early start is a sign that the GOP lawmaker is jittery
Campaign volunteers for House Majority Leader Tom DeLay soon will begin gathering the 500 signatures needed to put DeLay on the Republican primary ballot March 7.
Shannon Flaherty, a spokeswoman for DeLay, R-Sugar Land, said the decision to collect signatures long before the Jan. 2 deadline was the result of energized supporters offering their help.
But DeLay opponents viewed the early start as a sign of vulnerability.
"Tom DeLay is in trouble. His support at home is at a historic low," said Bill Burton, a spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. "He's in for the toughest fight of his congressional career."
DeLay won 55 percent of the vote in November, his closest race in 11 victories. That election came after he received three admonishments from the House Ethics Committee in October.
Supporters said DeLay's getting campaign volunteers in order shouldn't be misinterpreted.
"Look, whenever the campaign wanted to go out and collect signatures they could do it," said Carl Forti, spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee. "I don't see how it can be considered a sign of weakness at all."