|Tom DeLay- Corporate Whore|
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.
Comments: Post a Comment