Wednesday, January 4, 2006

G.O.P. Lobbyist (Abramoff) Pleads Guilty in Deal With Prosecutors - New York Times

I haven't been following this story, but it's been developing for awhile. Jack Abramoff is a high-stakes high-flying lobbyist who has specialized in working with the Republican Party, Conservative causes, and most especially with Indian tribes. He's apparently crooked as they come, and has apparently bought off a huge portion of Congress. He has pleaded guilty to a bunch of charges, and will turn states evidence in further trials against others. Presumably a large portion of Congress will be resigning over this, and some Congresspersons will be going to jail.

This is a big deal.

G.O.P. Lobbyist Pleads Guilty in Deal With Prosecutors (NYTimes, By ANNE E. KORNBLUT, Published: January 3, 2006)

Mr. Abramoff, 46, pleaded guilty to conspiracy, fraud, and tax evasion, setting the stage for prosecutors to begin using him as a cooperating witness against his former business and political colleagues. In exchange, Mr. Abramoff faces a maximum of about 10 years in prison in the Washington case.

... At a news briefing this afternoon, Alice Fisher, an assistant attorney general, said Mr. Abramoff offered up gifts to government officials that included an all-expense paid trip to Scotland "to play golf on a world-famous course, tickets and travel to the Super Bowl in Florida, tickets for concerts and other events in Washington, repeated and regular meals at his upscale restaurant, and campaign contributions."

Lobbyist admits to kickbacks, fraud Abramoff agrees to cooperate in Washington corruption probe (CNN.COM, Tuesday, January 3, 2006)

Poll: Half believe Congress is dirty (CNN.COM, Tuesday, January 3, 2006)

Abramoff won't go down alone After a career of stealing from his clients and corrupting lawmakers, the one-time Republican golden boy is set to destroy the political machine he helped create. (Salon.COM, By Michael Scherer)

The investigation, which spans at least four law enforcement agencies and 12 FBI field offices, is now clearly targeted on members of Congress and their staffs. Already prosecutors have won pledges of cooperation from two of Abramoff's former partners, Michael Scanlon, a former aide to Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas, and Adam Kidan. "The corruption scheme with Mr. Abramoff is very extensive and we will continue to follow it," said Assistant Attorney General Alice S. Fisher at a Justice Department press conference hours after the plea. "We are going to follow this wherever it goes."

In his plea, Abramoff appeared to tighten the prosecutorial noose around Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, a one-time friend of Abramoff who has long since disavowed the relationship. Abramoff detailed the perks he provided Ney and his staff in exchange for political favors -- the golf trip to Scotland, the Super Bowl bash in Tampa, the free meals at Abramoff's Washington restaurant and the sports stadium box seats. In a statement released after the plea, Ney's spokesperson, Brian Walsh, said the lobbyist exerted no "improper influence" on Ney. "Congressman Ney has never done anything illegal or improper and the allegations in this plea agreement do not change that fact."

The plea also claims that Abramoff corruptly influenced another unnamed congressional staffer by paying his wife's nonprofit company $50,000. The allegation matches press reports of a relationship Abramoff had with Tony Rudy, another aide to former majority leader DeLay, and Rudy's wife, Lisa. A person who matches the description of Neil Volz, a former chief of staff to Ney, is also mentioned in the plea agreement for corrupt dealings with Abramoff. Rudy and Volz, who both work as lobbyists, did not return calls for comment. But the specific targets in the plea account for just a fraction of the investigation, which continues at full speed, said Fisher. Of Abramoff's testimony, she said, "We have not attempted to list each and every statement" in the plea.

The man who bought off Washington Lobbyist's guilty plea set to expose bribery scandal at the heart of US political system (The Independant (London), By Rupert Cornwell in Washington, 04 January 2006)

Abramoff pleads guilty in casino case Admits using fake wire transfer to secure $60 million loan (CNN.COM, Wednesday, January 4, 2006)

How far will Abramoff scandal reach? A number of lawmakers are under investigation for their connections with Jack Abramoff. (By Gail Russell Chaddock | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor)

It's not a crime to accept contributions from lobbyists. It's a bribe only if there's evidence of an agreement to perform an official act in exchange. But the political damage can go further.

"Careers usually end when the indictment is brought, whether [the accused] are cleared or not. Very few survive an election, once an indictment has been brought," says Stanley Brand, a Washington defense attorney who advised House Speaker Tip O'Neill during the 1978 ABSCAM bribery case, an FBI sting operation that convicted five House members and a senator.