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Tiguas Want Abramoff Contributions Back

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://www.newsday.com/news/politics/wire/sns-ap-lobbyist-fraud-texas,0,2101105.story?coll=sns-ap-politics-headlines Tribe Wants Abramoff Contributions Back By
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 6, 2006
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      http://www.newsday.com/news/politics/wire/sns-ap-lobbyist-fraud-texas,0,2101105.story?coll=sns-ap-politics-headlines

      Tribe Wants Abramoff Contributions Back

      By SUZANNE GAMBOA
      Associated Press Writer

      January 6, 2006, 9:39 PM EST

      WASHINGTON -- The Tigua tribe of El Paso wants
      campaign contributions it gave while employing
      disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff returned to the
      tribe, not given to charity.

      Arturo Senclair, governor of the tribe officially
      known as the Ysleta Del Sur Pueblo, said Friday that
      the tribe isn't demanding its donations back but that
      anyone returning money should check with the Tiguas
      first.

      "It's up to them and their conscience. They've got to
      live with it," Senclair said. "But if they are going
      to donate it back to a charity, I'm sure the tribe
      would rather have it back than the charity, because we
      could use the money now."

      Abramoff pleaded guilty this week to federal charges
      in a bribery investigation that is now focusing on
      members of Congress and their aides. Since his plea
      deal, lawmakers have been ridding themselves of
      donations from Abramoff, his clients, former employers
      and associates.

      The tribe, based in El Paso, Texas, operated the
      Speaking Rock casino for nearly nine years before it
      was shut down in 2002 by a ruling in a lawsuit filed
      three years earlier by then-Texas Attorney General
      John Cornyn, now a U.S. senator.

      The Tiguas paid Abramoff and his former business
      partner Michael Scanlon $4.2 million to lobby
      lawmakers and allow them to reopen the casino. The
      tribe contributed between $250,000 and $300,000 to
      congressional campaigns between 2002 and 2004 based on
      Abramoff's direction, Senclair said.

      Even though he was hired by the Tiguas, Abramoff has
      admitted he never told the tribe he had also been
      working with former Christian Coalition head Ralph
      Reed to lobby for closure of the casino. He also
      admitted to telling the tribe he would work for free,
      while he was taking half the net profits Scanlon's
      public relations company he told the tribe to hire.

      Now, Senclair said, the tribe needs that money.

      More than 900 jobs were lost when the casino closed
      and the tribal council has been forced to cut jobs on
      the reservation. The tribe has about 1,300 members,
      with 450 families on the reservation. Also, tribes are
      facing 5 percent reductions in money the federal
      government provides for health, education and social
      services, he said.

      Senclair said with the exception of Rep. Henry
      Cuellar, D-El Paso, no lawmakers had contacted the
      tribe by Friday afternoon to ask whether they want
      their contributions returned. Cuellar received $500
      from the Tiguas in 2002 and is returning it.

      Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, is keeping $3,000
      from the tribe, saying she does not know Abramoff and
      returning the contributions would be an insult to the
      tribe.

      Rep. Sam Johnson, R-Plano, received $1,000 from the
      tribe and said Thursday he would give it to the USO of
      Dallas-Fort Worth. His office was unaware of the
      tribe's preference when contacted.

      Spokesmen for the National Republican Congressional
      Committee and National Republican Senatorial
      Committee, which received $20,000 and $30,000 in 2002
      respectively, said the groups are not returning
      contributions.

      The Democratic Senatorial Committee received $3,000
      from the tribe. A spokesman there had no comment.

      Arizona Republican Rep. J.D. Hayworth, co-chairman of
      the congressional Native American Caucus, has letters
      from tribes saying they did not want contributions
      returned. The Tigua did not send such a letter to
      Hayworth, who has received $2,000 from the tribe.

      "If they've changed their minds and let us know they
      want to have their contribution back, we'd be glad to
      do that," spokesman Larry VanHoose said.

      Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Montana, recently gave up his
      Abramoff-connected contributions, which included
      $21,000 from the tribe. Any money linked to Abramoff
      through his clients went back to the tribes, spokesman
      Matt Mackowiak said.

      The tribe is not alone in wanting money back.

      Ronnie Thomas, chairman of the Alabama-Coushatta of
      Livingston, said the tribe wants its $50,000 it gave
      to the Capital Athletic Foundation to help pay for a
      trip Rep. Robert Ney, R-Ohio took to Scotland. The
      foundation was started by Abramoff.

      * __

      Associated Press writer Jennifer Talhelm in Washington
      contributed to this report.
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