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60 Congressmen Rip Off Native Americans

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    As many as 60 U.S. Congressmen may be implicated in Bribery scandal Patrick Martin December Friday 2nd 2005
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 3, 2005
      As many as 60 U.S. Congressmen may be implicated in Bribery scandal
      Patrick Martin
      December Friday 2nd 2005
      http://www.wsws.org/articles/2005/nov2005/abr1-n29.shtml


      The Abramoff affair: Corruption scandal threatens Republican control
      of US Congress Michael Scanlon, a Republican political operative,
      publicist and former press spokesman for House Majority Leader Tom
      DeLay, pled guilty November 21 to conspiring with lobbyist Jack
      Abramoff to bribe a Republican congressman and cheat several American
      Indian tribes out of tens of millions of dollars.

      Scanlon's guilty plea-and even more his agreement to cooperate fully
      with federal prosecutors and testify against former colleagues-has
      sent a chill through Republican ranks and raised the prospect of
      numerous indictments, convictions and jail terms for congressmen and
      congressional staffers as well as Bush administration officials
      involved in the rampant corruption of official Washington.

      By the end of last week, there were press reports that at least four
      Republican legislators and 17 staffers and former staffers were the
      targets of the Justice Department investigation into the Abramoff
      affair. The Wall Street Journal named DeLay, Congressman Robert Ney of
      Ohio, Congressman John Doolittle of California, and Senator Conrad
      Burns of Montana as targets, as well as several former Bush
      administration officials. The Washington Post reported that
      prosecutors had informed Congressman Ney that he was the subject of a
      bribery investigation and added that the wives of DeLay and Doolittle
      had also been linked to Abramoff's influence-peddling schemes.

      The Abramoff affair could have much wider implications. A reporter for
      BusinessWeek, on a television interview program, said that his Justice
      Department sources had told him that as many as 60 congressmen could
      be implicated in the bribery scandal-far more than enough to threaten
      control over the House of Representatives, where the Republican
      majority is 231-202, with one independent.

      The Associated Press named eight more congressmen and senators who
      received contributions engineered by Abramoff in return for political
      favors, four Republicans and four Democrats. The Republicans were
      congressmen Charles Taylor of North Carolina, J. D. Hayworth of
      Arizona, Todd Tiahrt of Kansas and Dave Camp of Michigan. The
      Democrats included three senators, Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow of
      Michigan and Byron Dorgan of North Dakota (the senior Democrat on the
      committee now investigating the Abramoff affair), and Congressman Dale
      Kildee of Michigan.

      Previous press accounts have noted that House Speaker Dennis Hastert
      of Illinois, a Republican, and the leading Democrat in the Senate,
      Minority Leader Harry Reid, received substantial campaign
      contributions from groups directed by Abramoff, most of them Indian
      tribes seeking congressional favors for their casino gambling operations.

      While some of these contributions went to leading Democrats,
      particularly members of the Indian Affairs committees of both houses,
      the bulk of the cash went to the Republicans-both because they had the
      deciding role, as the majority party in both houses, and because
      Abramoff built his lobbying empire on his longstanding ties to top
      Republican figures like DeLay, chief Bush political aide Karl Rove,
      anti-tax lobbyist Grover Norquist and Ralph Reed, former head of the
      Christian Coalition.

      When Abramoff was president of the National College Republicans in the
      mid-1980s, his two top deputies were Norquist and Reed. All three went
      on to prominent positions in far-right politics. Abramoff turned to
      lobbying for the Nicaraguan contras and anti-communist terrorist
      groups in southern Africa, and then, especially after the Republican
      takeover of Congress in 1994, to lobbying for commercial and business
      interests.

      With the installation of the Bush administration, the well-connected
      Republican lobbyist could virtually name his price for
      influence-peddling, and he rapidly became a multi-millionaire
      wheeler-dealer, representing, among other companies, Tyco
      International and Unisys Corp.

      The essential mechanism of Abramoff's operations, as detailed in press
      accounts and Senate hearings over the past 18 months, was to plunder
      the extensive lobbying funds provided by Indian tribes with lucrative
      gambling operations. Abramoff directed much of these funds to Scanlon,
      who left DeLay's office in 2000 to set up a publicity firm in
      Washington to cash in on his high-level Republican connections.

      Scanlon then kicked back half the profits secretly to Abramoff.
      From 2001 to 2004, according to documents filed in federal court in
      Washington DC, Abramoff and Scanlon together raked in some $82 million
      in payments from the Indian tribes. Scanlon himself billed four Indian
      tribes $53 million during this period, while kicking back $19 million
      under the table to Abramoff.

      The 35-year-old Scanlon, who was still paying off college loans from
      his congressional staff salary in 1999, became a millionaire
      overnight, buying several million dollars in beachfront property in
      Delaware shortly after going into business for himself. Five years
      later, even after agreeing to $19 million in restitution to the
      tribes, according to one press account, he still retains significant
      personal wealth.

      Abramoff manipulated the Native American tribes, using his influence
      with Christian fundamentalist groups opposed to gambling in order to
      extract what amounted to political protection money. In the most
      notorious case, Abramoff mobilized the Christian fundamentalists to
      spike the bid of a smaller Indian tribe to establish a casino that
      would have undercut the profits of his clients, the Louisiana band of
      Coushatta Indians.

      The Coushattas hired Abramoff and Scanlon to shut down a casino run by
      the Jena band, another Louisiana tribe, at Livingston, Texas, on the
      Texas-Louisiana border. At Abramoff's direction, the Coushattas
      funneled money to various Republican political action committees and
      conservative groups, including two campaign committees run by DeLay,
      ARMPAC and TRMPAC.

      Abramoff and Scanlon used Ralph Reed as their contact with Christian
      right groups and also contacted John Cornyn, then the Texas attorney
      general, now a US Senator, seeking legal action to block the Jena
      casino. Reed organized a group of 50 pastors to meet with Cornyn. He
      subsequently told Abramoff in an e-mail, "We have also choreographed
      Cornyn's response. The AG will state that the law is clear... and
      pledge to take swift action to enforce the law." The ministers were
      reportedly unaware that their moral outrage at gambling was being used
      to aid one gambling interest against another.

      Even more brazen was the effort of Abramoff and Scanlon to funnel
      millions of dollars through Reed for a campaign to shut down the El
      Paso, Texas casino run by the Tigua tribe. After the casino was shut
      down, Abramoff and Scanlon induced the Tiguas to hire them to wage a
      campaign to allow the casino's reopening. Although the Tiguas paid out
      millions, however, this effort failed.

      Abramoff and Scanlon discussed their devious operations in language of
      unvarnished cynicism, as revealed in e-mail exchanges made public by
      the Senate Indian Affairs Committee. In one memo to Abramoff, Scanlon
      wrote, referring to the Christian fundamentalists: "The wackos get
      their information through the Christian right, Christian radio, mail,
      the internet and telephone trees. Simply put, we want to bring out the
      wackos to vote against something and make sure the rest of the public
      lets the whole thing slip past them."

      This could serve as a crude but nonetheless telling summary of the
      entire political strategy of the Bush administration: mobilize the
      "wackos" while keeping everyone else in the dark.

      While there has been substantial media publicity over Abramoff's
      gulling of the Indian tribes, the Republican lobbyist has been
      indicted so far only in an unrelated case of business swindling in
      south Florida, when he and an associate took control of SunCruz, a
      cruise line that offered gambling tours, using allegedly fraudulent
      financial information and bad checks.

      With Scanlon's testimony, however, an indictment for swindling the
      Indian tribes could be forthcoming shortly. The most recent Wall
      Street Journal and Washington Post accounts reveal that the Justice
      Department task force looking into the influence-peddling cases has
      grown to 35-40 people, suggesting that multiple high-level criminal
      cases could be brought.

      Particularly ominous, from the standpoint of targeted congressmen, is
      the prospect that criminal bribery charges could be brought over
      campaign contributions, even though the cash did not go directly into
      the congressmen's pockets, but to finance their reelection efforts.
      The whole purpose of the elaborate Federal Election Commission ritual
      has been to legalize the escalating financial subsidies from corporate
      interests to legislators.

      One of Abramoff's favorite tactics was to hire the wives of
      congressional staffers or of the congressmen themselves, providing
      what amounted to a direct payoff under the cover of employment. One
      Abramoff-linked company, Alexander Strategy Group, run by former DeLay
      staffers Edwin Buckham and Tony Rudy, hired Christine DeLay, the
      congressman's wife, "to determine the favorite charity of every member
      of Congress," according to a Washington Post account. This not
      terribly complex job-presumably 435 phone calls would have
      sufficed-resulted in payments to Christine DeLay of $3,200 to $3,400 a
      month for three years, for a total of $115,000. The DeLays' family
      lawyer, Richard Cullen, told the Post, "It wasn't like she did this 9
      to 5, but it was an ongoing project. This was something that she found
      to be very interesting, very challenging and very worthwhile."

      As the criminal information published by the Justice Department in
      connection with Scanlon's guilty plea states, the contributions to the
      congressional campaign funds as well as personal gifts, such as Super
      Bowl tickets, vacation trips, and expensive restaurant meals, were "in
      exchange for a series of official acts." These included passing
      legislation, agreeing to put statements into the Congressional Record,
      contacting federal officials to influence decisions, meeting with
      Abramoff's clients, and awarding contracts for improvements in
      congressional office buildings.

      While the Republican lobbyist has so far only been indicted in the
      Florida case, and has not yet been convicted of any crime, the details
      flooding out into the media demonstrate the extraordinarily corrupt
      alliance of Christian fundamentalists, Jewish ultra-Zionists, anti-tax
      zealots and rabid neo-conservative ideologues in the service of
      corporate America.

      The scandal-the word is unavoidable but inadequate, since it is here
      describing the rule, not the exception, in today's Washington-reaches
      into the highest rungs of the Republican Party leadership and the Bush
      administration. DeLay, forced to step down as House Majority Leader
      after his indictment on an unrelated political corruption case in
      Texas, is the first top-level casualty. He once described Abramoff as
      "one of my closest and dearest friends."

      A mid-level White House official, David Safavian, chief procurement
      officer at the Executive Office and previously chief of staff at the
      General Services Administration, was indicted last month on charges
      that he lied to federal investigators about a junket he took with
      Abramoff, Reed and Congressman Ney to Scotland.

      There may well be further White House reverberations. According to
      documents released November 9, Abramoff sought a $9 million payment
      from the West African nation of Gabon to arrange a meeting with
      President Bush. Abramoff asked for the money to be paid through wire
      transfers to a company he controlled privately, rather than to the
      lobbying firm of Greenberg Traurig, where he was then employed.
      President Omar Bongo met with Bush in the Oval Office 10 months later,
      but there has as yet been no confirmation that he either made the
      payment to Abramoff or received the invitation in return. White House
      officials denied any connection, claiming that the Bongo visit was
      "part of the president's outreach to the continent of Africa."

      December Friday 2nd 2005

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