Abramoff-Reed Indian Gambling Scandal

From SourceWatch
Jump to: navigation, search

The Abramoff-Reed Indian Gambling Scandal is a US political scandal involving the work done by lobbyists Jack Abramoff, Ralph E. Reed, Jr., Grover Norquist and Michael Scanlon on behalf of Indian casino gambling interests. The lobbyists are accused of orchestrating lobbying against their own clients in order to force them to pay for lobbying services.

In the course of the scheme, the lobbyists are accused of illegally giving gifts and making campaign donations in return for political favors to several senior Republican politicians, in particular Tom DeLay, Conrad Burns and Bob Ney

In addition to his involvement in the Indian Gambling scandal Abramoff is under investigation by a grand jury in Guam over possibly illegal contract payments and money laundering and was indicted on August 11, 2005 by a third grand jury in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for bank fraud arising out of an unrelated business deal.

Background

Abramoff, Reed and Norquist all served as officers in the College Republican National Committee (CNRC).

Jack Abramoff was elected Chairman of the CRNC in 1983. Abramoff appointed Reed Executive Director of the CRNC in 1983, succeeding Grover Norquist. Norquist had managed Abramoff's campaign for National Chairman and would later found Americans for Tax Reform, an anti-tax group that would serve as a fundraising conduit in the Indian gaming scandal.

At the CRNC, Abramoff, Norquist and Reed formed what was known as the "Abramoff-Norquist-Reed triumvirate." Upon Abramoff's election, the trio purged "dissidents" and re-wrote the CRNC's bylaws to consolidate their control over the organization. Reed was the "hatchet man" and "carried out Abramoff-Norquist orders with ruthless efficiency, not bothering to hide his fingerprints." (Nina J. Easton, Gang of Five, page 142)

Allegations of Corrupt Lobbying Practices

Abramoff and partner Scanlon are alleged to have engaged in a series of corrupt practices in connection to their lobbying work for various Indian Casino gambling tribes. The fees paid to Abramoff and Scanlon for this work are believed to exceed $85 million.

In particular Abramoff and partner Scanlon are alleged to have conspired with Washington power broker Grover Norquist and Christian activist Reed to co-ordinate lobbying against his own clients and prospective clients with the objective of forcing them to engage Abramoff and Sanlon to lobby against their own covert operations.

Allegation of Double Dealling

Reed repeatedly denied knowing the source of the funds used to campaign against the casinos until prosecutors released emails exchanged between Reed and Abramoff. According to e-mails, Reed and Norquist contacted Abramoff separately in 1999 to say they wanted to do business. Norquist complained about a "$75K hole in my budget from last year." Reed said he was counting on Abramoff "to help me with some contacts."

In 2000, Abramoff warned Reed on February 7 that an initial payment for antilottery radio spots and mailings would be less than Reed thought. "I need to give Grover something for helping, so the first transfer will be a bit lighter," Abramoff wrote. The transfer was apparently lighter than even Abramoff expected. In a note to himself on February 22, Abramoff wrote, "Grover kept another $25K!" Norquist claims he had permission.

In 2000, Abramoff arranged for the Choctaws to give the Alabama Christian Coalition $1.15 million in installments. Norquist agreed to pass the money on to the Alabama Christian Coalition and another Alabama antigambling group, both of which Reed was mobilizing for the fight against a proposed Alabama state lottery.

In 2002, after Abramoff worked with Christian activist Ralph E. Reed, Jr. to close the casino of the Tigua tribe, he persuaded the tribe to hire him to lobby Congress to reopen the casino.

Of the $7.7 million Abramoff and fellow lobbyist Michael Scanlon charged the Choctaw for projects in 2001, they spent $1.2 million for their efforts and split the rest in a scheme they called "gimme five."

Alleged Spending Irregularities

In 2004, Abramoff resigned from Greenberg Traurig amid a scandal related to spending irregularities in his work as a lobbyist for Native American tribes involved in gambling, namely The Mississippi Choctaw, the Louisiana Coushatta, the Agua Caliente, Sandia Pueblo, the Saginaw Chippewa and the Tigua of Ysleta del Sur Pueblo.

The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians paid $15 million dollars to Abramoff and Scanlon's organizations. The funds were diverted to a number of projects, including the Eshkol Academy, an all-boys Orthodox Jewish school set up by Abramoff in Maryland, and to a friend who ran sniper workshops for the Israel Defence Forces.[1]

American International Center

Part of the sums paid by the tribes for lobbying were paid to the American International Center, an organization presenting itself as a think tank headed by David Grosh, a lifeguard on the Delaware shore who operated it from his beach house. Grosh had no qualifications or work experience relevant to policy research and currently works as a construction worker. At a Senate Hearing Grosh admitted that he had abetted the deception and said that he was "embarrassed and disgusted to be a part of this whole thing."

Insulting references to clients

In emails now made public by the FBI, which is investigating him, Abramoff repeatedly refers to Native Americans as "monkeys", "troglodytes" and "idiots."

Abramoff via email once asked his conspirator Michael Scanlon to meet a client. The reason Mr. Abramoff couldn't do it was because, as he put it, "I have to meet with the monkeys from the Choctaw tribal council. You need to close the deal... with the client..."

About one tribal client (date unknown) Abramoff wrote to Scanlon, "These mofos are the stupidest idiots in the land for sure." In another e-mail message he wrote, "we need to get some money from those monkeys!!"

Comment by Politicians

John McCain has said of the Abramoff scheme, "Even in this town, where huge sums are routinely paid as the price of political access, the figures are astonishing."

Alleged Influence peddling

Abramoff has a reputation for largesse considered exceptional even by Washington standards. In addition to offering many Republican members of Congress expensive free meals at his Restaurant Signatures, Abramoff maintained four skyboxes at major sports arenas for political entertaining at a cost of over $1 million a year. Abramoff hosted many fundraisers at these skyboxes including events for politicians publicly oppsed to gambling such as John Doolittle. [2]

Bob Ney

In 2002 after the now-notorious Abramoff worked with Christian activist Ralph E. Reed, Jr. to close the casino of the Tigua tribe, Jack persuaded the tribe to hire him to lobby Congress to reopen the casino. Shortly after Abramoff met with Ney to ask him to push the legislation, the Tigua (by overnight mail) sent three checks to Ney's political committees, totaling $32,000. The apparent exchange of campaign contributions in return for Ney's support of an amendment to reopen the Tigua's casino could constitute bribery.

E-mails between Abramoff and the Tigua's political consultant show that Ney solicited the Tigua to pay for part of a 2002 golf trip to Scotland, knowing full well that solicitation of travel is specifically prohibited by House rules. Shortly after Ney returned from Scotland, he was scheduled to meet with members of the Tigua tribal council. Prior to that meeting, Abramoff reminded the Tigua that "for obvious reasons" the golf trip would not be mentioned at the meeting, but that Ney show his appreciation "in other ways," which was, Abramoff pointed out, just what the tribe wanted. Although the tribe never ended up paying for the golf trip, Ney's attempt to tie the gift of the trip to the legislative assistance the tribe was seeking likely violates federal criminal law.

Ney is also implicated in the separate Abramoff SunCruz scandal.

Tom DeLay

Joining Abramoff on a vacation was Tom DeLay, whose airfare to London and Scotland in 2000 was charged to an American Express card issued to Jack Abramoff, according to two sources who know Abramoff's credit card account number and to a copy of a travel invoice displaying that number. DeLay's expenses during the same trip for food, phone calls and other items at a golf course hotel in Scotland were billed to a different credit card also used on the trip by a second registered Washington lobbyist, Edwin A. Buckham, according to receipts documenting that portion of the trip.[3]

Documents showed that Jack Abramoff or his firm not only paid travel bills for Republicans like Tom DeLay but also for Southern Democrats like James Clyburn of South Carolina and Bennie Thompson of Mississippi.

Conrad Burns

Burns is an alleged recipient of illegal favors and $136,000 in campaign contributions from scandal-plagued lobbyist Jack Abramoff, currently under indictment by one grand jury and under investigation by two more.

As the chair of the Interior subcommittee on Apropriations, Burns received over $136,000 in campaign contributions through Abramoff and then directed $3 million to the Saginaw Chippewa Tribe of Michigan, an Abramoff client and one of the wealthiest tribes in the country from a program intended to help the neediest tribes fix delapidated schools.

After initially claiming credit for the appropriation Burns subsequently denied knowledge of it, "A lot of things happened that I didn't know about. It shouldn't have happened, but it did."

John Cornyn

"On November 12, 2001, Reed sent Abramoff an e-mail stating, 'get me details so I can alert cornyn and let him know what we are doing to help him' [sic]. Similarly, on November 13, 2001, Reed wrote 'I strongly suggest we start doing patch-throughs to perry and cornyn [sic]. We're getting killed on the phone.' Also, on January 7, 2002, Reed sent Abramoff an e-mail stating 'I think we should budget for an ataboy for cornyn' [sic]." [4]

When John Cornyn ran for Senate, Abramoff contributed $1,000, the maximum amount legally allowed. The allegedly anti-gambling Cornyn also received $6,250 in contributions from Las Vegas casino interests who oppose Indian gaming, some of which were made at the same time Cornyn was pushing to close the Tigua's casino.

Sen David Vitter

The Louisiana Jena Band of Choctaws offered testimony accusing Louisiana Sen. David Vitter of being in cahoots with Abramoff and his attempts to stymie the tribe's casino plans.[5]

Richard Pombo

In 2003, Abramoff gave Richard Pombo's PAC $5,000. Abramoff also gave $2,000, the maximum allowed, to Pombo's congressional campaign committee that same year.

Wikipedia also has an article on Abramoff-Reed Indian Gambling Scandal. This article may use content from the Wikipedia article under the terms of the GFDL.