By Jon Christian Ryter
January 12, 2006
Federal prosecutors investigating influence-peddling on Capitol Hill have targeted five legislators—3 Republicans and 2 Democrats (3 Senators and 2 Congressmen). Former House Majority Leader Tom Delay was not directly implicated by super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff and, much to the disappointment of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid—who is—Delay escaped the probe that would likely have ended his Congressional career. His former deputy chief of staff, Tony Rudy was implicated. Rudy was not only instrumental in helping kill an Internet anti-gambling bill, court papers reveal that his family profited financially. Rudy's wife received $50,000.00 from Abramoff clients who benefited directly from Rudy's actions. Delay voted against the Republican measure that was designed to make it easier for authorities to shutdown online gambling sites but no evidence surfaced to indicate that he had profited from killing the legislation and Abramoff refused to implicate him..
Those coming under initial scrutiny from law enforcement officers and the US Attorney in what is being called "only the first phase" of what could become a much wider federal probe are: Senators Harry Reid [D-NV], Conrad Burns [R-MT] and Byron Dorgan [D-ND]; and Congressmen Bob Nye [R-OH] and J.D. Hayworth [R-AZ]. All five legislators have insisted they have done nothing illegal and that all of the dealings each of them had with Jack Abramoff have not only been legitimate, but above reproach. Justice Department sources that leaked the information to Jerry Separ of the Washington Times also said that in addition to the five legislators at least two legislative directors and other lobbyists are also under investigation. Just adding additional lobbyists to the probe will automatically expand the number of federal legislators who could be included in the probe before the initial investigation is complete—just about election time this fall. Clearly, this could be the year that more than the normal amount of incumbents—on both sides of the aisle—decide not to seek re-election.
Congressman Delay's former Communications Director, Michael Scanlon and another former Delay associate, Adam Kidan have already pleaded guilty to fraud and conspiracy charges. Both agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors. Had the only charges Abramoff pleaded guilty to were the fraud and conspiracy charges in Miami on Jan. 3 over his purchase of a fleet of 200 casino boats for $147.5 million with partner Adam Kidan, in which the pair faked their own $23 million wire transfer down payment, the scandal would likely have remained centered on the purchase of SunCruz and the subsequent gangland-style murder of Gus Boulis, the owner of the SunCruz casino boats who was apparently pressured by Abramoff and Kidan to sell the casino boats to one of Abramoff's companies.
The three men who have been arrested for killing Boulis were known associates of Kidan. And, had Congressman Randy Cunningham [R-CA] not been caught by federal prosecutors with his hand in the proverbial lobbyist cookie jar, and had Cunningham not agreed to wear a wire in order to help the FBI snag Abramoff, there would be only one major scandal to embarrass the Republicans. And that would have been exclusively a SunCruz scandal—and the arrest of Adam Kidan for arranging a murder-for-hire. And, of course, Ohio Congressman Bob Nye, Chairman of the House Administration Committee who placed comments in the Congressional Record to pressure SunCruz owner Gus Boulis to sell his casino fleet to Abramoff.
Federal investigators believe they can prove that Chairman Ney took $32,000 in donations from Abramoff--and performed "official acts in exchange for campaign cash or other favors." Ney, who admitted accepting a lavish golf trip to Scotland from Abramoff, has denied any wrongdoing—and told reporters that he gave $6,500 in campaign contributions he received from Abramoff to the American Indian College Fund. (Like other Congressmen and Senators who received campaign cash from Abramoff-client Indian tribes at the request of Jack Abramoff, Nye has mentally disassociated the funds he received directly from Abramoff with those disbursed by the Indian tribes on Abramoff's instructions.)
If the government's figures are correct, Nye kept $25,500 of Abramoff client funds on the grounds that since the money did not come directly from the lobbyist it was not tainted. "At the time I dealt with Jack Abramoff," Nye told reporters, "I obviously did not know, and had no way of knowing, the self-serving and fraudulent nature of Abramoff's activities." I guess to a 6-term Congressman who sees nothing wrong with being thanked by "dead presidents," when a lobbyist gives you a trip worth $50,000—the cost of Ney's lavish Scottish vacation—its not the same as getting the hard cash. Regardless if the FBI and the US Attorney decide not to prosecute Chairman Nye, the people of Ohio need to turn him out to pasture since he has proven he no longer represents them. Nye represents the K Street lobbyists and their fat cat clients who believe its okay to buy influence. Electing an honest Democrat to the 50th Congressional District in Ohio is far better than re-electing a Republican who has forfeited the people's trust.
JD Hayworth, an Arizona Congressman I've long admired as a pro-family, pro-1st and 2nd Amendment advocate, admitted he'd received $100,000 in campaign contributions from Indian tribes. Like Ney, he indicated he is going to return money that came directly from Abramoff. In Hayworth's case, that's $2,250—received from Indian tribes affiliated with the super lobbyist.
Don't any of them get it? First, selling influence is wrong all the time—not just when the lobbyist doing it gets caught buying favors. Second, nobody gives you a campaign contribution of $100,000 because they think you'll do a good job for America and you should be elected. They're buying access—and far more. Government contracts. Legislation that favors them. A cabinet post. Special concessions that their competition does not have. Many times all they want their own personal Congressman or Senator to do is hamstring their competition. But, in every case, what they get for their "contribution" is something they couldn't get in a million years without it— the rewards that come from buying the influence of a Congressman or Senator.
Hayworth told reporters that the donations he received were being used to unfairly link to Abramoff, and that he did nothing wrong in accepting the $2,250 in 1998 and 1999 from three tribes represented by Abramoff. Do they really not get it? It's the other $98,000 and the influence the donor expected in return. That's what's wrong. Just because that money was not illegal doesn't mean it's not unethical. I hope there's an honest businessman in the 5th Congressional District in Arizona this spring that will be willing to take on JD, because the people of Arizona can no longer trust him to represent them,
The top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee for Indian Affairs -- the committee tasked with the responsibility of investigating casino lobbyist Abramoff before the scandal became public - Sen. Byron Dorgan who initially denied after accepting money from Jack Abramoff—finally said he was returning $67,000.00. In a prepared text, Dorgan insisted he had done nothing wrong, but that he was advised to return the money to avoid the appearance of conflict of interest. Since the barn door was deliberately left open so the cows could wander aimlessly all over the countryside, its too late to act responsibly by closing the doors and pretending that nothing improper happened. "The fact is," he said in his statement, "I have never met Abramoff and have never received a campaign contribution from him." Apparently the contributions Dorgan received for favorable Indian casino votes came directly from the Six Nations and/or Abramoff's business associates—but not directly from the lobbyist who actually promised it. Perhaps Dorgan felt he earned the money and should not have to return it.
Dorgan, the co-chair of the Indian Affairs Committee refused to vacate his leadership position during the Abramoff investigation in which he was implicated. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid who called the Abramoff affair a "GOP scandal," is equally enmeshed in it since he felt he had earned his $66,000 in Abramoff money, too.
At the request of Jack Abramoff's office, Reid sent a letter to Interior Secretary Gale Norton on March 5, 2002 urging her to reject a permit request from the Choctaw Indians for a casino that would have competed with the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana—who were Abramoff's clients. On March 6, 2002 the Coushatta Tribe cut a check for $5,000.00 made out to the Searchlight Leadership Fund, Reid's tax-exempt PAC group. A second Abramoff tribal client also cut Reid a check for $5,000.00 at the same time. Yet Reid has had the audacity to call the Republican led Congress "...the most corrupt in history." When Fox News asked Reid about the AP report that he had taken over $66,000 in money from Abramoff or Abramoff clients, Reid replied, adding that he had never taken money from the casino lobbyist: "Don't lump me in with Jack Abramoff. This is a Republican scandal."
I guess Reid has discovered its a bipartisan scandal, even though GOP muckrakers outnumber Democratic muckrakers three to two. But then, its still early and the investigation is just beginning to move down K Street from lobbyist to lobbyist. Before its over, we just might have a brand new US Senate and House of Representatives.
© 2006 Jon C. Ryter - All Rights
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Jon Christian Ryter is the pseudonym of a former newspaper reporter with the Parkersburg, WV Sentinel. He authored a syndicated newspaper column, Answers From The Bible, from the mid-1970s until 1985. Answers From The Bible was read weekly in many suburban markets in the United States.
Today, Jon is an advertising executive with the Washington Times. His website, www.jonchristianryter.com has helped him establish a network of mid-to senior-level Washington insiders who now provide him with a steady stream of material for use both in his books and in the investigative reports that are found on his website.
Clearly, this could be the year that more than the normal amount of incumbents—on both sides of the aisle—decide not to seek re-election.