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View Diary: New Witness in DeLay-Abramoff Scandal. Updated (80 comments)

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  •  Isn't it interesting... (4.00)
    How the scandals concerning Abramoff and DeLay seem to be focused on the very peripheral issues of Native American gambling interests and the Northern Marianas Islands?

    Would it be possible to find two more peripheral, backwater areas of government?  Maybe this is happening because these crooks prefer to lurk in the shadows, but that has never been their MO.  These scandals feel like the overture to a five-act Wagnerian opera of corruption.  Maybe even a Ring cycle of corruption.  

    We may not be at the end of the long operatic saga until the Gotterdammerung of Cheney's ties to the oil companies.  Better get comfortable, folks.  This is going to take a while.  Some beautiful music, some Valkyries and gnomes hoarding gold, and long hours of ass-aching boredom before the spectacular finale.

    -4.50, -5.85 "To initiate a war of aggression is ... the supreme international crime." ---Nuremberg Tribunal

    by Dallasdoc on Wed Dec 07, 2005 at 06:23:30 PM PST

    •  It is intential (4.00)
      Jack was to be the point of the spear for the K St. Project.

      He needed to become a star lobbyist in a hurry. To intimidate others on K Street and create a training ground for GOP staffers to rotate into on their way to other things. The Alexander Strtegy Group is filled with the Abramoff-connected for example.

      And the entire Tribal scam started with a GOP Congress/Jack Abramoff scam.

      As I've posted before back in 1995 the National Journal laid out how it went down:

      As House Ways and Means Committee chairman Bill Archer, R-Texas, scrambled for ways to address the budget crunch, the fact that Indian gambling revenues--estimated to have been about $ 6 billion in 1992--are not taxed made that pot of loot a ripe target, notwithstanding arguments about tribal sovereignty. [snip]

      Indian leaders concede that they were surprised to learn that the House budget reconciliation bill contained only one new tax and that it was aimed at their gaming revenues. ''Everybody was caught napping, because it came up with short notice. They just decided they were going to tax Indian gaming because of newspaper stories about how lucrative it is and how much money some tribes are making,'' Chief Phillip Martin of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians said in a telephone interview. Only a few tribes are making ''good money,'' he added.

      ''We look at ourselves as a government,'' Martin said. Indian tribes have long enjoyed a special status, with their sovereignty recognized through treaties and court decisions.

      It was a phony battle that set Abramoff up as a connected giant killer for the Tribes:

      Tribal leaders became galvanized as Archer's proposal to impose a tax on gaming income headed to a House-Senate conference. The Choctaws wasted no time in retaining Jack Abramoff [snip]

      ''We focused on the fact that it was a tax increase rather than an issue of fairness for Indians or its relationship to gaming,'' Abramoff said in an interview. ''We did that because it is such a strong notion in the Republican Party that taxes are an evil weapon of the welfare state. We also made the case that here's a people lifting themselves out of poverty, and this tax would set them back.'' Abramoff enlisted the support of the politically connected taxpayer movement. Influential groups, including the Coalition Against New Taxes (CANT), which represents 39 antitax organizations across the country, blasted the proposal as breaking the GOP commitment against such ''revenue enhancers.''

      Conservative activist Grover G. Norquist, the president of Americans for Tax Reform, also weighed in. '' 'No new taxes' means no Indian gaming tax or any other whimsical folly of the revenue hunters,'' he wrote in a letter dated Nov. 8 to Rep. Jon Christensen, R-Neb., who sits on the Ways and Means Committee. ''There is no compelling need for revenue that justifies this startling and apparently random innovation.''

      At the same time, Abramoff contacted the House GOP leadership staff, who were unaware of the new tax, an aide said. Taxpayer activists also made the case with The Washington Times, and the newspaper responded with a toughly worded editorial against the tax.

      And it worked:

      That Abramoff activated the conservative network on an issue relating to Indians impressed Martin. ''This was the first time that we were able to make some contacts with the House Republican leadership and the different political organizations connected with the Republican Party,'' he said. ''That gave us a lot of help because we are talking about the same thing that they are talking about--no new taxes.'' [snip]

      S. Timothy Wapato, the executive director of the National Indian Gaming Association, said that ''it was raised in a number of places on Capitol Hill that in the past a majority of contributions have gone to Democratic candidates.'' Now you might see a shift in contributions to supporters on Capitol Hill, he added. [snip]

      Faced with the strong opposition in the Senate as well as the antitax fervor in the House, Archer dropped the provision. [snip]

      Still, the fight is not over, Wapato said. ''We've been told it will be coming back,'' he noted. ''We were hit with a surprise attack (this time), but in the coming year, we are expecting it.''

      It had all the earmarks of a classic con. Find a mark. Have one player put the mark in jeopardy. Another player saves the mark and wins trust and loyalty. Then, over time you take the mark to the cleaners.

      That is what Abramoff and the GOP did to a growing number of Indian Tribes between 1995 and 2003. And the fees, when combined with the more than $11 million to protect sweatshops on CNMI, turned Jack into a very powerful lobbyist on K Street.

      Young staffers from all over the Hill rotated into Jack's lobbyist team and then out on their own to new jobs on K Street, Associations, back on the Hill or in the Bush White House.

      It was also not an accident that both CNMI and the Tribe received the bulk of their funding through Congress and appropriations to the Department of the Interior..

      •  CNMI & DoI (4.00)
        Jack was even able to set up CNMI officials over at DoI.

        From USA Today, shortly after Bush was appointed President:

        "Our standing with the new administration promises to be solid as several friends of the CNMI (islands) will soon be taking high-ranking positions in the Administration, including within the Interior Department," Abramoff wrote in a January 2001 letter in which he persuaded the island government to follow him as a client to his new lobbying firm, Greenberg Traurig.

        Abramoff also got Bush on board back in '97 and continued working with him once in office:

        The reception Abramoff's team received from the Bush administration was in stark contrast to the chilly relations of the Clinton years. Abramoff, then at the Preston Gates firm, scored few meetings with Clinton aides and the lobbyist and the islands vehemently opposed White House attempts to extend U.S. labor laws to the territory's clothing factories.

        The records from Abramoff's firm, obtained by The Associated Press from the Marianas under an open records request, chronicle Abramoff's careful cultivation of relations with Bush's political team as far back as 1997.

        In that year, Abramoff charged the Marianas for getting then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush to write a letter expressing support for the Pacific territory's school choice proposal, his billing records show.

        "I hope you will keep my office informed on the progress of this initiative," Bush wrote in a July 18, 1997, letter praising the islands' school plan and copying in an Abramoff deputy.


        Most of the contacts were handled by Abramoff's subordinates, who then reported back to him on the meetings. Abramoff met several times personally with top Interior officials, whose Office of Insular Affairs oversees the Mariana Islands and other U.S. territories.

        In all, the records show at least 195 contacts between Abramoff's Marianas lobbying team and the Bush administration from February through November 2001.

        At least two people who worked on Abramoff's team at Preston Gates wound up with Bush administration jobs: Patrick Pizzella, named an assistant secretary of labor by Bush; and David Safavian, chosen by Bush to oversee federal procurement policy in the Office of Management and Budget.

        Safavian, of course, now indicted for making false statements to federal investigators.

        'You can't begin to imagine how effective the Big Lie is.' N. Mailer 'TNatD'

        by jorndorff on Wed Dec 07, 2005 at 07:16:06 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  What's amazing (none)
        is that they just kept on using the same con over and over again...

        "looks like someone wants to (tax you/shut down your gaming/extend labor laws/etc...)  I think I can help."

        I carried water for the elephant; Back and forth to the well I went; My arms got sore and my back got bent; But I couldn't fill up that elephant

        by Sylvester McMonkey Mcbean on Wed Dec 07, 2005 at 09:51:46 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Have no fear, GOP. Mc Cain says (4.00)
        he will not investigate his colleagues.  I put part of the transcript from Sunday's MTP in a comment here.

        Thank goodness we seem to have career people in DOJ with integrity.  (I often think, please, let that remain true, and don't let it turn out to be another deception and crushing disappointment.)

        "Let him that would move the world first move himself." --Socrates

        by joanneleon on Wed Dec 07, 2005 at 10:16:40 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  racketeering - hello RICO (none)
        It is extortion when you create a threat, and promise protection from it.

        SOCIAL SECURITY: Invented by Democrats yesterday, Protected by Democrats today

        by mollyd on Thu Dec 08, 2005 at 06:31:33 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Just a little tid-bit on the (none)
        Alexander Group that might be of interest considering that the CIA is reported to have moved its black prisons from Europe to North Africa.

        Not a client to bring home to mom.

        Not a Client to Bring Home to Mom
        Eritrea ?signed Alexander Strategy Group, a firm with strong Republican ties, to a contract worth more than $300K a year to improve its ties with the United States.? According to Amnesty International ?torture, arbitrary detention, ?disappearances? and ill-treatment of political prisoners? are common in the Horn of Africa nation. Human Rights Watch reports ?The Eritrean government has lobbied the United States to use Eritrea?s Red Sea ports as military bases in the war against terrorism.? The contract ?forbids the [Alexander Strategy Group] from discussing its work without the consent of Eritrea.? The Alexander Strategy Group?s other clients include the Nuclear Energy Institute , Blackwater USA and PhRMA. Source: O?Dwyer?s PR Daily (reg. req?d), August 10, 2004

        Forget "GOD, GUNS, GAYS, GIRLS & GETS"

        by hannah on Thu Dec 08, 2005 at 07:37:11 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Can You Say (4.00)
      money laundering?  Guam, Reservation Bingo, and don't forget the sea-going gambling cruise ships.  They're more than likely "off-shore" banking facilities.  Rather, funnels for beaucoups bucks.

      All three have the advantage or allowing nefarious "fund raising."  One can neatly avoid the annoying strictures of the law placed on the movement of cash, the requirements of record-keeping, and the eligibilty restrictions on donors, which are the encumbrances to fattening war chests when operating Stateside.

      They burn our children in their wars and grow rich beyond the dreams of avarice.

      by Limelite on Wed Dec 07, 2005 at 06:45:49 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Yes, that's very interesting.... (none)
      Where there is money to be made, they moved in. And I still can't figure out why Cheney fought so hard to even prevent disclosure of those he met with, let alone the substance of the meetings.

      "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter." Dr. ML King, from a jail cell in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963.

      by bewert on Wed Dec 07, 2005 at 08:59:58 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

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