For many the Jack Abramoff scandal is old news, ancient history and in the past. As the corrupt Bush Administration winds down many of his corrupt fellow travelers are hoping that the Abramoff scandal is dead and buried—and that their involvement will never bubble to the surface. These Corruptionists hope that the Abramoff scandal is over, but they are just whistling past the graveyard. As Faulkner said:
"The past is never dead. It’s not even past."
Quietly, the professionals at the Department of Justice have been working this massive scandal—that is complex by design—to build cases that move from the outer edges to the heart of political corruption in Washington DC. Abramoff is just a doorway in—not an endpoint—and prosecutors are zeroing in on some big fish in a corrupt stream.
The investigation was very active in 2008 and expanded its scope. More shoes are dropping. More details are being exposed. This is why the GOP fears the future, Obama and Eric Holder.
To the jump...
To date, sixteen people—including Abramoff—have plead guilty in the scandal and as terms of their pleas they have been cooperating with the DOJ. Another two have been indicted. One is awaiting trial while the other was recently found guilty again in a retrial. Others, including Abramoff, have been indicted for crimes committed on the US Territory of Guam. A trial there is schedule to begin in January 2009. And then there are some indictments on the Marianas Islands that may also prove to be related to corruption in Washington when they come to trial. And that is just what is known on the surface. There are quite a few people identified in these cases who have yet to be indicted, but their day is coming.
The Abramoff scandal is a very active investigation and it is flying far below the radar. One gets the sense that the professionals in the Department of Justice who have been investigating this scandal are waiting out the Bush Administration to minimize political interference and any possible pardons Bush might hand out to his co-conspirators as he leaves office. The US Attorney in Maryland had to be tasked with investigating the DOJ in Washington DC because Abramoff and his team had infiltrated the Justice Department. There is evidence in the Abramoff billing records, documents released from Court cases and from Congressional investigations that former Attorney General John Ashcroft may have exposure is the scandal. Two of his former staffers are involved. One has pleaded guilty and the other has been indicted, his trial should begin later this year.
Many in Washington and in the press want to point to the artificial scandals from the Clinton era or that dickhead Governor in Illinois as the biggest scandals of the day. I expect that the GOP will trot these out as they try to attack Eric Holder, Obama’s choice to be Attorney General. I wrote about this a few weeks ago (Why the GOP Fears Eric Holder) and we need to get ready to fight back.
When the GOP screams Marc Rich: We scream Abramoff!
When the GOP screams Elian: We scream Abramoff!
When the GOP screams Buddhist Temple: We scream Abramoff!
When the GOP screams Blagojevich: We scream Abramoff!
It is a simple formulation. They want to steer the discussion away from their decades old culture of corruption and back onto some bullshit equivalence of spin that can only be formulated into a scandal if you use "Chariots of the Gods" logic. You know how it works:
- There are straight lines in the mountains of Peru.
- They can be seen from the air.
- Therefore, they could only be landing strips for space travelers
The GOP will try to make similar arguments about Holder:
- Something is bad.
- Holder has a thin link to the bad thing.
- Therefore Holder is bad
They need to make this case because it is all they have, but we need to make taking on the massive corruption of the Bush/DeLay/Hastert/Gingrich era a central point of discussion for the Holder Hearings. We need strong commitments from Holder and the incoming Obama Administration to investigate crimes ranging from Torture, to war profiteering to Katrina to the pay for play culture in Washington that was exposed in the Abramoff scandal.
In the past, I have written about the 750,000 pages of Abramoff scandal documents that were gathered by John McCain and the Senate’s Indian Affairs Committee investigation of the Abramoff scandal. That is a lot of documents, but it is a small pile of paper when compared to the documents gathered by the Department of Justice in their ongoing investigation of the scandal.
Kevin Ring was a key player in the Abramoff scandal. He was deeply involved in helping Abramoff and the K Street Project when he was a staffer on Capital Hill working for John Doolittle and then John Ashcroft. The he moved through the revolving door and went to work as Jack’s Right-hand man. Ring ran the lobbying program for the Marianas Islands and many other clients. He continued to run a K Street Project lobbying program long after Abramoff had been disgraced and sent to jail. When the Washington Post broke the Abramoff scandal in a February 2004 article, Kevin Ring shared his insights on the scandal in an email exchanged with friends that was released as part of a November 2, 2005 Senate’s Indian Affairs Committee doc dump. In one email, Ring confessed:
I know more than the article and the truth is worse.
The Truth is Worse could be the Abramoff scandal tagline. Hell, it seems to be the motto of the Bush Administration and the Republican Party. Kevin Ring is a major scandal player and he is actively fighting the Department of Justice and the investigation into the scandal—when Ring falls, the last line of defense for many corruptionists in DC will fall with him. Lately Ring and his lawyers have been arguing with the Government over discovery and the evidence they have against him. These exchanges have revealed new details about the massive scope of the ongoing Abramoff investigation. Here are some excerpts from a late October 2008 Government filing about evidence shared with Ring and his lawyers (emphasis added):
Summary of Productions
September 8, 2008
- CD with reports of Kevin Ring statements to known law enforcement officers and with outside counsel for Greenberg Traurig
- Two binders containing documents supporting individual paragraphs in the Indictment.
September 17, 2008
Additional Statements of Kevin Ring to known law enforcement officers
October 10, 2008
47 CDs/DVDs containing emails, expense reports and documents from Mr. Ring’s previous employers as well as documents, emails and recordings from witnesses
October 27, 2008
34 CDs/DVDs containing emails from Mr. Ring’s previous employer.
In addition, the Government will continue to make discovery productions as the materials become available. The Government has also notified Mr. Ring’s counsel that there are additional files and materials that have been acquired in the course of related investigations. Those materials are available for their review and for photocopying or scanning. Additionally, on September 26, 2008, the Government met with Mr. Ring’s counsel to establish a protocol for reviewing emails contained within e-mail "vaults" of the Department of Justice. In essence, the protocol proposed by the Government would run search terms through the DOJ vaults, proposed by both the Prosecution team and Mr. Ring’s counsel. The Prosecution team would review the search results for relevance and then forward relevant results to the DOJ component that holds any applicable privileges or other interests. The Prosecution team will then produce documents that have cleared the relevant DOJ components. If a DOJ component withholds a document for privilege or other interests, but the Prosecution team believes the document is discoverable, the Prosecution team will present the issue to the court for resolution. In addition, Mr. Ring’s counsel will not have to disclose to the Prosecution team the search terms he submits. The Government has not received a reply as to whether such a protocol is acceptable to Mr. Ring.
Vaults! The government has a vault filled with Abramoff scandal emails. And then there are other documents. So just how many document has the Government given Ring access to as part of the discovery process? Well a response letter from Ring’s lawyers provides some details:
As of this writing, the government has provided 81 disks of material in addition to the single disk and two binders provided on the day of Mr. Ring's arraignment marked attachments A, B, and C. Our analysis of these materials is ongoing, but it is our present estimate that the 81 disks contain over 3,000,000 pages of documentary material...
Note that the 3,000,000 pages of documents mentioned above are just about the evidence collected in the Abramoff Scandal that relate to the charges against Kevin Ring—you can bet that this is just the tip of an iceberg of evidence. Still, this is a massive pile of evidence being released to Ring’s lawyers and they have been arguing with the DOJ for a "road map" to help them sort through the documents. In one filing they complained (emphasis added)
Since the government began providing discovery in this case -- which now totals eighty-three disks and over three million documents, we have been working diligently through the materials while still awaiting receipt of the charts and indexes referenced in the Notice. Our efforts have continued despite the fact that the government has been unable to provide answers to basic questions, such as the location within the three million documents of the of Mr. Ring referenced by the government during their PowerPoint presentation.
These exchanges basically mean that the Department of Justice is sitting on millions and millions of emails and pages of documents. Hell, they have almost 55,000 emails that Kevin Ring sent or received. Add to that thousands of hours of interviews and question sessions with people involved in the scandal. It is a massive pile of evidence that must have many players in the GOP trembling with fear—and sadly, a few Democrats as well. Regardless of their Party each and every one of these players in this scandal needs to be exposed and banished from policy and politics forever. They are dirtballs, each and every one. No exceptions.
Ring and his lawyers have been pushing the idea that the DOJ must walk them through each and every document in this pile of evidence. This led to a snarky (and fun to read) section in a recent Government filing on the matter (emphasis added):
We Have Produced Numerous Road-Maps Of The Case To The Defendant.
The defendant has claimed that they are unable to review the discovery because they have not been provided a road-map of the criminal case. The government has repeatedly produced road-maps of the case to the defendant.
First, on or about May 8, 2007, the government conducted a detailed reverse-proffer with counsel for the defendant, during which the government outlined its evidence and theory of prosecution regarding the Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General ("DOJ OIG") aspect of the investigation. In addition, during 2007, the government repeatedly spoke with counsel for the defendant about his criminal exposure regarding the non-DOJ-OIG aspect of the investigation.
Second, on or about February 15, 2008, during plea negotiations in advance of the indictment, the government presented a lengthy PowerPoint presentation to the defendant and his counsel for several hours. This PowerPoint presentation, which we have recently provided in hard copy to defense counsel, outlines the defendant’s criminal exposure in both the DOJ OIG and non-DOJ OIG aspects of the case. The PowerPoint presentation includes areas intrinsic to the defendant’s charged conspiracy and arguably covered by Federal Rule of Evidence 404(b).
Third, the lengthy indictment describes the allegations with clarity and precision.
Fourth, on the day of the defendant’s initial appearance, we produced two large binders of documents that supported the vast majority of paragraphs in the indictment. These documents — numbered to correspond to the indictment’s paragraphs — include, among other things, highly relevant emails, checks, receipts, and portions of cooperators’ plea agreements. In short, these two binders allow the defendant to place each paragraph of the indictment in context, discover the identities of unindicted coconspirators and others, and better understand the allegations.
Fifth, defense counsel was present each time the government interviewed the defendant under the terms of a proffer agreement. Accordingly, counsel obtained an excellent sense of the defendant’s criminal exposure even before our reverse proffers, PowerPoint presentation, the grand jury’s indictment, and our production at the defendant’s initial appearance of all reports memorializing his interviews.
Sixth, pursuant to a November 24, 2008, Court Order we sought from the District of Maryland, we have produced to the defendant a copy of the sealed search warrant affidavit supporting the search of his residence.
Seventh, at the defendant’s request, we are working to provide a more detailed chart or other documents outlining the contents of the various CDs and DVDs we have produced.
Eighth, we will produce certain grand jury materials as authorized by this Court in the Order of November 21, 2008, which should serve as an index of sorts to certain documents being produced.
Ninth, we have produced various drafts of a book that the defendant had been writing and that the government had come into possession through the issuance of a grand jury subpoena and the afore-mentioned search warrant. In several of those drafts, the defendant admitted that he had taken certain actions as a lobbyist with a corrupt intent. The book drafts further serve as yet one more road-map that the defendant can use to focus his efforts.
Based on all of this material, we believe there is no need for the government to provide or generate a further road-map to the defendant. As a former lobbyist and lawyer, he is more than capable of serving as a tour guide to find other inculpatory and exculpatory evidence for his counsel.
Now, this is from the Professional Staff at the Department of Justice and the Public Integrity Section. In the politicize Bush Department of Justice these folks not only have to fight corruption, but worry about interference from the White House as well. One Abramoff Team mole in the DOJ has already been exposed and found guilty. The US Attorney in Baltimore is investigating the DOJ as part of the scandal as a result of discovering this internal corruption within the Washington-based Department of Justice.
Imagine a DOJ and a Public Integrity Section that had the full support of the Attorney General, the President and the Staff at the White House. That is what we will get with Eric Holder and Barack Obama. And that is why Holder is being targeted by the GOP: they fear him. They fear justice. This needs to be pointed out loudly and often.
We need an investigation of the Culture of Corruption in Washington that exposes the crimes whether or not the perpetrators are still in office or if they left years ago. We need to expose allies of corruption burrowed deep into conservative "Think Tanks" and NGOs in Washington. We need to expose their sycophants in the media as well.
The Abramoff investigation is still very active. It is not in the past. It is far from over and it may be one of the most active investigations currently underway. Here is an A to Z list of the seventeen people (in addition to Abramoff) who have pleaded guilty or been convicted in the scandal as of the end of 2008:
- John Albaugh is a former Chief of staff to retired Republican Congressman Ernest Istook. Albaugh plead guilty to his role in the Abramoff scandal on June 2, 2008 and is cooperating with the ongoing DOJ investigations. His cooperation with prosecutors spells trouble for Don Young, Kevin Ring and others connected to House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the Appropriation Committee’s Subcommittee for Transportation. Albaugh has yet to be sentenced for his crimes.
- Trevor Blackann is a former staffer to Congressman Roy Blunt, and Senator Kit Bond who went through the revolving door to become a lobbyist. Blackann (along with Ring and Coughlin) tightens the link between Missouri Republicans and Jack Abramoff. He plead guilty to his role in the scandal on November 20, 2008 and this may have been a contributing factor to Blunt’s decision to leave the GOP House leadership team for the 111th Congress. Blackann is married to Laura Brookshire, a former Tom DeLay staffer and media spokesperson for Richard Pombo and John Doolittle. Blackann is cooperating with the DOJ and has yet to be sentenced for his crimes.
- Jared Carpenter was second in command at the GOP artificial environmental front group CREA (Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy). This was one of the main Right-wing nonprofits that Abramoff used as a pass-through for laundering money (Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform and Amy Ridenour’s National Center for Public Policy Research are two more Abramoff front groups that so far have escaped similar well deserved indictments of key staff. Perhaps this will happen in 2009). In July 2007 Carpenter plead guilty for his role in the scandal. He was sentenced in December 2007 and has been cooperating with ongoing investigations as part of his plea deal.
- Robert E. Coughlin II was Team Abramoff’s mole in the Department of Justice. He is a Prince of the Conservative movement and this Diary provides details about his background. Coughlin came to the DOJ with John Ashcroft and his guilty plea deepens the links between the Abramoff scandal and Missouri Republicans. Coughlin abruptly resigned from the DOJ in April of 2007 and by April of 2008 he signed a guilty plea for his role in the scandal. The US Attorney from Baltimore was called in to investigate the Washington DC based DOJ because of Coughlin. These Baltimore based prosecutors have opened a second path of investigation into the scandal and it is unclear if Coughlin was the only Abramoff mole in the DOJ. There could be others. Coughlin will be a key witness in the upcoming trial of key Abramoff Lieutenant Kevin Ring and he has yet to be sentenced for his crimes and betrayal of justice.
- Italia Federici took a star turn in the scandal during the Senate Indian Affairs Committee Hearings. She was defiant, evasive and shrill. She got the attention of the DOJ and was quickly under investigation along with her money laundering front group, CREA. She was one of Jack’s links to the Bush Administration, especially to the Interior Department and the second in command there, Steven Griles. She copped a guilty plea in June of 2007 and was sentenced in December of that year. As part of her deal, she is required to continue her cooperation with ongoing DOJ investigations into the scandal.
- Steven Griles was a coal industry lobbyist who held the second-ranking position at the US Department of the Interior during the early years of the Bush Administration. Griles left his office as a result of the Abramoff scandal and (of course) joined a lobbying firm, Lundquist, Nethercutt & Griles (the firm, also known as the Lundquist Group or BlueWater Strategies, has ties to—surprise—Don Young). In March of 2007 Griles plead guilty to his crimes. In December 2007 he began serving a 10 month sentence. Griles is out now, but the terms of his probation require him to continue his cooperation with ongoing investigations.
- William Heaton was a former aide to GOP Speaker Denny Hastert who went to work for former Congressman Bob Ney, first on the House Administration Committee and then as Ney’s Chief of Staff when fellow co-conspirator Neil Volz left Ney’s staff to work as a lobbyist on Team Abramoff. Heaton was on the infamous golf outing to Scotland paid for by Abramoff. His cooperation helped to bring down Bob Ney. Heaton was sentenced for his role in the scandal in August 2007. As part of the terms of his probation he is required to continue his cooperation with the DOJ.
- James F. Hirni is one of the most recent guilty pleas in the ongoing Abramoff scandal investigation. It was just weeks ago, on December 12, 2008 that he signed a guilty plea for his role in the scandal and agreed to fully cooperate with ongoing investigations. Hirni was identified as "Lobbyist E" in the guilty plea of Trevor Blackann. Both plea deals implicate an unnamed staff member of Don Young’s Transportation and Infrastructure Committee (identified as "Staffer D") and long time Tom DeLay aide turned Team Abramoff lobbyist Todd Boulanger (identified as "Lobbyist D"). Boulanger’s indictment could come any day now. The focus of these interlocking pleas is the upcoming trial of Kevin Ring and these cases should be a cause for concern for several current and former members of Congress like DeLay, Doolittle, Blunt and Young—to name just a few.
- Adam Kidan was Abramoff’s partner in crime down in Florida when the two ran a scam to buy a fleet of gambling ships in Florida. Turns out, they did not have the money and used a number of deceptions to convince the buyer that they did. Trouble started when the seller noticed missing payments and escalated when the seller was gunned down in a mob-like hit in front of a restaurant he started. Abramoff and Kidan pleaded guilty to crimes related to this scam back in 2006 and each man was given a 70 month sentence back on March 29, 2006. In June 2008 Kidan’s sentence was cut in half by the Judge in Florida because of Kidan’s cooperation with prosecutors in several investigations. There is some speculation that these investigations include those being conducted by the Abramoff scandal task force in Washington DC. Time will tell...
- Glenn Marshall is a former tribal chairman of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe in Massachusetts. Back in the day he was Abramoff’s partner in a lobbying scam ripping off the Tribe and trying to influence Congressional Legislation. On December 15, 2008 it was announced that Marshall signed a guilty plea for his crimes and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors investigating related crimes. Some political donations that Abramoff directed Marshall to make were cited in Marshall’s indictment. This included $20,000 to former Republican Congressman Richard Pombo and funds directed to two Democrats in Massachusetts: $6,000 to Rep. Bill Delahunt and $5,700 to Senator Ted Kennedy. The indictment leaves it unclear if there was any quid pro quo for the donations. This indictment coming from the US Attorney’s office in Boston expands the pressure on Indicted Abramoff Lieutenant Kevin Ring and others. Ring was a lobbyist for the Mashpee Tribe while he was working with Abramoff and continued working with Marshall after Jack’s fall from grace. Ring faces more charges as Marshall explains the details of their corruption to prosecutors. Another interesting note in Marshall’s indictment is that it looks like a lobbyist from Alaska with connections to Don Young recommended Abramoff to Marshall and the Mashpee Tribe. This recently open thread in the growing scandal investigation should be interesting as it unfolds.
- Bob Ney is the only Member of Congress who has gone to jail for his role in the Abramoff scandal. He was a banal, sloppy crook. Ney traveled with Jack and did his bidding in Congress. We are good to be rid of him. Ney was identified in Abramoff’s guilty plea in January 2006. By October of that year Ney signed his own guilty plea with the Feds. He was sentenced to 30 months in prison in January 2007. In March of that year he became inmate number 28882-016. In February 2008, Ney moved to a half-way house in Ohio to serve the remainder of his sentence. In March he was hired to work for a liberal talk radio news service. Like all those who have entered a guilty plea in this scandal, Ney should be cooperating with ongoing investigations. It will be interesting to see how cooperative he is going forward.
- Tony Rudy was a longtime staffer of Tom DeLay and his Deputy Chief of Staff when he left DeLay to become a key member of Team Abramoff in 2001. Before working for DeLay, Rudy worked for Abramoff’s BFF in Congress, Dana Rohrabacher. Rudy also worked as a lobbyist at the Alexander Strategy Group, a deeply corrupt (and now defunct) lobbying firm with deep ties to DeLay, Abramoff and the Culture of Corruption in Washington. Rudy’s indictment identifies Tom DeLay as "Representative #2" and makes yet another hard link between the "Hammer" and the Abramoff scandal. Rudy was also the main point of contact between Team Abramoff and the Bush White House. Billing records and Congressional investigations reveal many, many meetings between Rudy and various members of the Bush White House staff. Rudy plead guilty on March 31, 2006. He has yet to be sentenced for his crimes and remains out of jail while he cooperates with ongoing investigations. Every few months his sentencing date is deferred because of his cooperation. The latest extension happened on December 1, 2008. The Court will meet in March 2009 to decide whether or not to defer Rudy’s sentencing yet again. One should expect Rudy to become a star witness in some upcoming trials, like the one for Kevin Ring .
- David Safavian is one of a handful of players in the Abramoff scandal who have chosen a trial instead of pleading guilty. Safavian worked with Abramoff as a fellow lobbyist back in the 1990s and also formed an Abramoff connected lobbying firm with Jack’s BFF Grover Norquist. When the Bush Administration came to Washington, Abramoff lobbied his contacts to get Safavain a job. While waiting for gig with Team Bush, Safavian went to work for Representative Chris Cannon of Utah. In 2002 Safavian landed a job with the GSA and by 2003 Bush had appointed him to be the Administrator for Federal Procurement Policy at the Office of Management and Budget. This made him a valuable member of Abramoff’s extended team. He was indicted on October 5, 2005 for a host of crimes and convicted on October 27, 2006 and sentenced to 18 months in prison. The Government had made some errors in the way they charged and prosecuted Safavian and in June 2008 his conviction was overturned on Appeal. In December 2008 Safavian was retried and, once again, convicted. He will face sentencing later this year.
- Michael Scanlon was (and is) the punk of the scandal. While he still worked for DeLay he moonlighted and worked as a lobbyist for the Alexander Strategy Group and formed an under the table working relationship with Abramoff. This relationship was so over the top, so rooted in greed and graft that it led to the exposure of the Abramoff web of corruption. Scanlon was the first one to make a deal with prosecutors and signed his guilty plea way back on November 21, 2005. Since then he has stayed out of jail through his ongoing cooperation with DOJ Prosecutors. Like Tony Rudy, Scanlon’s sentencing date is regularly deferred into the future—most recently on October 31, 2008.
- Roger Stillwell brings the Abramoff Scandal to the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands (CNMI), a US Territory in the Western Pacific. In the late 1990s, Stillwell was hired to be on the staff of the Office on Insular Affairs (OIA) in the US Department of the Interior. When the Bush Administration came to power, Stillwell stayed on as part of the OIA staff. The OIA is the part of the US Government that manages US Territories including the Marianas Islands. As the Clinton Administration and Democrats in Congress were trying to end the labor abuse, human trafficking, sex trade and sweatshops flourishing on the islands, Stillwell was Abramoff’s man on the inside leaking details and intelligence that Jack and his pals used to derail effort after effort to end the abuse. He continued this role as Jack’s man at the OIA during the Bush years. In August 2006 Stillwell plead guilty to filling out false financial disclosure forms and agreed to cooperate with ongoing investigations. He was sentenced to two years probation in October 2006. He was a willing pawn—a footnote in this scandal—that helped the Pirates of Saipan protect an economic system that was very close to state sponsored slavery. Legislation to finally end this abuse was passed in April 2008, but it was far too late for many victims of the most horrific crime committed as part of the Abramoff scandal. I pray that justice will finally come for the workers of the CNMI with new indictments of the pirates, lobbyists and politicians who profited for so long from these crimes against humanity committed on the Marianas Islands. Crimes related to the CNMI are mentioned in the plea deals of quite a few the Abramoff Scandal guilty pleas and I expect that there will be more.
- Neil Volz was Bob Ney’s former Chief of Staff who signed on as a member of Abramoff’s team of lobbyists in 2002. Volz followed the tradition path for members of Team Abramoff. While on the staff of Bob Ney, Volz helped Abramoff and his clients and built up some contacts and clients he could use when he went through the revolving door and became a lobbyist. In May 2006 Volz plead guilty to his role in the scandal (this Diary I wrote at the time examines some of the details of that plea). Since then, Volz has been cooperating with DOJ prosecutors and he was sentenced to 24 months probation in September 2007 because of his ongoing assistance in investigating the scandal.
- Mark Zachares is a key player in the scandal. He forms a hard link between Don Young, Abramoff and the crimes on the Marianas Islands. He also places the current focus of the scandal on Don Young and the Committees he ran: Resources and Transportation. Both committees were cesspools of corruption when they were ran by Don Young under the protection of Tom DeLay and Denny Hastert. Zachares grew up in Alaska and then went to the CNMI to be in charge of the rogue territory’s Department of Labor and Immigration. In his role on the Islands, Zachares abused workers and help the local culture of sweatshops, human trafficking and labor abuse thrive. Naturally the Republicans in Washington thought he was great. Abramoff tried to get him appointed to head Bush’s OIA and when that failed Jack got Zachares a job on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee as a member of Don Young’s Committee staff. In April 2007 Zachares plead guilty to his role in the scandal and began cooperation with Prosecutors. The factual basis of Zachares’ deal outlines how the revolving door worked in the DeLay/Hastert Congress. Zachares struck an agreement with Abramoff to work on Young’s Committee for two years and use his position to build up a base of clients (by doing "favors" for them while a government employee). At the end of two years, Zachares would move through the revolving door and start to work for Abramoff at a high salary. The businesses and entities that he helped as Congressional Staffer would return the favor by hiring him as their lobbyist. It was a pattern of corruption that often repeated with each new member of Team Abramoff. The Zachares plea shows that the DOJ is focused on exposing the system of corruption behind the K Street Project and not just a few individual bad apples. Like Rudy and Scanlon, Zachares continues to have his sentencing date deferred as he continues his cooperation with prosecutors unraveling this web of corruption.
In addition to the cases filed by the DOJ other Abramoff scandal cases have been moving through other courts. In Guam Abramoff, his former law firm (Greenberg Traurig), a lawyer from LA (Howard Hills) and a local official (Tony Sanchez) were indicted. Abramoff, Hills and Greenberg Traurig made deals to cooperate with the ongoing investigation. Sanchez will go on trial in January. Details about the Guam aspects of the Abramoff scandal can be found here and here. The Sanchez trial should provide more details and more pressure on Republicans in DC. Long-time Don Young aide Manase Mansur is involved and the criminal activity points back towards the rampant corruption thriving in Washington back in the day when the Republicans controlled Congress.
Over on the Marianas Islands, the CNMI is involved in a ridicules lawsuit against the Federal Government in a sloppy effort to block the law passed in 2008 that would finally end the abuse long protected by Abramoff and the Pirates of Saipan (you can read more about this here). And if that wasn’t enough, last August the CNMI’s Lt. Governor, Timothy Villagomez, was indicted in a scandal that may have links to the Abramoff scandal—the trial should provide some details. Villagomez would know a lot about the work Kevin Ring did for Abramoff and his indictment could be yet another pressure point on Ring as the Government tries to get him to admit his guilt and cooperate with the investigation.
When one reviews a lot of the recent activity in the scandal it seems geared towards putting pressure on Ring as a stepping stone to Ed Buckham, Tom DeLay, John Doolittle, Roy Blunt, Don Young, Karl Rove and others.
The DOJ seems to be building a case about a pattern of corruption and using Don Young’s Transportation Committee as a focal point. Over and over again, Abramoff would recruit young staffers to "build business" while working for the government through the way that earmarks, appropriations and favorable laws were moved through the Congress. Once a staffer had a sufficient book of business built up, Jack (or somebody else) would hire them as a lobbyist. In their new career, the former staffer would sign up the folks they "helped" during their government work as clients.
This is a pattern that continued long after Abramoff was taken out of the game. It still is a pathway to riches in Washington. It is the heart of corruption in DC and we must expose and destroy this well worn pathway of organized graft.
Eric Holder is the right person to do this job and that is why the Republican Party fears him so much. We need to get his back in this coming fight and get a firm commitment to accelerate the investigations into the culture of corruption of the Bush years.
Cleaning up this mess must be done if we hope to fix anything else.
And Happy New Year—I’m glad we made it this far!