Multinational Monitor

VOL 27 No. 3


Combating the Culture of Corruption. Or Not.
by Charlie Cray

Corruption Roll Call: The Most Corrupt Members of Congreess
by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington

Caught in Jack's Web: The Abramoff Associates' File
by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington

Oil and Violence in Sudan: Drilling, Poverty and Death in Upper Nile State
by Egbert Wesselink and Evelien Weller


Hostile Takeover: The Corruption of Politics in the United States
An Interview with David Sirota

Exporting Corruption: How Rich Country Export Credit Agencies Facilitate Corruption in the Global South
An Interview with The Corner House

Searching for Transparency: Corruption and the Global Economy
An Interview with David Nussbaum


Behind the Lines

Structural Corruption and Reform

The Front
Human Trafficking in Jordan -- Third World Brain Drain

The Lawrence Summers Memorial Award

Book Notes
The rise and Fall of the Republican Machine -- The Life of Chinese Peasants -- Labor, Environment, and the Global Electronics Industry

Names In the News


Caught in Jack's Web: The Abramoff Associates File

by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington

Editor’s Note: Jack Abramoff has managed to make his name a household word.

Once one of Washington’s most effective and highly paid lobbyists, Abramoff is expected to report to prison in October, after pleading guilty in January to conspiracy, tax evasion and fraud associated with the purchase of a Florida casino cruise line, along with his associate Adam Kidan. They were each sentenced in March to 5 years and 10 months in prison.

Separately, Abramoff has also pled guilty to various charges that carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and $250,000 in fines. The sentencing in this case has been postponed, and federal prosecutors have signaled they will recommend a shorter sentence if he continues to cooperate. The Wall Street Journal reports that Abramoff claims to have information that could implicate as many as 60 Members of Congress.

Abramoff’s operation involved a variety of tactics used to buy favors from Members of Congress and the Bush administration. He organized a series of travel junkets for Members of Congress, their aides and families to Scotland, the Marianas Islands, Puerto Rico and Russia. The trips cost tens of thousands of dollars and involved golfing, gambling and other forms of recreation.

Abramoff constructed a lobbying machine that included numerous former congressional staffers.

In order to pay for the numerous trips and gifts and lavish tabs that he picked up for members of Congress and their staff at his restaurant in downtown Washington, Abramoff in turn aggressively bilked an array of clients. The game was “pay to play,” and the stakes could be ridiculously high. In exchange for arranging a meeting with President Bush, for example, he charged the President of Gabon $9 million.

But you can’t bribe someone who’s not willing to take a bribe. Abramoff did not act alone. Citizens for Ethics in Washington has compiled profiles of the dozens of characters caught up in the Abramoff web. Here’s a glimpse ...

Senator Conrad Burns, R-Montana

Senator Conrad Burns serves on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and since 2001 has been the chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior, which has jurisdiction over the budget of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Abramoff said that he and his partners got ”every appropriation [they] wanted” from Senator Burns‘ committee, according to a Vanity Fair report. Burns’ campaign committees have received substantial contributions from Jack Abramoff, his associates and his tribal clients.

Senator John Cornyn, R-Texas

Senator John Cornyn, while serving as Texas Attorney General, worked to close the Tigua tribe’s Speaking Rock Casino, located near El Paso, Texas. The day the casino was shut down, Abramoff and his associate Michael Scanlon secured the Tigua as a client, eventually charging the tribe $4.2 million for a lobbying campaign to reopen the casino through federal legislation. Cornyn has denied meeting Ralph Reed, who, working for Abramoff, coordinated a grassroots Texas campaign to get the casino closed. However, 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].

Michael Scanlon

Public relations executive Michael Scanlon was once spokesperson for then-Majority Leader Tom DeLay and was the longtime business partner of former lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Between 2000 and 2004, Scanlon and Abramoff collected at least $82 million in lobbying fees from six different casino-owning Indian tribes. The two concocted a scheme whereby Abramoff directed Indian tribes to hire Scanlon’s public relations firm, Capital Campaign Strategies LLC, without telling them that Scanlon had agreed to divert half of the profits back to Abramoff. In November 2005, Scanlon pleaded guilty to conspiring to bribe public officials and defrauding numerous Indian tribes.

Senator Byron Dorgan, D-North Dakota

Senator Byron Dorgan is the vice chair of the Indian Affairs Committee, which investigated Jack Abramoff’s dealings with Native American tribes. Dorgan returned $67,000 in donations received from tribes represented by Abramoff. While Dorgan insists he never met Abramoff nor changed his position on tribal issues as a result of the donations, Dorgan’s aides acknowledged that the Senator accepted large donations from Abramoff’s clients and associates while advocating programs those tribes supported.

Representative Eric Cantor, R-Virginia

Representative Eric Cantor has served as Chief Deputy Majority Whip in the House of Representatives since 2002. Between 2001 and 2004, Cantor received $31,500 in contributions from Jack Abramoff, his lobbying partners and his tribal clients. He benefited from a fundraiser held by Abramoff at a kosher deli co-owned by Abramoff — where Abramoff unveiled the “Eric Cantor” sandwich — and held eight events at an Abramoff-owned restaurant. In 2003, Cantor sent a letter with then-Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Majority Whip Roy Blunt and Speaker Dennis Hastert to Interior Department Secretary Gail Norton urging her to oppose the Louisiana Jena band of Choctaw Indians’ permit request to establish a casino. The casino would have competed with one of Abramoff’s clients, the Louisiana Coushatta.

Representative John Doolittle, R-California

Representative John Doolittle held five fundraisers in Jack Abramoff’s private skyboxes at Washington, D.C.’s MCI Center and Baltimore, Maryland’s Camden Yards — skyboxes financed by Abramoff’s casino-operating tribal clients — but neglected to report the in-kind contributions to the Federal Exchange Commission. Doolittle wrote several letters to Interior Department Secretary Gale Norton supporting Native American tribes that were clients of Abramoff’s. Since 1999, Doolittle has received $50,000 from Abramoff and his clients, including $4,000 from Abramoff directly. In addition, reports the Washington Post, Sierra Dominion Financial Solutions, a firm run by Doolittle’s wife Julie, was hired by Abramoff to raise money and promote events in Washington, D.C. in 2003 and 2004.

Julie Doolittle

Owner of Sierra Dominion Financial Solutions Inc. and wife of Representative John Doolittle (R-CA), Julie Doolittle became entwined in the Jack Abramoff scandal when her firm was hired by Abramoff to raise money and promote events in Washington, D.C. in 2003 and 2004.

Representative Richard Pombo, R-California

Representative Richard Pombo’s political committees have received $54,500 from Jack Abramoff and the tribal clients he represented. In 2003, Pombo held a meeting with Interior Department officials regarding official government recognition of the tribal status of the Mashpee Wampanoag, a Massachusetts tribe represented by Abramoff. Within two weeks of this meeting, reports the Los Angeles Times, the tribe donated tens of thousands of dollars to Pombo’s political action committee (PAC), Rich PAC.

Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Illinois

Between 2001 and 2004, Speaker of the House of Representatives Dennis Hastert received $100,000 from Jack Abramoff and his tribal clients. A week after Hastert held a fundraiser at an Abramoff-owned restaurant, he wrote a letter with then-Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Majority Whip Roy Blunt and Chief Deputy Majority Whip Representative Eric Cantor to Interior Department Secretary Gale Norton urging her to reject a proposal for a new casino by the Jena Band of Choctaw Indians, which would have competed with casinos operated by the Louisiana Coushatta and Mississippi Choctaw, both Abramoff clients. V. Heather Sibbison, once a lobbyist for the Jena Band, told the Washington Post, “I do this for a living, and I have never seen a letter like that before. It was incredibly unusual for that group of people, who do not normally weigh in on Indian issues, to express such a strong opinion about a particular project not in any of their home states.”

Representative Bob Ney, R-Ohio

Representative Bob Ney is currently under investigation by the Justice Department for engaging in “a series of official acts” that benefited Jack Abramoff’s clients. These acts included meeting with Abramoff clients, placing statements in the Congressional Record, awarding a contract to Abramoff client Foxcomm Wireless, and agreeing to support and pass legislation benefiting one of Abramoff’s clients, the Tigua tribe of El Paso, Texas.

Tony Rudy

Tony Rudy once served as deputy chief of staff to Representative Tom DeLay before joining Jack Abramoff at Greenberg Traurig. Most recently, Rudy worked for the now-defunct Alexander Strategy Group, a lobbying firm run by former DeLay chief of staff Ed Buckham. While working for DeLay in 2000, Rudy was lobbied by Abramoff to help defeat an Internet gambling bill that appeared on its way to passage by the House of Representatives and was harmful to one of Abramoff’s clients, eLottery, Inc. Rudy assisted Abramoff by e-mailing him internal congressional communications and by offering advice as to how to defeat the bill. Abramoff returned the favor by taking Rudy on two luxury trips. Rudy worked to prevent the extension of U.S. labor and immigration laws to an Abramoff client, Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands (CNMI), an area notorious for its low wages and substandard labor practices. After he left DeLay’s office and began working with Abramoff, Rudy started working the other side of deals, improperly providing trips and other things of value to Representative Bob Ney. In March, Rudy pled guilty to conspiring with Abramoff and others to commit fraud, and to a violation of conflict of interest post-employment restrictions.

Sen. David Vitter, R-Louisiana

In September 2003, Senator David Vitter attended a fundraiser hosted by Jack Abramoff. Two months later, reports Roll Call, Vitter inserted a provision into a Department of Interior spending bill for one of Abramoff’s clients, the Coushatta tribe of Louisiana. The provision sought to prevent another Louisiana tribe, the Jena Choctaw, from opening a casino that would have competed with the Coushatta’s casino. Vitter has admitted to working with lawyers at Abramoff’s firm, Greenberg Traurig, in drafting the legislative language for insertion into the Interior appropriations bill.

Italia Federici

Italia Federici is president of the Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy (CREA), “a reincarnation of a Republican environmental group” that she, former Interior Department Secretary Gale Norton, and Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist founded in 1997. Federici was Abramoff’s primary conduit to the Department of Interior, which has jurisdiction over Indian Affairs issues. She offered him access to Norton and former Interior Department Deputy Secretary, Steven Griles. In exchange, Abramoff directed his clients to donate nearly $500,000 to CREA.

Steven Griles

Steven Griles served as deputy secretary for the Department of the Interior, which has jurisdiction over Indian Affairs issues, from July 2001 until January 2005. Despite the fact that Griles was generally not involved in tribal issues, the Washington Post reports that he frequently intervened in Department deliberations on issues affecting Abramoff’s tribal clients. Abramoff called Griles “our guy Steve” in an e-mail to a client. At a November 2005, Senate Indian Affairs committee’s investigation into Abramoff, Griles denied having any involvement in gambling issues or with Abramoff.

David Safavian

David Safavian was the top administrator at the federal procurement office in the White House Office of Management and Budget, and previous to that, chief of staff of the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA). He was also a personal friend and former business associate of Abramoff’s. In 2002, while at GSA, Safavian joined Abramoff on a golf trip to Scotland with Representative Bob Ney, former Christian Coalition leader Ralph Reed, and lobbyist and former Ney chief of staff, Neil Volz. When seeking permission to attend the golf outing, Safavian assured GSA ethics officers that Abramoff had no business before GSA, but then, on the same day, e-mailed Abramoff offering advice on how to secure a lease on property managed by the GSA. Safavian later lied to the FBI about his dealings with Abramoff and the financing of the trip. In June, a federal jury found Safavian guilty of lying and obstructing justice.

Grover Norquist

Grover Norquist is the president of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) and a longtime friend of Jack Abramoff’s. Norquist has confirmed that ATR received nearly $1.5 million from Indian tribes since 2000 and that he arranged for tribal leaders to attend annual meetings to discuss tax policy with President Bush between 2001 and 2004. In 1999, Alabama’s governor proposed establishing a lottery to help increase the state’s education funds. Abramoff hired former Christian Coalition chairman Ralph Reed to defeat the proposal. Reed mobilized two Christian, anti-gambling groups to oppose the proposed lottery. ATR funneled $1.15 million from the Mississippi Choctaw, a client of Abramoff’s, to the Christian, anti-gambling groups — one of which, the Alabama Christian Coalition, has a strict policy against receiving money tied to gambling interests. Norquist admitted to the Boston Globe that he sent the money to the groups because the Choctaw wanted to block gambling competition in Alabama.

Edwin A. Buckham

Edwin A. Buckham, former chief of staff to Representative Tom DeLay, was the founder of the now-defunct Alexander Strategy Group and a close friend and colleague of Jack Abramoff. When Buckham left DeLay’s office in 1997, he joined Abramoff at Preston, Gates & Ellis, where he worked with Abramoff on behalf of the government of the Northern Marianas Islands to prevent the extension of U.S. labor laws to the Islands’ garment factories. As a lobbyist, Buckham made a habit of hiring the wives of legislators he hoped to influence. The Washington Post reports that Buckham paid DeLay’s wife, Christine, $115,000 over three years to research the favorite charities of Members of Congress. Alexander Strategy Group closed in January 2006 because it had been tainted by the Abramoff scandals.

Amy Ridenour

Amy Ridenour is the president of the National Center for Public Policy Research (NCPPR), a conservative think tank founded in 1982. According to Ridenour, Jack Abramoff was a “long-time friend” as well as an NCPPR board member from 1997 through 2004. Abramoff resigned from NCPPR’s board in 2004 after being accused of using the Center to launder $2.5 million to a company controlled by Abramoff and to Abramoff’s charity, the Capital Athletic Foundation.

Ralph Reed

Ralph Reed, Republican activist, former executive director of the Christian Coalition and failed candidate for lieutenant governor of Georgia, was a protege and associate of Jack Abramoff’s for over 20 years. The Baltimore Sun called Abramoff “one of Reed’s closest friends and mentors.” Reed and his firm, Century Strategies, received over $5 million in fees from Abramoff for grassroots efforts in two anti-gambling campaigns — one in Texas and one in Alabama. In both cases, Abramoff directed his casino-operating tribal clients, who were seeking to squash competition, to pay for Reed’s anti-gambling campaigns [see “Not Kosher: The Ralph Reed-Jack Abramoff Connection,” Multinational Monitor, January/February 2006].

Neil Volz

Neil Volz served as Representative Robert Ney’s chief of staff prior to joining Jack Abramoff at Greenberg Traurig. In March 2000, Volz, then Ney’s chief of staff, along with former DeLay aide and Abramoff colleague, Michael Scanlon, persuaded Ney to insert comments into the Congressional Record criticizing Konstantinos “Gus” Boulis, then-owner of SunCruz Casinos, a fleet of gambling ships that Jack Abramoff and his partner, Adam Kidan, were attempting to purchase. The comments successfully put pressure on Boulis to sell the ships. After he left his government job to work in Abramoff’s employ, Volz functioned as an Abramoff liaison to Ney, particularly around the effort to open a casino for one of Abramoff’s clients, the Tigua tribe of El Paso. In May 2006, Volz pleaded guilty to conspiring to corrupt Ney, his staff and other members of Congress for four years with trips, free tickets and meals.

Adam Kidan

Adam Kidan was Jack Abramoff’s partner in the purchase of SunCruz Casinos in Florida. In connection with the purchase of SunCruz, he pled guilty to conspiracy and wire fraud in December 2005. Kidan’s legal troubles with SunCruz may continue. According to Florida prosecutors, Kidan has not been ruled out as a suspect in the murder of Gus Boulis, from whom Kidan and Abramoff bought SunCruz, and who was shot to death in his car in a gangland-style hit in Fort Lauderdale in 2001. Two of the three men charged with Boulis’ murder worked for Kidan as consultants.

Representative J.D. Hayworth, R-Arizona

Between 2001 and 2004, Representative J.D. Hayworth received approximately $64,250 in Jack Abramoff-related donations. The Arizona Republic reported in November 2004 that while co-chair of the House Native American Caucus in 2001, Hayworth held four fundraisers at Abramoff’s luxury skyboxes but did not pay for use of the boxes or report them as gifts.

Representative Tom DeLay, R-Texas

Representative Tom DeLay was elected to the House of Representatives in 1984 and served as House Majority Leader from 1994 to 2006.

DeLay’s relationship with Abramoff dates back to the mid-1990s, when Abramoff and DeLay’s then-chief of staff Ed Buckham became golf buddies. Over time, Abramoff developed his own personal relationship with DeLay; in fact, DeLay once referred to Abramoff as “one of his closest and dearest friends,” according to The Houston Chronicle.

Financially, Abramoff has been a strong DeLay supporter. From 1997 to 2005, Abramoff and his wife contributed $40,000 to DeLay’s political action committees. Abramoff raised at least $150,000 for DeLay through his sports-oriented youth charity, according to Abramoff e-mails, for purposes that remain unclear.

DeLay is heavily linked to the U.S. Family Network (USFN), a now-defunct grassroots advocacy group, which was set up in 1996 by Ed Buckham while he served as DeLay’s chief of staff and which was financed mostly by Abramoff clients. DeLay often made fundraising calls from the USFN’s nearby Capitol Hill office. In 1997, he signed a fundraising letter for USFN, calling it “a powerful nationwide organization dedicated to restoring our government to citizen control.” The USFN paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Alexander Strategy Group, which in turn paid DeLay’s wife, Christine DeLay, $115,000 for serving as a consultant for three years. Investigators have tried to uncover whether Abramoff’s clients helped underwrite Christine DeLay’s salary, according to the National Journal.

The Abramoff clients who financed the USFN had contact with DeLay on trips, two of which included Abramoff. One of those trips was to the Northern Mariana Islands. According to National Journal reports, USFN received a $500,000 contribution from a coalition of garment manufacturing companies in the Marianas that depended heavily on cheap labor and hired Abramoff to defeat a bill that would have ended the islands’ exemption from U.S. minimum wage laws. DeLay was the leading congressional figure blocking the bill.

Also in 1998, the Mississippi Choctaw contributed $150,000 to the USFN after DeLay, his wife and DeLay’s then-chief of staff Susan Hirschmann visited the tribe. The tribe, Abramoff’s largest client at the time, had been fighting against efforts to tax its casino revenues. DeLay sided with the Choctaw on the issue.

DeLay claimed to be an ardent opponent of gambling, but after returning from a trip to Scotland and Britain — paid for by Amy Ridenhour’s National Center for Public Policy Research, which in turn had received donations from two of Abramoff’s clients, the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians and eLottery, Inc. — he praised the Choctaw chief on the House floor for being a “champion of peace and prosperity.” After the trip, notes a Washington Post report, DeLay and 43 other Republicans joined 114 Democrats in defeating the Internet Gambling Prohibition Act — a bill opposed by eLottery and the Choctaw that would have made it a federal crime to place certain bets over the Internet.

In June 2003, Abramoff persuaded DeLay to organize a letter, co-signed by House Speaker Dennis Hastert, Majority Whip Roy Blunt and Chief Deputy Majority Whip Eric Cantor, to endorse a view of gambling law benefiting the Louisiana Coushatta tribe’s effort to block gambling competition by another tribe, the Jena Band of Choctaw Indians.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) is a gove5rnment watchdog group. This article is based on the CREW Report, "Jack in the House: The House that Abramoff Built."

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