Wednesday, January 04, 2006

dan burton ♥ jack abramoff

superlobbyist jack abramoff is going down, and he'll be taking a number of prominent republicans down with him?

think progress has an extensive list of congressmembers and others who are implicated in the massive scandal or who have hustled to return money donated by abramoff and his crew.

but as impressively long as the list is, it's hardly comprehensive. syntax notes that his representative, charles taylor (NC), has ties to abramoff. but taylor isn't on the list. and nobody from indiana is on the list, but at least one prominent hoosier was riding the abramoff gravy train as well.

who could it be? well, i sort of spoiled the surprise by putting the name "dan burton" in my post title, but those who know indiana politics would likely have chosen burton anyway, as he's a major player in the house as well as a notorious GOP blowhard.

from the indy star:

U.S. Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., is the only member of Indiana's congressional delegation who has received campaign contributions from lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who pleaded guilty Tuesday to several felonies.

Neither Burton nor any other Indiana lawmaker has been linked to Abramoff's illegal acts.

yeah, i know, it says burton hasn't been "linked to Abramoff's illegal acts". but that could easily change as more info comes in; this is still a relatively fresh story. and even if burton himself never did anything illegal to get that money, the money is still dirty. the ethical thing to do (or, let's be honest, the thing that would most give the appearance of being ethical) would be to return that money. and we don't even need to get into how good the name "jack abramoff" will look when it appears on anti-burton campaign ads in the coming months.

In 1995, Abramoff was a lobbyist for Zaire when he worked with Burton's office on a speech for then-President Mobutu Sese Seko to deliver, the Los Angeles Times reported in 1997. Burton, who serves on the House International Relations Committee, used the speech to unsuccessfully argue to the State Department that Mobutu should be given a visa to enter the United States.

In the 1980s, Abramoff helped operate the International Freedom Foundation, a supposedly independent group fighting for democracy in South Africa that later was revealed to have been funded by the former apartheid government.

Burton, who opposed U.S. sanctions against the apartheid government, participated in programs sponsored by the International Freedom Foundation. A Burton aide later told the Times that Burton did not know about the funding.

oh, well that doesn't look very good. burton didn't just accept dirty money; he worked on multiple abramoff projects, including one which is now known to have been a front organization. not only that, but dan also got a taste of that indian casino money, which abramoff famously solicited from indian tribes and then used to actually lobby against the tribes that donated:

Burton has received $1,000 in campaign contributions from Abramoff six times since 1996 and $1,000 from Abramoff's wife in 2002, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks campaign contributions. Also in 2002, Burton's political action committee received $1,000 from the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians and $1,000 from the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, both tribes that had hired Abramoff.

Abramoff -- and the tribes and casinos he worked for -- gave $4.4 million to more than 300 lawmakers and political party committees since 1999, according to the center.

here is what the washington post had to say about abramoff's dealings with the choctaw back in june:

Abramoff, who is also at the center of a corruption investigation by the Justice Department, laundered tribal money by directing the Indians to donate to tax-exempt groups that the lobbyist later used for his own purposes, the Senate committee said. One project involved Abramoff's effort to arrange for military equipment, including night-vision goggles and a "jeep," for the sniper training conducted by a high school friend.

Aaron Stetter, a former Scanlon employee, testified that Scanlon and Abramoff sought to whip up opposition to casinos proposed by rival tribes by setting up bogus Christian phone banks. He said callers would identify themselves as members of groups such as the Christian Research Network or Global Christian Outreach Network and urge voters to contact their representatives.

The Choctaws, the richest and most successful gambling tribe in the country, initially defended Abramoff when his activities first drew scrutiny over a year ago. But they began cooperating with government investigators last summer after being told by Greenberg Traurig that its internal investigation had found fraud in the lobbyist's work for the tribe.

Yesterday, McCain said the committee had found that Abramoff and Scanlon had pocketed $6.5 million of the $7.7 million in consulting fees they received from the Choctaws. McCain said that Abramoff had directed the Choctaws to hire Scanlon for consulting work, but never revealed to the tribe that they had a secret partnership, which they called "gimme five," according to the e-mails.

Whenever Scanlon pitched his services to a client, Abramoff would remind him of their extra profits. On Aug. 16, 2001, Abramoff wrote to Scanlon, "Don't forget the gimme five aspects." On Oct. 17, 2001, Abramoff wrote, "So there is more gimme five coming on all these as well, right?"

Said Sen. Byron L. Dorgan (D-N.D.): " 'Gimme five' means 'I'll take a cut of this.' " "I'm past anger and bitterness," Rogers, the Choctaw official who had worked most closely with Abramoff, told the committee. "It is an extraordinary story of betrayal."

dirty money, no question. the only question is whether dan burton will do the honorable thing and return the money. if i were more of a gambling man, i'd rush to the nearest indian casino and bet a bunch of money on "no", but then i'm a cynic. and besides, we only have riverboat casinos around here; all the indians were driven out of indiana some time ago.

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