A new minority staff report by the Senate Finance Committee concludes that “[f]ive conservative nonprofit organizations, including one run by prominent Republican Grover Norquist, ‘appear to have perpetrated a fraud’ on taxpayers by selling their clout to lobbyist Jack Abramoff.” Among the organizations called out are Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform and the Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy (sheah), an outfit created by Norquist and former Dubya Interior Secretary Gail Norton, whose office was already waist-deep in ill-gotten Casino Jack loot. (In fact, Abramoff’s point person in Norton’s office was CREA’s president, Italia Federici.)
Update: In related news, Abramoff flunky Bob Ney pleaded guilty today to conspiracy and making false statements (without, mind you, resigning his seat in Congress.) While he didn’t speak with reporters, Ney’s written statement noted that the “treatment and counseling I have started have been very helpful, but I know that I am not done yet and that I have more work to do to deal with my alcohol dependency.” Ok, one more time, people. Alcoholism means you drink too much. It does not mean that you bilk the public, indulge in bribes, or send teenagers dirty IMs.
Ostensibly to “catch her breath,” Interior Secretary Gail Norton resigns from the Cabinet, effective at the end of the month. Besides opening federal lands for oil drilling whenever possible, Norton’s office also appears to have traded access for bribes from Casino Jack, through aide Italia Federici. “Abramoff boasted in e-mails of having an inside track in Norton’s department. Norton posed for a photograph with Abramoff in her office in 2002.“
The Justice Department, along with Casino Jack’s lawyers, ask for a delay of sentencing for Abramoff in the Suncruz case, so that he can continue working with the Feds on the bigger picture of GOP corruption. “‘Mr. Abramoff has been working very hard in terms of his cooperation,’ said Neal Sonnett, Abramoff’s attorney in Miami.” Let’s hope so.
“‘I don’t get the sense many people are paying attention,’ said Rep. Tom Feeney (R-Fla.), who has been hoping party activists would lead demands for a shake-up. ‘Corruption is still 90 percent an inside-the-Beltway’ issue.” According to the WP, the GOP are finding that the Ballad of Casino Jack isn’t playing in Peoria just yet, at least among the conservative base. “‘The question is, is this a climate where an actual reform candidate could be elected to a leadership position?’ [GOP Rep Zach] Wamp asked. An initial pulse-taking of voters suggests that the answer is no, he and others said.’” Well, I’d expect the issue will muster more enthusiasm among Democratic and independent voters, and particularly after the indictments start rolling in.
Casino Jack’s plea deal claims another Congressional victim: Over the weekend (when I discovered his name sounds like “neigh” and not “knee”) and as expected, “Freedom Fries” sponsor and DeLay flunky Bob Ney agreed to step down as House Admin chair. And now, a few Congress-watchers are starting to take a closer look at Speaker Hastert‘s role in the Abramoff scandals, and in perpetuating the DeLay Ring’s rule. “‘I suppose that DeLay was simply a much more inviting target for the [Democrats], so Hastert is left alone,’ said Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.). ‘Maybe people will start focusing on Hastert now.’“
Meanwhile, as DeLay’s numbers plummet in his home district, things aren’t looking so hot either for former GOP wunderkind Ralph Reed, an old Abramoff college friend with a long and troubling e-mail evidence chain to Casino Jack. “‘After reading the e-mail, it became pretty obvious he was putting money before God,’ said Phil Dacosta, a Georgia Christian Coalition member who had initially backed Reed. ‘We are righteously casting him out.’“
In an interview with FOX News’s Brit Hume, Dubya backs Boss DeLay, saying he is innocent of money laundering. “It is highly unusual for a president to express an opinion on a pending legal case. Richard M. Nixon, for instance, was widely criticized for declaring Charles Manson ‘guilty, directly or indirectly’ of murder while Manson’s trial was ongoing.” Also in the interview, Dubya tried to pin Casino Jack on both parties and gave Rumsfeld the Brownie thumbs up. Update: The backlash begins.
“It must be on the basis by which I travel anywhere, being in a private aircraft, which bears a substantial cost unfortunately…I am confident that we will have a long, productive and warm relationship, but good relationships are built on firm understandings at the outset.” Among his many other shady dealings, it seems “Casino Jack” Abramoff tried to bilk the President of Gabon for $9 million, in order to set up a meeting with Dubya. Apparently, Gabon didn’t take up his offer…I wonder if they considered it spam.
Kickbacks, bribes, forgery, money-laundering…it’s all in a day’s work for Casino Jack and his band of conservative cronies. In a must-read piece of reporting, the Washington Post tells the sordid tale of Jack Abramoff’s shilling for eLottery Inc in full. Along with paying off both Boss DeLay and a senior aide on his payroll to spike an anti-gambling bill, “Abramoff quietly arranged for eLottery to pay conservative, anti-gambling activists to help in the firm’s $2 million pro-gambling campaign, including Ralph Reed, former head of the Christian Coalition, and the Rev. Louis P. Sheldon of the Traditional Values Coalition. Both kept in close contact with Abramoff about the arrangement, e-mails show. Abramoff also turned to prominent anti-tax conservative Grover Norquist, arranging to route some of eLottery’s money for Reed through Norquist’s group, Americans for Tax Reform.”
“‘The one that people are most worried about is Abramoff because it seems to have such long tentacles…This seems to be something that could spread almost anywhere…and that has a lot of people worried.’” As Rove testifies for a fourth time before Patrick Fitzgerald’s inquiry into Plamegate and Boss DeLay’s phone records are subpoenaed by Texas DA Ronnie Earle, the WP surveys the political fallout from the many GOP corruption scandals currently in play.
“There is no reason for Rove to make this appearance unless he and his counsel believe he is at serious risk of indictment. None.” On the day after former White House procurement chief David Safavian is indicted on five counts of lying and obstruction of justice, Karl Rove decides to testify for a fourth time before the grand jury delving into the felonious unmasking of Valerie Plame (presumably to stave off his indictment, or that of someone above him.) So…Rove, Safavian, Libby, Abramoff, Frist, DeLay…how many investigations and indictments can the GOP leadership rack up? Is the whole rotten edifice of GOP corporate cronyism threatening to topple? One can only hope.