Abramoff Scandal Updates

February 7, 2010

This post is for those following the Abramoff scandal with its poison tentacles reaching to the CNMI...

Pam Abramoff Watches Screening of Casino Jack
This is gossipy news, but interesting. Pam Abramoff, wife of felon Jack Abramoff, attended the George Hickenlooper screening of Casino Jack in New York. This was the movie version of the story featuring Kevin Spacey, while Alex Gibney's film is a documentary. (You may recall, Gibney was going after Hickenlooper for stealing the name, Casino Jack. See this post, Casino Jacks.)

The two movies, debuting in theaters this year, are sure to put the scandal back in the spotlight and enrage more taxpayers who are fed up with members of Congress being influenced by lobbyists.

Here's what the New York Daily News reported about Pam:
Pam Abramoff, wife of black-hatted lobbyist Jack, slipped into a Tuesday screening here of George Hickenlooper's new movie in which Kevin Spacey plays her jailed husband. Pam, played by Kelly Preston, looked somewhat shaken as she walked out with a small audience that included James Gandolfini. Pam didn't want to talk about the flick, but Jack can't help but benefit from Spacey's sensitive performance. Also there exchanging an awkward greeting with Hickenlooper was Alex Gibney, who has a documentary about Abramoff coming out. Both men want to call their movies "Casino Jack."
Read this excellent review by Ann Hornaday of the Washington Post about Gibney's documentary, Casino Jack and the United States of Money. Ann writes about two other interesting people who attended Gibney's film at Sundance. Former Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio) and his ex-chief of staff, Neil Volz attended the screening. According to the article:
"It was a nervous-making moment," said "Casino Jack" director Alex Gibney in a telephone conversation after the screening. "I think it was painful, but they both thought it was fair."
Abramoff Whistle Blower Comes Out of the Shadows
Tom Rodgers, the lobbyist for Carlyle Consulting has finally revealed his part in the Jack Abramoff scandal. Alex Gibney's documentary, Casino Jack and the United States of Money highlighted Rodger's role in taking down the corrupt lobbyist.

Over the years speculation about who actually outed Jack Abramoff focused on the ethical members of Congress like George Miller (D-CA) or those seeking revenge like jealous lobbyists or Mike Scanlon's jilted fiancee, Emily Miller. It was actually Tom Rodgers, a native American, who came to the aide of the swindled tribes and exposed the corruption.

Rogers, a former Democratic congressional staff member for Senator Max Baucus (D-MT), was called a "moron" by Abramoff for his ethical lobbying behavior, as was revealed in an email between Abramoff and Scanlon.

The Hill reports:
Rodgers wanted to help out the tribal leaders who contacted him but was well-aware of the danger in doing so. He gathered a small group of his trusted friends together, all of whom worked on Capitol Hill, and told them what he was about to do.

One cautioned him to be extremely careful and another explicitly warned him not to get involved.

“He said, ‘Tommy, are you prepared to lose everything you have, everything you ever accumulated?’ ”

But after hearing some of the details about Abramoff’s schemes, threats and deception, Rodgers couldn’t turn away.

To him, the abuse evoked a dark period in the 1850s when unscrupulous Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) agents stationed on reservations to provide tribes with food and healthcare stirred hostilities.
While Abramoff and Scanlon were motivated by money, Rodgers was a true advocate for the tribes. I found this impressive piece that he wrote on Indian poverty.

Read more at The Hill.

Florida Again

Susan Ralston, the former White House aide for Karl Rove and insider for Jack Abramoff, is now busy in Florida raising money for former Florida House Speaker, Marco Rubio. Rubio is running against Florida Governor Charlie Crist for the Republican US Senate nomination.

The St. Petersberg Times reported that Ralston was among the GOP rainmakers helping Rubio in a Manhatten fundraiser:
Paul Singer has given millions to conservative causes, and his associate Anne Dickersonran Bush-Cheney's Rangers/ Pioneers/Mavericks fundraising program in 2008. Susan Ralson, the contact for the reception, was Karl Rove's former aide until attention to her ties with Jack Abramoff prompted her to step aside.
Ralston resigned in 2006 after White House emails between her and Jack came to light. From ABC News:
Just a week before, Ralston's name was mentioned 162 times in a 93-page congressional report on the influence wielded in the Bush White House by uber-lobbyist Jack Abramoff, a convicted felon.

The bipartisan House Government Reform Committee studied documents from Greenberg Traurig LLP, Abramoff's former lobbying firm -- billing records and other documents -- indicating that Abramoff and his team had made 485 lobbying contacts with White House officials over three years, 69 of which were with Ralston, who seemed to serve as a messenger between the Abramoff and White House camps.

Before coming to the White House, Ralston served as executive assistant to Abramoff. In her letter, dated Thursday but released to the media toward the end of the day today, Ralston wrote that "the time has come for me to pursue other opportunities."
Apparently scandal, sleazy involvement in Abramoff's schemes, and even serving jail-time for Abramoff-related antics like felon Bob Ney has done, doesn't attach any stigma to those in the Republican Party. They just go on like nothing happened. Abramoff may just be back in the thick of things with the GOP when he is released too.

Meanwhile, in Arizona former Rep. J.D. Hayworth (R-AZ), a dedicated Abramoff pal, is running against Senator John McCain (R-AZ).

Former Members of Congress Turned Lobbyists Dominate Washington
After Republican Florida Senator Mel Matrinez resigned from his Senate seat he joined the lobbying form of DLA Piper. He certainly isn't alone in leaving the Congress to take a job on K Street. A story by News OK (Oklahoma) talks about the revolving door between Congress and the lobbying firms.

There are over 200 former members of Congress who are now lobbyists. Today the average citizen has only a whisper of a voice in Washington. In fact, can our government even truly be called a democracy?

From News OK:
When Democrats took over Congress in 2007, in the midst of the Jack Abramoff scandal, they pledged to strengthen lobbying laws. Among the changes approved was a doubling of the "cooling off” period for U.S. senators, from one year to two years. The period for House members remained at one year.
The law prohibits former members from contacting former colleagues directly on an issue. But the former members still can offer strategic advice to clients and manage other lobbyists.
Ring Trial Delayed
Kevin Ring's retrial has been delayed for one month to allow the Supreme Court time to rule on a series of cases dealing with the honest services laws. Ring was charged with 1 count of conspiracy, 1 count of payment of a gratuity and 8 counts of honest services wire fraud in connection with the Abramoff scandal.

Last month Ring's attorneys filed a motion to continue and argued to have the trial moved until October 2010.

The Blog of Legal Times reported:
“It is clear that if the Court does not strike down the statute altogether, it will, at least, provide extensive guidance and much-needed definition to an often-criticized statute,” Ring’s lawyers wrote.

How the Court comes down will affect what charges Ring would face in a second trial, as well as whether certain key defense witnesses choose to testify or take the Fifth, Ring’s lawyers argued. They said it would also determine whether guilty pleas by several government witnesses would remain in effect.
In a status hearing held last week, Judge Ellen Huvelle of the US District Court of the District of Columbia moved the trial date from June 21, 2010 to July 26, 2010.

Meanwhile John Albaugh, former aide to former US Rep. Ernest Istook (R-OK) who testified at the first Ring trial, can't pay his attorneys fees. He pleaded guilty in 2008 to conspiracy for his part in the Abramoff scheme.

According to News OK Politics:
So far, Albaugh has paid the firm of McCarthy, Sweeney and Harkaway “less than 5 percent of the money owed,” according to the firm.
Albaugh’s guilty plea was part of the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal, and Albaugh was a key witness in September against Kevin Ring, a former colleague of Abramoff.
Albaugh testified that he helped get federal road money for Ring’s clients in exchange for meals at fancy DC restaurants and tickets to concerts and other events.
The jury in the Ring trial couldn’t reach a verdict. Albaugh is still cooperating with the federal government in the Ring case and hasn’t been sentenced. It’s not clear if and when there will be a new trial for Ring.
See also these posts on Kevin Ring :
Kevin Ring Indicted September 8, 2008
As Pedicted Boulanger Charged January 28, 2009
Boulanger Pleads Guilty January 30, 2009
Revealing Plea Agreement February 4, 2009
Abramoff Scandal Nets One MoreFebruary 20, 2009
Doolittle Next to Fall? February 27, 2009
Kevin Ring Case: Prosecutor Welch Out April 24, 2009
Ruling in Kevin Ring Case: Charges Stand June 26, 2009
Order on Motions in Kevin Ring Case July 1, 2009
Kevin Ring Exhibits: CNMI Connection Exposed Through E-mails August 13, 2009
Abramoff Scandal: Trail Leading to the CNMI August 25, 2009
Abramoff Scandal: Bigger Fish to Be Caught September 5, 2009
Kevin Ring Trial Has Begun -You won't hear about it from CNMI news sources... September 13, 2009
Kevin Ring Trial, Albaugh Testifies,"I knew I broke the law." September 17, 2009Kevin Ring: Judge to Declare Mistrial October 15, 2009


The Saipan Blogger said...

How did I miss the story of Martinez retiring. What is it with Republicans?