Abramoff Associates in Court

November 12, 2010

The Abramoff scandal appears to be slowly reaching an end.  In less than a month Jack Abramoff will be a free man.  He is currently living in a half-way house and working in a kosher pizzeria in Baltimore, MD.

There are still 11 Abramoff-connected cases that are proceeding in various stages through the federal court system.  A handful of cases from indictments of Abramoff associates are being heard now, but the bigger story may be about those corrupt individuals who were never indicted.

Kevin Ring worked closely with Abramoff and Republican members of the U.S. Congress to stick it to the foreign contract workers in the CNMI by covering up their abuses and promoting the CNMI's corrupt and abusive labor system. His deals perpetuated the suffering and abuses under a truly un-American system. He is now in federal court for his retrial. The first one resulted in a hung jury.

On Wednesday it was revealed that the 12 jurors sent a note to U.S. District Court Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle saying that they were deadlocked.  They asked the judge for advice on the criteria for determining when gifts given to officials are illegal and clarification on jury instructions #2, 14 and 43. (Click on note from jury below to view in larger size.)

The Washington Times reported:
Mr. Ring is accused of providing tickets, pricey meals and other gifts to members of Congress, their aides and George W. Bush administration officials in exchange for all manner of "official" favors. His lawyers counter that Mr. Ring did nothing illegal and was simply doing his job as a lobbyist.

The jury seemed to struggle with this distinction and, in the note indicating it was deadlocked, asked Judge Huvelle to explain the difference between legal and illegal gifts.

Judge Huvelle, a 1999 appointee of President Clinton's, said gifts from lobbyists to public officials are permissible if their purpose is to gain access or cultivate a relationship, but gifts are illegal if their purpose is to encourage the public official to do something corrupt.

"All lobbying is not illegal by any means," Judge Huvelle said. "The case is about intent, ladies and gentlemen."

The judge acknowledged that the case presents particular difficulties for the jury, which already has deliberated for two full days and is not scheduled to resume deliberations until Monday morning.
Prosecutors Have Delay on Tape

Tom Delay, former House Majority Leader is still smirky and arrogant even as he stands trial for money laundering.  His charges included soliciting campaign contributions in exchange for legislative favors and laundering campaign contributions through a PAC (political action committee). Prosecutors say Delay used laundered money for campaign donations to help get Republicans take control of the Texas House so they could redraw districts to give the GOP an advantage in elections.

On Wednesday the prosecutor played a taped "confession" where Delay admitted he knew about the $190,000 transaction in question.

From The Houston Chronicle:
In the August 2005 taped conversation, the prosecution maintains that DeLay tells district attorney investigators he was aware his chief political aide in Washington D.C., Jim Ellis, was going to swap soft money for hard money in the sum of $190,000 with the Republican National Committee.

"Jim Ellis told me he was going to do it," DeLay said on the tape.
Cobb says DeLay’s words serve as evidence of his prior knowledge of the money swap.

DeLay’s organization, Texans for a Republican Majority, or TRMPAC, was under investigation in Travis County at the time of the interview.

The former house majority leader participated in the 2005 interview after the district attorney’s office invited him to travel from Washington D.C. to Austin to clear his name of any political wrong doing.
Read the entire transcript of Delay's 2005 recorded transcript here. In it delay states that the goal was to gain a Republican majority in the Texas House.  He also admits he knew that $190,000 of TRMPAC soft money was sent to the Republican National State Elections Committee to be turned around to be given to seven Texas House candidates.  Delay says, "Jim Ellis told me he was going to do it." He was asked, "Before he did it?" Delay responded, "Uh-huh, by the way it's very common practice..." From the transcript:
Q. Okay. I guess what I'm asking is, when this conversation took place, how did you know what
was going to happen in Washington after that contribution was made ?
A. Jim Ellis told me - -
Q. Okay.
A. - - that he was - -
Q - What did he tell you?
A. That he was going to - - that he - - that TRMPAC was going to give 190,000 to the RNC, and the RNC was going tc send 190,000 soft money to the RNC, which is a commcn practice, and the RNC or -
Q. Right.
A. - - would send hard money to state candidates.
Q.  And did you understand this to be some of the candidates that TRMPAC was supporting?
A. Yeah, sure... 
...A. If Jim - - if Jim Ellis is asking for it, that whoever's the asker is assuming that since Jim
Ellis works for me, that - - that I'm - - he's
speaking for me.
Under Texas law corporate money cannot be used for political campaigns.

The Houston Chronicle says that the "tapes may be the smoking gun in the trial." From the article:
After exiting the courtroom on Wednesday, DeLay was adamant that he was misinterpreted in the interview with prosecutors in 2005. DeLay said he only learned of the money swap after it had occurred and was assured that it was legal. 
"I may have misspoke. They way I like to put it is Texas vernacular," DeLay told reporters.
Texas vernacular? Seems like Delay is still dancing - not with the stars, but dancing around the truth.

Zachares Seeks Probation

Former CNMI Secretary of the Department of Labor and Immigration, Mark Zachares has pleaded for probation rather than a prison sentence.

Zachares plead guilty in 2007 to accepting gifts in exchange for providing inside information and manipulating legislation to be favorable to clients including the CNMI.

The Presentencing Memorandum makes him sound like he was an innocent victim who was fooled by Abramoff.  The email exchange between Zachares, Abramoff and others, and his documented questionable behavior in the CNMI  prove otherwise.  The memo also suggests that Zachares takes full responsibility for his crime and is remorseful.  I must have missed the apology.

Zachares is not the innocent victim or ethical public servant that his attorneys claim him to be.

Zachares worked in the CNMI from 1994 until January 2002. He served as an assistant attorney in the Office of the Attorney General.  Zachares came from Alaska to the CNMI.

A January 1999 article from the Saipan Tribune reveals that Zachares followed the A-Team's agenda and talking points. The main focus of the lobbying team in 1999 was to refute a report written by an investigative team contracted by the Department of Interior. I led the 7-member team of attorneys and human rights advocates.  The report exposed severe labor abuses, horrendous working and living conditions, and serious health and other problems in the guest worker community. The cases cited in the reports were extensively documented with hundreds of pages of statements, labor cases and other documents. Documentation also included video footage that documented transhipment and smuggling of Chinese through Rota to Guam.

At 902 talks in January 1999 again Zachares repeated the Abramoff-CNMI mantra that "there has been reform, the abuses are old news, and there is no need for a federal takeover." Edward Cohen proposed having employers pay their workers through a third party straight into the workers' bank accounts. Zachares rejected that idea. Perhaps if it had been approved there would not be $6.1 million in unpaid wages and other monetary judgments.

Zachares testified at the September 1999 House Hearing defending the CNMI's labor policies. It was the Abramoff-run hearing with Abramoff foot soldiers Rep. Don Young (R-ALASKA) and former Rep. John Doolittle (R-CA), and former Rep. Bob Schaffer (R-CO) controlling the direction and flow of the hearing that was referred to as a sham. Correspondence from Abramoff to Fitial, Willie Tan and Eloy Inos that preceded the hearing indicated it would be held for the purpose of vilifying federal officials, and to push the agenda of Abramoff's client, the CNMI. Zachares was obviously part of the scheme judging by the transcript of the hearing. Rep. Schaffer addressed him as "Mark."

While Zachares served in the Pedro Tenorio Administration as the Secretary of the Department of Labor and Immigration (DOLI), he was considered an arrogant bully by guest workers, asylum victims, and some advocates and others who attempted to communicate with those locked in the detention center. He authorized warrantless raids on private homes where workers resided. He was sued multiple times including law suits for human rights abuses, imprisonment of asylum seekers in the detention center, and illegal arrests. Even the Saipan Chamber of Commerce criticized DOLI under Zachares for delays in processing of documents, bonding fees, deportation of nonresidents workers, as well as the influx of undocumented immigrants to the Northern Marianas.

I received dozens of letters, phone calls, and emails when Zachares was Secretary of DOLI. All were complaints from foreign contract workers and advocates. A guest worker who was held in the detention center in the late 1990's complained of being denied basic rights and being verbally abused by both Zachares and Robert Goldberg. Illegally held Muslim guest workers complained that they were continually served SPAM and other pork products even though they protested. Detention center visiting hours were limited and even those who attempted to visit during the hours were denied access to prisoners. I wrote to former Governor Pedro Tenorio about irregularities in the detention center, illegal raids, and other human rights abuses. Then Acting Attorney General Maya Kara responded with a letter that danced around issues and defended the policies at DOLI. Worker leaders, the guest workers and attorneys refuted the response.

In 1999 Zachares wrote a letter to the Department of Interior's Insular Affairs Office complaining about the new ombudsman, Pam Brown. God forbid, the guest workers have case workers who can speak their languages or be represented by an advocate seeking justice for minor children. Zachares objected to foreign-born case workers being hired and Attorney Brown's request to use the deportation fund to repatriate three young children with their mother who was being deported.

An email from Zachares to Abramoff also mentioned Pam Brown and the ombudsman office and revealed the close relationship between the two men:
From: Mark Zachares (mailto:41MMWMWA
Sent: Wednesday, January 02, 2002 5:59 AM
To: abramoff]OIMMONNO
Subject: Re: Zack
Jack: I was told today that the people who applied for the Ombuds job were told by Interior that the position would not be filled. Interesting? The woman I thought got it is hired, is now doing legal research for Interior out here. So right now, the CNMI has no Ombuds and there are just case/workers, former hacks of Pam Brown, finishing up their contracts. I just thought that this tidbit would be of interest to you. I saw Richard Pierce today and he was heading out to play golf with Diego, Pete A., and of course James Lin. He's such a whore. Hope to see you, Jordan, and the Caps soon, in that order of course. Take care. zack
Read the entire e-mail chain to get an insight as to how White House officias including Karl Rove and Susan Ralston were involved in trying to get Zachares the OIA position; the briefing paper from Kevin Ring backing Zachares; a series of emails successfully sabotaging a White House endorsement for Juan Babauta; a couple of remarks from Fitial; a plea for more cash from Tan; and one where Abramoff arranges a photo-op for Fitial.

The billing records from Abramoff to the CNMI indicate that the CNMI was billed for helping the lobbyist find Zachares a position in the federal government:

2/9/01 2.0 hours Kevin Ring Continue drafting outline for J. Abramoff remarks to CNMI leaders; phone conversation with D. Stephens regarding Zachares candidacy

2/13/01 4.0 hours Tony Rudy Contact numerous congressional offices to help Mark Zachares; deliver materials to Hill; obtain signatures on letters

The initial position that Abramoff and his team hoped to place Zachares was in the DOI Office of Insular Affairs where Zachares could manipulate policy to be favorable to the CNMI as this email from Kevin Ring to Abramoff indicates. Even though the attempts to land him that Insular Affairs position went as high as the White House, as correspondence between Abramoff and White House personnel indicated, he did not get the position.

Abramoff, who had hired Reed in 1999 and 2000 to run anti-gambling drives in Alabama to fend off threats to the Choctaws' casino profits, was looking for more help. This time, Abramoff was trying to secure a job at Interior for Mark Zachares, a former secretary of labor in the Marianas government.

On January 11, 2001, Abramoff e-mailed Reed. "I was thinking about this appointment" to the Office of Insular Affairs at Interior, Abramoff wrote. "I know it is perhaps a bizarre request, but considering how quickly I was named to the transition advisory team thanks to your request, perhaps it would be possible to ask Karl [Rove, the president's chief political adviser]... that they should appoint Mark Zachares to head the Office of Insular Affairs.... Do you think we could get this favor from Karl? It would be my big ask for sure."

Reed replied quickly: "It never hurts to ask. What's the next move?" Later that day, Reed sounded even more eager. "Just let me know who to call, when to call, and what to say. And while you're at it get me another client! NOW!"

On March 6, Abramoff met with Rove for about half an hour and pushed for Zachares, according to Abramoff's former lobbying colleagues at the firm Greenberg Traurig and to Secret Service logs released earlier this year. But Rove didn't come through, and Zachares didn't get the job.

One former Abramoff colleague said he wasn't surprised that the effort failed, because Zachares was "too radioactive" and had "the worst possible profile" for the job. Zachares had received $10,000 from an Abramoff-run charity, getting half of the money before he held his Marianas job and half after. What's more, Democrats in Congress, with help from some GOP members, had mounted a bruising but unsuccessful fight to impose U.S. minimum-wage laws on the Marianas. The islands, a U.S. territory located in the western Pacific Ocean, paid immigrant workers in their garment industry wages of just $3 an hour.
In September 2000, Secretary of DOLI Zachares and Attorney General Herb Soll traveled to San Francisco to terminate the MOU with the U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division Office. In 2002, Soll returned to the Department of Labor to resume work as a hearing officer. That same year, Zachares was off to Washington, DC to take a Abramoff-secured position with the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chaired by Rep. Don Young (D-Alaska).

Governor Fitial was close to Zachares. As Speaker of the House it was Fitial who landed Abramoff his government contract during this time period. In fact, Zachares attended the governor's inauguration flying in all the way from Washington D.C.

Zachares was arrested in April 2007. He has been talking for two years. Here are some selected phrases from the Information:
On or about June 2002 and through November 2004, ZACHARES served in various
positions on the staff of the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee of the United States House of Representatives; specifically, ZACHARES served: (a) from June 2002 through December 2002 as Legal Counsel to the Oversight & Investigations Subcommittee; (b) from January 2003 through December 2003 as Staff Director for the Coast Guard & Maritime Subcommittee; and (c) from January 2004 through November 2004, as Special Counsel to the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee.
The Lobbyists and Their Clients
3. Jack Abramoff was a Washington, D.C. lobbyist representing numerous clients, including the government of the CNMI, which Abramoff represented from 1996 to 2001, receiving fees in excess of $7 million.
4. Beginning in the mid-1990s, ZACHARES came to have extensive contact with Abramoff during ZACHARES' tenure as an official of the CNMI, and ZACHARES and Abramoff became personal and professional acquaintances.

6. On repeated occasions from late 2000 through in or about April 2004, ZACHARES communicated with his coconspirators, including Abramoff and his lobbyists, in furtherance of the below-described conspiracy to defraud using interstate electronic mail transmissions and interstate telephone calls.

8. It was a purpose of the conspiracy for ZACHARES to enrich himself by using and agreeing to use his official positions within the House of Representatives Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, and by performing and agreeing to perform official acts in return for a stream of things of value.

9. It was a further purpose of the conspiracy to enrich Abramoff and his lobbyists by providing favorable official action to them and their clients, and by referring prospective clients to Abramoff and his lobbyists.

10. The conspiracy was carried out through the following manner and means, pursuant to what ZACHARES and Abramoff came to call their "two year plan":

a. ZACHARES would and did take a stream of things of value from Abramoff and his lobbyists, including the prospect of future employment as a lobbyist by Abramoff and of salary enhancements in that prospective employment, an overseas trip, monetary gifts, meals and drinks, golf, and tickets to professional sporting events and concerts.

b. In exchange for this stream of things of value, ZACHARES would and did provide a stream of favorable official action to, and would and did use his influence on behalf of', Abramoff, his lobbyists, and their clients.
20. ZACHARES took a stream of official action benefiting Abramoff, his business interests, his friends, and his lobbying clients. The stream of official action included, but was not limited to, the following:
a. On or about July 30, 2002, ZACHARES sought, at Abramoff's request, a United States Department of Justice Threat Assessment Report concerning Guam and the CNMI that was not then available to the public.
Included in the Zachares Plea Agreement is the agreement not to prosecute his wife, Cynthia.

Zachares is scheduled to be sentenced on November 22, 2010.  If there is such a thing as justice and/or karma, Zachares may end up in prison to be treated exactly the same way that he allowed those foreigners kept in the Saipan Detention Center to be treated.

See also:

Mark Zachares Sentencing Delayed
Abramoff Scandal: Bigger Fish to Be Caught?
Zachares Talking
Those Abramoff Dominoes Keep Falling
Another One Falls
Abramoff-White House Connections


Anonymous said...

There is no such thing as justice or karma. That's fairytales. Zachares will go to a minimum-security federal prison, with conditions much better than conditions at the Saipan detention center or at most state/county prisons. Then he'll get out and give speeches or do "consulting" or be a lobbyist or some such thing. Without having endured any abuses, without any wages having been stolen from him, and so on.

Anonymous said...

mark can probably get a job for King Fitial as he loves convisted felons as department heads.