Skip to comments.Abramoff Tied to Dorgan Donation, Tribe Says
Posted on 11/29/2005 8:48:33 AM PST by The_Victor
WASHINGTON - New evidence is emerging that the top Democrat on the Senate committee currently investigating Jack Abramoff got political money arranged by the lobbyist back in 2002 shortly after the lawmaker took action favorable to Abramoff's tribal clients.
A lawyer for the Louisiana Coushatta Indians told The Associated Press that Abramoff instructed the tribe to send $5,000 to Sen. Byron Dorgan (news, bio, voting record)'s political group just three weeks after the North Dakota Democrat urged fellow senators to fund a tribal school program Abramoff's clients wanted to use.
The check was one of about five dozen the Coushattas listed in a tribal ledger as being issued on March 6, 2002, to various lawmakers' campaigns and political causes at the instruction of Abramoff, tribal attorney Jimmy Faircloth said Monday.
Many of the recipients were lawmakers who had just written letters to the Bush administration or Congress supportive of Abramoff's tribal causes, documents show.
"I am confident of that fact," Faircloth said when asked whether Abramoff had requested the donations listed in a tribal ledger obtained by the AP.
The revelation came as Dorgan took to the offensive Monday, saying there was no connection between the $20,000 in donations he got from Abramoff's firm and tribal clients in spring 2002 and a February 2002 letter he wrote urging the Senate Appropriations Committee to fund the tribal school building program.
Dorgan's letter noted that the Mississippi Choctaw, one of Abramoff's clients, had successfully used the program and requested lawmakers consider long-term funding for it. It made no mention of Abramoff or any of his other tribes that were interested in the program.
Dorgan sharply criticized an AP story last week that divulged he and about a dozen other lawmakers had gotten Abramoff-related donations around the time they sent letters supporting the school building program.
Dorgan told a news conference in North Dakota he had never met Abramoff, did not know about the donations from the lobbyist's clients around the time of his letter and saw no reason to step aside from the Senate Indian Affairs committee investigation of Abramoff.
"I don't have any idea what was contributed to me, or by whom. No contribution has been made to me that was ever represented as a contribution coming from Mr. Abramoff, or any relationship to things that he was involved in," Dorgan said when quizzed about the $20,000 in donations.
Dorgan said he wrote the letter because he supported the tribal school construction program and believed tribes in his state might benefit. "The Bush administration wanted to shut the program down. I disagreed. The program saves the federal government money and gets results. That makes sense to me," he said.
Dorgan's staff said Dorgan believes the letter was drafted by Sen. Conrad Burns (news, bio, voting record), R-Mont., who also signed it and got similar donations from Abramoff's clients in the same time frame.
For instance, the Coushattas' check ledger shows the tribe on March 6, 2002, wrote checks for $5,000 to Dorgan's political group, called the Great Plains Leadership Fund, and $25,000 to Burns. That money ultimately landed in Burns' Friends of the Big Sky political group, records show.
Other checks listed as being issued that day were made out to groups or campaigns associated with Sens. Trent Lott, Mary Landrieu, Harry Reid and John Breaux and Reps.Tom DeLay, Charles Taylor and Pete Session, all of whom wrote letters favorable to Abramoff tribal client causes, the ledger shows.
Those lawmakers, like Dorgan, have denied any connection between the letters and the donations.
"The suggestion in the story that I may have supported that school construction program because of Jack Abramoff or because of campaign contributions from Indian tribes is clearly and despicably wrong," Dorgan said.
Dorgan's spokesman, Barry E. Piatt, said he believed his boss had pursued the congressional investigation of Abramoff aggressively.
Asked why that investigation hasn't focused more on donations to lawmakers who wrote letters favorable to Abramoff's clients, Piatt said, "They're investigating what appears to be massive fraud, and there's lots of ground to cover and it is still early."
Dorgan's office also corrected one piece of information it provided last week. In an interview last Wednesday, Dorgan chief of staff Bernie Toon told the AP that congressional aide Peter Kiefhaber worked for Dorgan's subcommittee in late January 2003.
Kiefhaber did work for the Democratic staff of the Senate Interior Appropriations subcommittee at the time and Dorgan was a member, but Dorgan didn't formally take over as the top Democrat on the panel until March 4, 2003, his office said Monday.
Associated Press Writer Dale Wetzel contributed to this story from Bismarck, N.D.
This is just what the Republicans have to jump on to avoid being the only party consumed in the fire the dems have lit. Can you say "Culture of Hypocrisy?"
Sweet. Here's hoping that the Culture of Corruption is entirely revealed, Rats included...
Frog walk this bastard, right to the JAIL !!
Has there ever been a bribe in the history of politics where a politician couldn't say, "I took the money and did what he wanted, but the two events were NOT related."
He belongs is a Chain Gang with all the others who took bribes.
Maybe we should start asking them. Personally, I was amazed that the 'Rats would have the unmitigated nerve to discuss "cultures of corruption," after Clinton's long, messy, corrupt term. Why isn't any of that brought up when they start yammering about corruption?
because they are wimps, tell me why some "moral GOP member" has not shouted kennedy down with his immoral behavior,some war hero confronted kerry with his shameful anti-military past,why haven't there been our party members confronting the durbins,lying immoral clintons,bidens;leahy and rockfellar leaking of national secrets to the media why has there not been a flame thrower for once already;we need a pitbull,take no prisoners "I don't care whose feelings are offended kinda MAN"!!!!
I will bet my retirement check that scrutiny would also show l'il Tommie Dasshole is up to his na-na's in this also!!!!!!!!
Check his wife's bank book. They are two of the most corrupt people in DC.
LOL. In light of their double standards, I share your sentiments. What I have learned, however, is that US Senators are essentially immune from criminal prosecution. McCain and the Keating Five come to mind...
corruption will only be reduced when the Federal government doesn't have the power to 'do things' for all of these interests. With no federal regulation of gambling, these indian tribes would never have given any money to anyone.
"TERM LIMITS NOW!"
It is obvious we cannot trust the politicians.
More on Senator Byron "Combover" Dorgan (D-ND)
Abramoff Investigator Aided Mashpee Tribe By JOHN SOLOMON and SHARON THEIMER,
Associated Press Writers
32 minutes ago
WASHINGTON - The Democrat helping to lead the Senate investigation into Jack Abramoff's Indian lobbying had his own connections to the controversial lobbyist's team and clients, including using his sports arena skybox to raise money.
Sen. Byron Dorgan (news, bio, voting record), D-N.D., acknowledges he got Congress in fall 2003 to press government regulators to decide, after decades of delay, whether the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe of Massachusetts deserved federal recognition.
Dorgan met with the tribe's representatives and collected at least $11,500 in political donations from Abramoff partner Michael D. Smith, who was representing the Mashpee, around the time he helped craft the legislation, according to interviews and documents obtained by The Associated Press.
The senator also didn't reimburse another tribe, the Mississippi Choctaw, for the use of Abramoff's skybox in 2001, when the tribe held a fundraiser for him there, instead treating it as a tribal contribution. He only recently reimbursed the tribe for the box, four years later, after determining it was connected to Abramoff.
Dorgan, who is vice chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee that is investigating Abramoff, says he sees no reason to step down from the probe, which he and Sen. John McCain (news, bio, voting record), R-Ariz., are leading. He said he had no idea at the time that any of the transactions were connected to Abramoff or the alleged fleecing of tribes.
"I never met Jack Abramoff but I am appalled by what we have learned about his actions," Dorgan said Thursday. "So I have never felt there was any conflict in my helping to lead that investigation. I think Senator McCain would agree our investigation has been relentless and that neither of us will be diverted."
Dorgan's contacts, donations and fundraisers involving Abramoff tribal clients and lobbying associates, as well as those of other lawmakers, have not been examined during the Senate hearings into the lobbyist's roughly $80 million in charges to the tribes.
The senator didn't volunteer the information, although he did disclose his donations in campaign reports over the years.
Larry Noble, the government's former chief election enforcement lawyer, said Dorgan should have considered stepping aside from the inquiry and at the very least should have disclosed all his own intersections with Abramoff's associates and tactics.
"I think any way you look at it he had an obligation to disclose," Noble said. "It is hard for anyone not to see a conflict when you're investigating the same activity you yourself were involved with."
Over the last month, the AP has reported that about four dozen lawmakers, Republicans and Democrats, collected donations from Abramoff's tribal clients and firm around the time they wrote letters to the Bush administration or Congress favorable to the tribes.
Congressional ethics rules require lawmakers to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest in performing official duties and accepting political money. The Justice Department is investigating whether Abramoff, already charged with fraud in a Florida case, won any undue influence through donations and favors.
Dorgan on Monday sharply criticized the AP for reporting last week that he collected $20,000 from Abramoff's firm and tribes in the period when he wrote a letter urging the Senate Appropriations Committee to fund a school construction program that Abramoff's clients and other tribes wanted.
The senator, who has Indian tribes in his state, said he long supported the program, and the letter and donations had no connection. And he asserted that he never took any action or received any campaign help that knowingly involved Abramoff.
Dorgan, however, benefited from the very arena skybox that has become a symbol of Abramoff's controversial efforts to win Washington influence, records show.
The Mississippi Choctaw tribe, an Abramoff client that has been a primary focus of Senate hearings, sponsored a fundraiser March 28, 2001, for Dorgan's political group, the Great Plains Leadership Fund. The event treated Dorgan and his donors to a bird's-eye view of a professional hockey game from a skybox Abramoff leased in Washington's MCI Center, while lobbyists got the chance to bend his ear.
Dorgan knew the fundraiser was sponsored by the Choctaw and that two Abramoff lobbyists attended, but at the time he didn't know they were connected to Abramoff, his spokesman said. "He was told the skybox was the Choctaws'," Barry Piatt said.
Dorgan didn't reimburse the tribe, instead reporting the event as an "in-kind" $1,800 tribal contribution without specifying it involved the skybox.
Piatt said reporting it that way was legal and normal. The senator reimbursed the tribe $1,800 for the skybox earlier this year when he learned from reports that it was connected to Abramoff, Piatt said.
Documents the Senate released show Abramoff charged the Choctaws $223,679 to underwrite use of the skybox in 2001, the year of Dorgan's fundraiser, even though the tribe "very rarely" used it. Dorgan has denounced the fees as outrageous.
Dorgan and his staff met several times with Abramoff's lobbying team, according to the lobbying firm's billing records.
Smith, the Abramoff associate who represented both tribes and the Northern Mariana Islands, billed for at least four meetings with Dorgan or his staff in 2001. He billed for two hours on the day of Dorgan's skybox fundraiser for a discussion with the lawmaker on "minimum wage legislation," the records state.
Investigators have information suggesting Dorgan and his staff may have had more than 20 contacts with Abramoff's lobbying team involving the Marianas, tribes and other clients over the years, said a person directly familiar with the investigation who spoke only on condition of anonymity because of the probe continues. Piatt said Dorgan's office doesn't keep records of staff meetings but that any notations in billing records shouldn't be trusted because Abramoff was fired from his firm over his billing practices.
Dorgan's office acknowledged he met in 2003 with representatives of the Mashpee, the Massachusetts tribe that Abramoff signed as a client and Smith represented. The tribe was trying to persuade the federal government to rule on its decades-old request to be formally recognized.
The senator used his position as a member of the joint House-Senate committee that approved the final Interior Department spending bill for 2004 to craft a provision that pressed the agency to "complete its review of the Mashpee petition as expeditiously as possible."
"Absolutely, he was involved. The tribe asked him to be involved and the Massachusetts senators supported it," Piatt said. "They had 29 years of waiting. It seemed like a reasonable thing to do."
Piatt said he didn't think Dorgan's help was significant because the action didn't order Interior to make a specific conclusion, only urged it to act more quickly.
But the Mashpee say the lobbying paid off because Dorgan's provision prompted Interior to speed its decision-making process. The tribe credits Dorgan and one of his colleagues, Sen. Conrad Burns (news, bio, voting record), R-Mont., another frequent recipient of Abramoff tribal donations, for the provision.
"Both Senator Burns and Senator Dorgan were helpful," Mashpee spokesman Scott Ferson said.
The summer before the help, Smith sent three donations to Dorgan totaling $1,500, while a separate Abramoff client, the Saginaw Chippewa, sent Dorgan a total of $10,000. The Saginaw were interested in a second provision in the same Interior spending bill, inserted by Burns, that provided the tribe $3 million in school construction money.
The spending bill was finalized Oct. 27, 2003, with both the Saginaw and Mashpee provisions.
Six weeks later, Smith donated $5,000 to North Dakota Senate 2004, a joint fundraising committee set up to help Dorgan's re-election. Smith made a second $5,000 donation to the same Dorgan committee in February 2004, campaign reports show.
On the Net:
Senate Indian Affairs Committee: http://indian.senate.gov
Exactly right - throw this right back in their face everytime they bring up the "Republican Scandals Rocking Washington" - I want to puke everytime I hear a RAT LIB say those words. Clintoon ran one of the most corrupt campaigns and administrations in recent history, but he like all RATS get a pass in the MSM. We need the Repubs to come out and denounce this activity. Should he be forced to step aside just like Tom DeLay - how can he investigate something that he himself condoned and did?? WHAT HYPROCISY.
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