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Two Native American clients that paid scandal-plagued lobbyist Jack Abramoff millions of dollars in fees have signed new contracts with former members of Abramoff’s lobbying team. The Mississippi Choctaw Band of Indians and the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe of Massachusetts are now working with Barnes & Thornburg and lobbyists Kevin Ring, Neil Volz, and Edward Ayoob. While at their former firm, Greenberg Traurig, Ring, Volz, and Ayoob worked directly with Abramoff on Native American gaming issues. All three have joined Barnes & Thornburg since December. Ring, in particular, was caught up in the flurry of allegations about potential improprieties relating to Native American clients. He left Greenberg last October after it was disclosed that he accepted $135,000 from Capitol Campaign Strategies LLC, the public relations firm owned by Michael Scanlon. Scanlon, along with Abramoff, is the subject of Senate and federal law enforcement probes investigating charges that the pair bilked Indian tribes out of millions of dollars in lobbying fees and manipulated tribal elections for their personal financial gain. Ring, Volz, Ayoob, and Jeffrey Taylor, who chairs Barnes & Thornburg’s lobby practice, did not return phone calls seeking comment. Glenn Marshall, the chairman of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe, says that he is aware of the payments to Ring but that “the reason that we went with Barnes & Thornburg is mainly because of Kevin. We were not at [Greenberg] because of Jack Abramoff. We were there because of [former Greenberg lobbyist] Michael Smith and Kevin Ring. They did a tremendous service knowing that we had limited resources.” He adds, “I’d have gone to the devil if Kevin Ring had gone there. . . . I don’t care where you go, Kevin Ring, Neil Volz, and Michael Smith are the most honest people in Washington, D.C.” (Last October, Smith acknowledged receiving a $20,000 payment from Michael Scanlon and has since left Greenberg.) Representatives for the Mississippi Choctaw declined requests to be interviewed. But according to former Greenberg attorney Jon van Horne, who worked closely with Abramoff’s tribal practice, Ring enjoyed a good relationship with the Mississippi Choctaw. “Kevin has a long history with them. Now that things have settled down, the fact that they went back to him is no surprise.” QUESTIONS ABOUT NEY Like Ring, Volz has also been hit with questions about connections to Abramoff’s lobbying work. Before joining Greenberg in February 2002, Volz served as chief of staff to Rep. Robert Ney (R-Ohio). At a Senate Indian Affairs hearing in November, senators probed Ney’s connection to Abramoff and the firm’s work for the Tigua tribe of El Paso, Texas. Tigua members testified at the hearing that in 2002, Ney and Abramoff worked in concert to mislead the tribe into believing that its shuttered casino would reopen � the issue the firm had hired Greenberg to lobby for. A tribal spokesperson testified last November that Ney assured them that language in a 2002 election reform bill would allow the Tigua casino to reopen. The language was not contained in the final bill. A source familiar with Greenberg’s tribal work told Legal Times‘ sister publication Influence in November that Volz “was the main contact person between Abramoff and Ney.” After the hearing last November, Ney issued a statement disavowing ever having supported the Tigua provisions in the bill. He said that Abramoff misrepresented his position on the provision to the tribe. Barnes & Thornburg’s Taylor told Influence last month that he is “convinced that [Ring and Volz] are in the clear” regarding any illegal or unethical behavior at Greenberg. He added, “We are building a practice here. I would like people to think that Barnes & Thornburg is a good place to do business. What happens in this whole issue with regard to Greenberg remains to be seen. We have a very strong ethical standard here.” Barnes & Thornburg added Ayoob to its roster last month. A veteran of the office of Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Ayoob was a part of Abramoff’s team at Greenberg, where he worked with Ring and Volz on several tribal accounts, including the Mississippi Choctaw and the Mashpee. BOOST TO BARNES Whatever their history, the tribal clients have the potential to substantially boost Barnes & Thornburg’s bottom line. The Mississippi Choctaw operate a large casino in Choctaw, Miss., and are among the richest tribes in the nation. While Abramoff represented the tribe, it paid more than $14 million to Preston Gates Ellis & Rouvellas Meeds and Greenberg, the two firms that employed Abramoff from 1998 until 2004. Abramoff joined Greenberg in December 2000 and left the firm in March 2004 when allegations of improprieties in his tribal lobbying work surfaced. The tribe’s payments to Abramoff were not limited to lobby fees. It gave more than $1 million to the Capital Athletic Foundation, a nonprofit group started by Abramoff, and the National Center for Public Policy Research, a nonprofit group on whose board Abramoff served. Both nonprofits are currently under investigation by the Senate Finance Committee for possible misuse of foundation money for lobbying activity, improper financing of travel for members of Congress, and tax code violations. The Mashpee are a tribe of more modest means. The 1,468-member tribe is not recognized by the federal government and spent about $40,000 on lobbying for the year that it retained Greenberg in 2003 and 2004, according to Senate lobby disclosure reports. Andy Metzger can be contacted at [email protected]. This article first appear in Influence , Legal Times ‘ sister publication about lobbying.

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