Abramoff also admitted to defrauding his tribal clients by directing them to pay millions of dollars to Scanlon’s consulting and public relations company, but concealing that he received kickbacks from Scanlon equal to half of the profits an amount that exceeded $20 million. The charge that Abramoff defrauded Indian clients first surfaced in February 2004. Since then, the corruption investigation has widened to include Congress and members of the Bush administration. According to published reports, the Justice Department is currently investigating as many as 20 congressmen and Hill staffers.
At the hearing Tuesday in a Washington, D.C., federal courtroom, Abramoff appeared a hollow shell of the K Street power broker that he once was. Frowning and avoiding eye contact throughout the hearing with anyone except U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle, Abramoff often seemed on the brink of tears as he sat quietly at the defense table. He answered Huvelle’s questions in monosyllables and barely spoke above a whisper. In a prepared statement Abramoff delivered at the end of the hearing, he said: “Words will not be able to ever express how sorry I am for this, and I have profound regret and sorrow for the multitude of mistakes and harm I have caused. I only hope that I can merit forgiveness from the Almighty and from those I have wronged or caused to suffer.”
Abramoff and his attorney, Abbe Lowell, did not answer questions after the hearing. Lowell released a statement saying his client had been in talks with the Justice Department for 18 months.
|These stories come from Influence, our sister publication.
Abramoff: From Small-Scale Flap to the Scandal That Ate Washington (December 7, 2005)
Scanlon Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy (November 22, 2005)
At Abramoff Hearing, Separate Views of Greenberg Emerge (November 9, 2005)
Greenberg Still Suffering From Hangover (September 28, 2005)
Firm Settles With Tribe Over Abramoff (August 31, 2005)
Senate Panel Details Abramoff Billing Scheme (June 22, 2005)
With Abramoff and his former business partner Scanlon both having cut plea deals to cooperate with prosecutors, all attention is now focused on Capitol Hill. According to published reports, lawmakers under investigation by the Justice Department include Ney, Rep. John Doolittle (R-Calif.), Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.), and former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas).
In addition to identifying Ney, Abramoff also implicated two congressional staffers-turned-lobbyists who worked for him at Greenberg Traurig. In the plea document they are referred to only as Staffers “A” and “B.”
In his plea Abramoff alleges that Staffer A solicited contributions from Abramoff’s lobby clients for a charity that Abramoff controlled. Those funds were then used to finance a golf trip to Scotland attended by Ney. During the hearing Judge Huvelle stated that the activities of Staffer A’s wife and her organization are also under investigation.
Abramoff also claims in his plea that Staffer B, a former Ney aide who joined Abramoff’s team at Greenberg, was the conduit through which he communicated with Ney to arrange what Abramoff now says were corrupt acts.
Neil Volz, Ney’s former chief of staff who worked for Abramoff at Greenberg and is now a lobbyist with Barnes & Thornburg, is under investigation by the Justice Department. Other lobbyists under investigation are Tony Rudy, a former DeLay staffer who worked at Greenberg for a year before joining Alexander Strategy Group. Rudy’s wife, Lisa, operated Liberty Consulting, which did work for several Abramoff clients and associates. Edwin Buckham, another former DeLay staffer now at Alexander Strategy, and Kevin Ring, a former chief of staff for Doolittle who later went to work for Abramoff, are also being investigated by the Justice Department, according to several published reports.
Ring declined to comment, citing the ongoing investigation. The others did not return calls for comment before deadline.
Andy Metzger can be contacted at [email protected].