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Four former Greenberg Traurig lobbyists besides disgraced former colleague Jack Abramoff took improper side payments in violation of company policy and have been referred to the Justice Department, a top law firm executive has disclosed. All were asked to resign. The disclosures were made by Fred Baggett, the firm’s Tallahassee, Fla.-based chief of governmental relations, in recent testimony before the Senate Indian Affairs Committee. The committee is investigating Abramoff and his close associate Michael Scanlon in connection with possible fraud in their representation of various Indian tribes around the United States. The Justice Department is also investigating whether the two overbilled and submitted fraudulent bills to the tribes. The four other lobbyists now being questioned are Kevin Ring, John Van Horne, Michael Smith and Stephanie Leger. Smith declined to comment, and calls to Van Horne and Leger were not returned. Ring told the Daily Business Review he returned a $25,000 payment he received. Ring is now a lobbyist for Barnes & Thornburg in Washington and still represents Indian tribes. Van Horne started a two-person Washington firm called GHT Law. Smith is a lobbyist for Cornerstone Government Affairs in Washington, and Leger now works as the Washington-based director of federal relations for Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco on hurricane recovery issues. Abramoff, once considered one of the most powerful lobbyists in Washington and a top fund-raiser for President Bush, is under indictment in Miami federal court on wire fraud and conspiracy charges in connection with his purchase, with co-defendant Adam Kidan, of the SunCruz casino gambling cruise company based in Broward County. Greenberg Chairman Cesar Alvarez said the disclosures arising from Abramoff’s employment at his firm have been a continuing source of personal distress. “While at the firm, Mr. Abramoff appears to have participated in and directed egregious practices, detailed at hearings by the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs,” Alvarez said in a statement to the Review. “These activities have been upsetting to me personally; all of us at the firm share the outrage at his misconduct, which is antithetical to our firm’s culture and values.” Baggett, Abramoff’s boss, was the only Greenberg executive to testify before the committee. His appearance at a Nov. 2 hearing provided insight into how Abramoff pulled off his alleged scams while working for the multinational law firm, including the alleged submission of a phony $1 million invoice to a tribal client with the name Greenberg misspelled. Baggett insisted that the firm knew nothing about Abramoff’s questionable deals and fired him when they discovered them. “What Mr. Abramoff did was abhorrent to us,” Baggett said. “What he did he did without our knowledge. He is an amazingly gifted person at having two sides to him. We probably were more shocked than anyone could be to find what we found.” Greenberg Traurig was attempting to become a major lobbying firm in Washington when it landed Abramoff, one of Washington’s top rainmakers, and his team in 2001. Abramoff was especially skilled at signing up Indian tribes and brought four of them onboard with Greenberg. With Abramoff and his team’s help, the law firm became one of the must lucrative Washington lobbying shops between 2001 and 2004. Baggett told senators that Greenberg was unaware of Abramoff’s questionable operations until the Washington Post ran an article titled “A Jackpot from Indian Gaming Tribes” in February 2004. The article detailed how Abramoff and public relations executive Michael Scanlon — a former Greenberg lobbyist — jointly collected more than $45 million from Indian tribes in a three-year period and how they persuaded them to donate millions to Abramoff’s personal charities and Republican causes. The firm was particularly concerned about alleged findings that Abramoff and other attorneys took kickbacks from Scanlon for throwing millions of dollars of public relations and consulting work from the tribes his way. Scanlon, a former spokesman for former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, set up two public affairs firms, Capital Campaign Strategies and Scanlon Gould Public Affairs. According to Baggett, Greenberg questioned Abramoff, and he “denied any financial relationship with Mr. Scanlon or engaging in any improprieties in connection with his lobbying work for the tribe.” Nevertheless, Greenberg was still troubled, and it hired a former Washington-based federal prosecutor named Henry F. Schulte to conduct an internal investigation into the possible financial relationship between Abramoff and Scanlon. Faced with this investigation, Abramoff “for the first time disclosed to our firm that he had received money from Mr. Scanlon in connection with the work the two men were doing on behalf of the tribe,” according to Baggett’s testimony. Upon hearing this, the law firm immediately demanded Abramoff’s resignation, Baggett said. As Schulte’s investigation continued, the four other Greenberg lobbyists were found to also have taken side compensation and asked to resign, according to top sources at the law firm. Ring left Oct. 13, 2004; Michael Smith, Jan. 3, 2005; Van Horne, Feb. 6, 2004; and Leger, April 30, 2004. Greenberg consequently settled with several of Abramoff’s former clients, and settlement talks with other tribes are continuing, sources say. In a statement this week, Greenberg spokeswoman Jill Perry sought to distance Leger from the other four lobbyists as having taken merely a small bonus from Abramoff. “While Stephanie Leger received a small bonus outside normal firm procedures, we have no information, nor do we believe, these monies relate to the improprieties that are the subject of the Senate’s investigation,” Perry said. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., chair of the committee, questioned Baggett of his knowledge of the American International Center. At the behest of Abramoff or Scanlon, the tribe contributed $3.6 million to an Abramoff entity called the American International Center and $1 million to an Abramoff charity, the Capital Athletic Foundation, according to testimony provided by the Coushatta Tribe. Baggett said Greenberg first heard about AIC in the fall of 2001 when Abramoff allegedly signed it as a client. He said he understood AIC to be a think tank for Malaysian business interests. “What was your understanding of Michael Scanlon’s relationship with AIC?” McCain asked. “We were told that AIC had retained Michael Scanlon to assist in PR efforts on behalf of the Malaysian business interests and would be our contact for working with AIC,” Baggett replied. “Did either Abramoff or Scanlon tell you that AIC was owned or operated by Michael Scanlon?” “No, sir.” “Did they ever tell you that AIC was paying money to Mr. Abramoff?” “No, sir.” “What does your firm now understand AIC to be?” “A sham. It is our understanding now from information we have received and from e-mails to the firm and from other investigative sources that AIC was a front for Mr. Abramoff and Mr. Scanlon to collect money.” Baggett also detailed how, in violation of firm policy, Abramoff, Ring, Van Horne, Smith and Leger all received compensation outside the firm — in Van Horne’s case, straight from Abramoff’s client, the Coushatta Tribe. McCain showed Baggett e-mails between Abramoff and Scanlon in which Abramoff said, “I told [Van Horne] we’d kick him $20,000 from CCS [Capital Campaign Strategies], when we score next. Let’s do it.” Scanlon replied, “Cool.” “Did Mr. Abramoff or Mr. Van Horne approach the firm about the legitimacy of this transaction?” asked McCain. “No, sir,” replied Baggett. McCain then referred Baggett to an exhibit showing a $20,000 check paid to Van Horne for “legal work.” “According to bank records, that money appears to be paid out of Coushatta funds received by Mr. Scanlon on Jan. 18, 2002. Mr. Baggett, was Mr. Van Horne receiving that money from Mr. Scanlon a violation of firm policy?” “Yes, sir,” replied Baggett. Capital Campaign Strategies, Baggett told the senators, was in no way related to Greenberg. Baggett also told the senators that a $1 million invoice purportedly sent by Greenberg to the Coushatta Tribe under the heading, “public affairs services,” was phony. The senators and audience laughed when Baggett pointed out the firm’s name was misspelled. “I doubt we would be issuing an invoice with our name misspelled,” Baggett said. “That’s an important point,” said McCain with a grin. “Thank you for bringing it up.” The $1 million check was supposed to be used for political activities benefiting the tribe, according to a tribe spokeswoman who testified. Instead, McCain pointed out that it was instead funneled to one of Abramoff’s personal charities, the Capitol Athletic Foundation. Sen. Byron Dorgan, vice chair of the committee, praised Baggett for the firm’s cooperation in providing information and documents. “Still,” added Dorgan, “it is an important question to ask — in the period that this occurred, what kind of culture allowed this to occur? Was there a spectacular lack of management and oversight, particularly of Mr. Abramoff?” Baggett responded that “our firm is a large national firm that makes no excuses for anything. The shareholders and attorney and nonattorney professionals are held to a strict code of professional responsibility that applies to all lawyers and to our own policies and procedures to the firm. We expect each shareholder, each director, to honor those responsibilities. We, and I don’t believe any professional services firm, don’t have the ability to micromanage the day-to-day abilities of their members. “We have the policies, we have the codes, we have the responsibilities. This was an intentional act of deception by Mr. Abramoff on the client, on us and on everyone he dealt with.”

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