Lobbyist Jack Abramoff and public relations consultant Michael Scanlon, already under investigation by a Senate panel, the FBI and a task force of five federal agencies, are now facing the strong likelihood of lawsuits from some of the tribes that paid the millions of dollars in lobbying and PR fees to the two men.
"There's not been a decision to sue, but in light of our [internal] investigation" the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana will probably bring suit against Abramoff and Scanlon to recoup any wrongly billed fees, Jay B. Stewart, a partner at the Austin law firm Hance Scarborough Wright Ginsberg & Brusilow, said in an interview yesterday. The tribe hired the firm, whose partner Kent Hance is a former GOP congressman, to represent it during the Senate Indian Affairs Committee investigation and to conduct its own internal investigation.
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More Special Interests
Hance and Stewart said the tribe had hired lobbyists to help protect its "one major asset" -- its casino -- but in the end may have been defrauded by a "complex scheme."
The Saginaw Chippewas, another former Abramoff client, may also pursue litigation against Abramoff and his former firm, Greenberg Traurig, Legal Times reported Monday.
Abramoff's lawyer Abbe D. Lowell of Chadbourne & Parke said in an e-mail response that the lobbyist and "the law firms for whom he worked have provided valuable services and achieved demonstrable results for the firms' tribal clients."
"Recent stories and the one-sided hearings at the Senate might cause people to forget or ignore these accomplishments. Before anyone is egged on to file a lawsuit capitalizing on the media frenzy that has been generated, they should stop and recall the good work and success that was achieved," Lowell said.
Akin Gump Builds on Indian Affairs
In other news about a former Abramoff tribal client . . . Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld registered to lobby on behalf of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians of Palm Springs, Calif.
The firm had earlier been retained to represent the tribe in the investigation. The lobby registration is for unrelated issues dealing with an array of transportation, education and other tribal issues, said Akin Gump lawyer Steven R. Ross. Also on the lobby team: Allison C. Binney, Susan H. Lent, Jeffrey D. McMillen and John M. Simmons.
Like other law firms and lobby shops in recent years, Akin Gump has been building up its Indian affairs practice. Most recently, the firm brought on Steven J. W. Heeley, who was deputy general counsel for the Gila River Indian Community in Arizona, from 1997 to 2003, and earlier served as chief counsel of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee. He also served as deputy minority staff director and counsel to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on the then-Senate Select Committee on Indian Affairs. McCain is now chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee and is leading the investigation into Abramoff's affairs.
Heeley is a member of the Walpole Island First Nation. He most recently was at the law firm of Quarles & Brady Streich Lang.
Grass-Roots Odd Couple
Strange bedfellows abound in Washington. One of the latest odd couples: former Christian Coalition executive director Randy Tate and former Clinton press secretary Mike McCurry.
Tate, a former Republican member of the House from Washington state and GOP deputy whip, has joined the board of directors of Grassroots Enterprise Inc. The board is chaired by McCurry, who is on leave while serving on the Kerry presidential campaign.
Grassroots Enterprise says it is "a nonpartisan, public affairs firm providing communications programs for legislative-regulatory challenges, coalition building" and more.
"It's pretty clear that we're not going to be voting for the same guy for president," Tate said about McCurry. But otherwise, "we share the same vision" on the use of technology and grass-roots organizing to affect public policy.
Tate is still operating his consulting firm, Tate Strategies Inc.
Moving and Shaking
Furthermore . . . Hill veteran Lionel R. Collins Jr., who served as chief of staff for Louisiana Democrat Rep. William J. Jefferson and earlier was an aide to the late Louisiana Democrat Sen. Russell B. Long, is signing on with the D.C. office of Jones Walker as a government relations specialist. He'll focus on appropriations, tax and trade at the Louisiana-based law firm.
Also at the D.C. office: Paul F. Cambon, who worked for then-House member Robert Livingston, a Republican from Louisiana.
Weldon J. Rougeau, president of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, will be joining Arent Fox's government relations practice as counsel. The move is effective Dec. 1. Earlier, he was vice president and chief compliance officer at Loyola University Health System in Illinois.
Sandra Kristoff, a former Clinton administration official and most recently senior vice president for New York Life, has joined C&M, the consulting affiliate of Crowell & Moring law firm.
Kristoff was senior director for Asian affairs for the National Security Council and director for Asian affairs on the White House National Economic Council. She also served as ambassador to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.