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Tribal Money Linked to GOP Fundraising

Hayworth, co-chairman of the Native American Caucus, did have contact with the tribes Abramoff and his team represented.

After The Post questioned Hayworth's office about his failure to disclose his skybox fundraising events, an aide said staffers had contacted the FEC about the mistake and planned to amend the congressman's filings. Abramoff's firm never sent a letter telling the Hayworth campaign the value of the in-kind contributions, said Joe Eule, Hayworth's chief of staff. "From talking to other people," Eule said, "this is how things happened over there. People would request these letters, and they'd never be forthcoming."


Abbe Lowell, left, consults with his client, Jack Abramoff, during a hearing before the Senate Indian Affairs Committee. Fees charged by Abramoff to six tribes totaled $82 million over three years, the panel found. (Melina Mara -- The Washington Post)


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Fundraising events were held at only a fraction of the many games at the three venues. The rest of the time, the boxes were filled with Abramoff's lobbyists and congressional staffers they sought to cultivate. Members of his lobbying team typically carried around wads of tickets to dole out to Hill aides.

Abramoff not only lobbied staffers, he regularly hired them. Three former aides to DeLay worked as lobbyists for Abramoff at Greenberg Traurig: former deputy chiefs of staff Tony Rudy and Bill Jarrell; and former DeLay spokesman Michael Scanlon, who formed a public relations company that worked in tandem with Abramoff.

Other Hill veterans joined Abramoff's lobbying team and entertained their former congressional colleagues in the skyboxes, including former aides for Doolittle, Sens. Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), John Breaux (D-La.) and Conrad Burns (R-Mont.), and Young, the representative from Alaska.

A Lawmaker Under Scrutiny

One member of the House leadership already under scrutiny for his ties to Abramoff, House Administration Committee Chairman Robert W. Ney (R-Ohio), used the MCI Center box, and his chief of staff was later hired by Abramoff. A Senate panel investigating Abramoff released e-mails last month showing that Abramoff directed a Texas tribe to contribute $32,000 to Ney in 2002, days after Ney took steps to sponsor legislation sought by the tribe.

Abramoff's fundraising log shows an event for Ney at MCI Center on March 15, 2001. FEC records show that Abramoff and three men associated with him in a Florida-based casino cruise line called Suncruz each donated $1,000 to Ney that day.

Ney had been helpful to them the year before, when Abramoff and a partner, Adam Kidan, were embroiled in acrimonious efforts to buy Suncruz. In an unusual step, Ney criticized the cruise line's owner, Gus Boulis, in statements placed in the March 30, 2000, Congressional Record, putting pressure on Boulis to sell; he then praised Kidan as Suncruz's new owner when the sale went through.

The following year, five weeks before the MCI Center fundraiser for Ney, Boulis was slain gangland style in a case that is under investigation. The FBI also is investigating possible bank fraud in the purchase of Suncruz, law enforcement sources said. An attorney for Abramoff said he and the banks involved "were victims of the wrongdoing of others."

Neil Volz, Ney's chief of staff, joined Abramoff's lobbying team in early 2002. Last month, Ney amended his FEC reports to reflect in-kind contributions of $1,470 from Volz for fundraising events at MCI Center in 2002 and 2003.

Kidan, contacted for this article, said Suncruz contributed $310,000 toward the cost of the skyboxes in 2000.

Abramoff's other tribe-funded perk for House Republican leaders was his downtown restaurant, Signatures. DeLay and others occasionally met for private lunches in the back room, a source familiar with the restaurant's management said.

Many meal receipts for members, staff and Abramoff's team were turned over to Greenberg Traurig; the firm then billed the tribes, said this source and others, including people associated with the tribes. Signatures, said the source, was a money drain on Abramoff, operating at a deficit of tens of thousands of dollars a month.

The person who has seen bills sent to the Agua Caliente tribe said they sometimes listed the lobbyists present and the guests who were entertained, but not always.

On occasions when fundraising events were at Signatures, said Lowell, "either tribes or the campaigns themselves properly underwrote the use of the restaurant and, again, the reporting requirements belong to the campaigns."

Jill Perry, director of marketing and communications for Greenberg Traurig, said in a statement that "the conduct by Mr. Abramoff which has come to light since he left Greenberg Traurig is antithetical to the way we do business and contrary to our firm's values and culture. We continue to conduct a comprehensive internal investigation of these matters."

Researcher Derek Willis contributed to this report.


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