The tribe donated $25,000 to the Capital Athletic Foundation in 2002 and another $25,000 to the National Republican Congressional Committee the following year, tribal attorney Henry Buffalo said. The lawyer said tribal leaders assumed that if they gave money, "Mr. DeLay would recognize that in some way," and if they needed legislative help, "Mr. DeLay would be able to look on that more favorably than not."
Stuart Roy, DeLay's spokesman, responded that many lobbyists exaggerate their influence with powerful lawmakers.
The ties between Abramoff and DeLay go back a long way. Since 1997, Abramoff and his wife have contributed $40,000 to DeLay's political action committees, and last year the Capital Athletic Foundation donated $25,000 to the DeLay Foundation for Kids, a charity the lawmaker founded. Abramoff has long been a member of DeLay's Congressional Council, which DeLay describes in promotional materials as a "special group of supporters."
Blum, Abramoff's publicist, said that "in the over 10 years that Jack Abramoff has known Congressman Tom DeLay, each has properly supported the other's charitable causes, each has properly followed the rules of lobbying and disclosure, and each has only properly advocated positions on national policy in which they both believe."
DeLay has also shown support for causes important to Abramoff's clients. A source close to Abramoff who asked not to be named because of the continuing grand jury investigation said Abramoff lobbied DeLay's office to organize a June 2003 letter -- co-signed by DeLay, House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Deputy Whip Eric I. Cantor (R-Va.) -- that endorsed a view of gambling law benefiting the Coushattas' desire to block gambling competition by another tribe.
The letter, sent to Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton, said the House leaders opposed a plan by the Jena Band of Choctaw Indians to open a casino at a non-reservation site, expected at the time to be outside Shreveport, La., not far from a casino owned by the Coushattas. The intent of the letter, the source said, was to protect the income from the Coushattas' casino -- about $300 million a year.
V. Heather Sibbison, a lobbyist at the time for the Jena Band, said: "I do this for a living, and I have never seen a letter like that before. It was incredibly unusual for that group of people, who do not normally weigh in on Indian issues, to express such a strong opinion about a particular project not in any of their home states."
DeLay spokesman Roy did not address whether Abramoff had contacted DeLay about the letter but said: "The majority leader has been consistent in his opposition to the expansion of gambling. Accusations and insinuations to the contrary are simply attempts to make a sexier story."
Using School as a 'Front'
Abramoff and his wife created the Capital Athletic Foundation in 1999 as a limited-liability company. He initially listed his home as the foundation's principal office, and in September 2002 he filed an operating agreement with the state of Maryland that said "all profit or loss shall be allocated to Abramoff," as well as any cash remaining at the end of each year.
In 2000, the foundation's purpose was described in tax documents as providing "gifts to schools in the Wash DC area in order to provide and enhance academic and athletic programs for children." Its Web site said the foundation would make lifetime Spirit of America awards, issue certificates of achievement to schools that emphasized athletics and appoint national ambassadors of sportsmanship.
There is no indication those things happened. Abramoff was the foundation's sole donor that year, giving $12,850, and the Yeshiva of Greater Washington was the sole grant recipient, getting $11,824.
In 2001, the foundation's reported income rose to more than $1.24 million, largely on the strength of a $1 million donation by the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana, a $177,415 donation made in Abramoff's name and a $50,000 donation by Foxcom Wireless, an Israeli-financed telecommunications company seeking the House Administration Committee's approval to install cell phone antennas throughout House office buildings. The firm Abramoff worked for, Greenberg Traurig, registered as a lobbyist for Foxcom in 2003.
Catherine Zatloukal, president and chief executive of the company, which is now named MobileAccess Networks, did not respond to questions about the firm's donation to the foundation.
As to the Coushattas' donation, Abramoff and Scanlon told them "where to send money" in Washington, said Roy Fletcher, a spokesman for the tribe. Fletcher and tribal lawyer Kent Hance said tribal leaders concluded eventually that the money was being used to pay for a luxury box at FedEx Field, where Abramoff would lobby for them during Redskins games.