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Senators' Report On Abramoff Case Disputes Rep. Ney
Walsh said the committee report relied on e-mails written by "convicted felons," Volz among them. He said that Ney had not recognized the name of the tribe when questioned about it by committee staffers, and that the report notes that sometime after the interview, his attorney found a calendar reference indicating he had had a meeting with the "Taqua."
Abramoff asked the Tigua to pay for a golf trip to Scotland for Ney in the summer of 2002, but Ney told the committee he never asked that the tribe finance the trip. He said he thought the costs were covered by a private foundation. The report said: "Congressman Ney said the purpose of the trip was to raise money for underprivileged kids in Scotland and Washington, D.C. The itinerary consisted of golfing, meeting two parliamentarians, and watching the Marine Band."
Documents attached to the report show that the wife of another member of Congress received funds from Abramoff. An event-planning firm owned by Julie Doolittle, wife of Rep. John T. Doolittle (R-Calif.), was paid $66,000 from retainer fees that Abramoff's law firm collected from the Agua Caliente tribe in Southern California. The report said there is no evidence that Julie Doolittle knew the funds she was paid to plan fundraising events for Abramoff's personal charity group were coming from a lobbying client.
The report extensively details Abramoff's use of nonprofit charities and advocacy groups to advance his lobbying interests. The Indian Affairs Committee said the way such groups were used to move money around and evade tax liability raises questions about whether existing federal laws are sufficient. It urged the Senate Finance Committee to take up an investigation that it has been mulling for months.
The report traces Abramoff's business dealings with Reed, who is running for Georgia lieutenant governor, and Norquist, the prominent conservative thinker and anti-tax advocate. Both are longtime Abramoff friends who became involved in his work for Indian tribes. Reed conducted grass-roots anti-gambling campaigns against casino initiatives that would rival those of Abramoff's clients; Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform served as a "conduit," according to the committee, to move money from Abramoff's gambling clients to Reed's Christian groups while taking a small cut.
The report cited interviews with Mississippi Choctaw and Louisiana Coushatta tribal representatives. Reed "did not want to be paid directly by a tribe with gaming interests," said Choctaw official Nell Rogers. "It was our understanding that the structure was recommended by Jack Abramoff to accommodate Mr. Reed's political concerns."
Coushatta official William Worfel said Abramoff let the tribe know that its funding of Reed's operation had to be kept quiet. "It can't get out. He's Christian Coalition. It wouldn't look good if they're receiving money from a casino-operating tribe to oppose gaming. It would be kind of like hypocritical."
In a statement to the Associated Press yesterday, Reed said, "The report confirms that I have not been accused of any wrongdoing."
Reed said he was assured he would not be paid with money derived from gambling. "While I believed at the time that those assurances were sufficient, it is now clear with the benefit of hindsight that this is a piece of business I should have declined," Reed said.
Norquist has said his group shared an anti-tax philosophy with tribes opposed to business taxes being levied at casinos.
Rogers told the committee that the Choctaw tribe had no interest in Americans for Tax Reform other than as a conduit for its money to Reed's for-profit consulting firm, Century Strategies. She told the committee that "when we discussed needing a vehicle for doing the pass-through to Century Strategies that Jack had told me that Grover would want a management fee. And we agreed to that, frankly didn't know any other way to do it at the time."
The report and investigation have been among the most extensive by the Indian Affairs Committee, which is chaired by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). If Abramoff had had his way, the investigation would never have gotten off the ground, the report said.
After the first articles about Abramoff's dealings were published in The Washington Post in 2004, the lobbyist asked his tribal clients for help in derailing McCain's probe. Choctaw representative Rogers told the committee that "Abramoff asked me if I would ask the Chief to approach Sen. McCain and suggest that each of the tribes, since they had their own police departments and courts, conduct their own internal investigations."