A June 25 article about the Senate Indian Affairs Committee report on the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal paraphrased the report as saying the Justice Department should further investigate a nonprofit group's dealings with the Interior Department and its former deputy secretary, J. Steven Griles. The sentence in the report containing the committee's recommendation did not mention the Justice Department or name Griles. The committee said that "additional inquiry" by "appropriate authorities appears warranted" into the "veracity" of testimony from Italia Federici, the head of the nonprofit group. Her testimony included discussions of her relationship with Abramoff, his tribal clients and Griles.
Nonprofit Groups Funneled Money For Abramoff
Sunday, June 25, 2006
Newly released documents in the Jack Abramoff investigation shed light on how the lobbyist secretly routed his clients' funds through tax-exempt organizations with the acquiescence of those in charge, including prominent conservative activist Grover Norquist.
The federal probe has brought a string of bribery-related charges and plea deals. The possible misuse of tax-exempt groups is also receiving investigators' attention, sources familiar with the matter said.
Among the organizations used by Abramoff was Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform. According to an investigative report on Abramoff's lobbying released last week by the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, Americans for Tax Reform served as a "conduit" for funds that flowed from Abramoff's clients to surreptitiously finance grass-roots lobbying campaigns. As the money passed through, Norquist's organization kept a small cut, e-mails show.
A second group Norquist was involved with, the Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy, received about $500,000 in Abramoff client funds; the council's president has told Senate investigators that Abramoff often asked her to lobby a senior Interior Department official on his behalf. The committee report said the Justice Department should further investigate the organization's dealings with the department and its former deputy secretary, J. Steven Griles.
Norquist has long been an architect of tax-cutting policies and political strategies that have boosted the Republican Party. He and Abramoff have been close since their days as young conservative leaders of the College Republicans more than two decades ago.
The Senate committee report also details Abramoff's dealings with two others from the College Republicans crowd: Ralph Reed, former Christian Coalition executive director; and Amy Moritz Ridenour, president of the National Center for Public Policy Research, which sponsored a golf trip in 2000 to Scotland for then-Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Tex.).
"Call Ralph re Grover doing pass through," Abramoff wrote in a stark e-mail reminder to himself in 1999, a year in which Norquist moved more than $1 million in Abramoff client money to Reed and Christian anti-gambling groups. Reed was working to defeat lotteries and casinos that would have competed with Abramoff's tribal and Internet gambling clients.
In a recent interview at The Washington Post, Norquist said that Americans for Tax Reform and Abramoff's gambling clients worked together because they shared anti-tax, anti-regulatory views. He denied that Americans for Tax Reform was used to conceal the source of funds sent to Reed.
Reed reiterated in a statement last week that he did not know the money he received originated as the proceeds of gambling at Indian casinos.
Ridenour, appearing before the Indian Affairs Committee last year, acknowledged that her organization had accepted grants lined up by Abramoff and disbursed funds at his suggestion. She insisted that she told Abramoff that the National Center for Public Policy Research would be willing to finance only programs consistent with the group's tax-exempt purpose, listed in tax records as "nonpartisan analysis, study and research."
But dozens of e-mails show that Abramoff and his team considered the national center and other tax-exempt groups a ready resource in their efforts to influence Congress.
In one instance, Abramoff's team wanted to send two lawmakers on a trip to the Mississippi Choctaw reservation in 2001, but one congressman's office had concerns about accepting such a trip from a gaming tribe.