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.
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Nonprofit Groups Funneled Money For Abramoff
"How about getting National Center for Public Policy Research to sponsor the trip?" Abramoff suggested. "Works for me," replied a lobbying colleague.
E-mails suggest Ridenour was well aware that Abramoff viewed her organization as a convenient pass-through.
In September 2002, Abramoff suggested to one of his associates placing $500,000 in client funds with the national center because the group "can direct money at our discretion, anywhere if you know what I mean."
The same morning Abramoff messaged Ridenour: "I might have $500K for you to run through NCPPR. Is this still something you want to do?" Ridenour was enthusiastic: "Yes, we would love to do it."
Ridenour did not respond to requests for comment on the Senate committee report or the e-mails released with it.
Earlier this year, after Abramoff pleaded guilty to conspiring to ply lawmakers with gifts in exchange for favors, IRS Commissioner Mark W. Everson said, "One of the most disturbing elements of this whole sordid story is the blatant misuse of charities in a scheme to peddle political influence."
Tax experts said it is impermissible for a tax-exempt organization to act as a pass-through for money destined for private business purposes.
"It's not a tax-exempt activity to act as a bag man for Jack Abramoff," said Marcus S. Owens, a tax lawyer at Caplin & Drysdale and a former Internal Revenue Service official.
'Hole in My Budget'
Norquist's relationship with Abramoff's gambling clients began in 1995 when Congress was considering taxing tribal casinos.
Abramoff, then a newly registered lobbyist with Preston Gates & Ellis, e-mailed a colleague that Norquist was willing to fight a tax opposed by another of his clients -- a beverage company -- if the firm became "a major player with ATR." Abramoff suggested the firm donate $50,000 to the group.
"What is most important however is that this matter is kept discreet," Abramoff said in an e-mail on Oct. 24, 1995. "We do not want the opponents to think that we are trying to buy the taxpayer movement." He promised that Norquist would be "very active" on the issue.
The following year, according to the Senate committee report, the Choctaw tribe donated $60,000 to Americans for Tax Reform to oppose a tax on Indian casinos. By 1999, ATR was getting large sums of Choctaw money. "What is the status of the Choctaw stuff?" Norquist asked Abramoff in an e-mail that May. "I have a 75g hole in my budget from last year. ouch."