An Oct. 13 article about nonprofit groups linked to lobbyist Jack Abramoff incorrectly described the National Center for Public Policy Research as a spinoff of the Heritage Foundation. It is not, but a founder of the group was a Heritage Foundation senior vice president.
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Report Says Nonprofits Sold Influence to Abramoff
A spokeswoman for Grassley said the chairman did not co-write the report because he had hoped it would include a broader range of groups that he believes also breached their tax status. A Baucus aide said the Democratic staff did not object to a broader review.
The Abramoff scandal has bruised the image of Norquist, a friend of Abramoff's since their days in the College Republicans. Often consulted by Rove, Norquist for decades has convened a key Wednesday morning strategy session for conservative leaders, lobbyists and Republican lawmakers.
Abramoff traded on Norquist's cachet, at one point referring to him in an e-mail as a "hard-won asset" of his lobbying empire. In exchange for Norquist's opposition to taxes on Brown-Forman products, Norquist recommended that a $50,000 donation be made to Americans for Tax Reform, according to an Abramoff e-mail.
"What is most important, however, is that this matter is kept discreet," Abramoff wrote to a colleague at the Preston, Gates & Ellis law firm. "We do not want the opponents to think that we are trying to buy the taxpayer movement."
The e-mails show that Abramoff and Norquist explicitly discussed client donations to Norquist's group in exchange for Norquist's support. The group's advocacy "appears indistinguishable from lobbying undertaken by for-profit, taxable firms," the report said.
Among those who agreed to donate money for an opinion piece was DH2, which in 2004 pushed for tax breaks for its customers.
E-mails show that DH2 understood that Norquist's help came with a price tag. The tab was sent to DH2's managing director, Robert S. Rubin.
"I told Rubin he needs to round up some $$$ for ATR," wrote lobbyist Michael E. Williams to his boss, Abramoff.
"Get the money from Rubin in hand," Abramoff replied, "and then we'll call Grover."
How much, Williams asked.
"50K," Abramoff wrote.
Abramoff e-mailed Norquist on Feb. 10, 2004: "I have sent over a $50K contribution from DH2 (the mutual fund client). Any sense as to where we are on the op-ed placement?"
Replied Norquist: "The Wash Times told me they were running the piece. . . . I will nudge again."
The Washington Times has published about 50 Norquist op-eds since 1993 but apparently none on mutual funds. Norquist did write a letter in April 2004 to a congressman praising him for sponsoring "legislation that would finally allow mutual fund shareholders to defer their capital gains tax" and pledging that his group "is committed to helping you pass this legislation."
Norquist wrote an op-ed piece, published in the Washington Times, as part of an extensive Abramoff campaign for Channel One, which broadcasts educational programming and advertising into public school classrooms. An Abramoff e-mail to Norquist offered him $1,500 for an op-ed, and another e-mail exchange suggested up to $3,000 to buy an "economic analysis."
The Council for Republican Environmental Advocacy, founded by Norquist and Norton, who resigned as interior secretary earlier this year, also appeared to have been used "as an extension of Mr. Abramoff's lobbying organization," the report said.
Abramoff directed his client Indian tribes to donate a total of about $500,000 to the group, telling them that the donation was a way to cultivate Norton at the Interior Department, which oversees the tribes and their casinos. E-mails show that Abramoff told the tribes that they would be CREA's "trustees" and that Norton would "host" a series of CREA dinners. Interior Department documents obtained by The Washington Post suggest that Norton was an invited guest at a CREA dinner, not a host.
Research editor Alice Crites contributed to this report.