By James V. Grimaldi
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, February 21, 2009
A former legislative aide to Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) was accused yesterday of accepting more than $25,000 worth of meals and event tickets from disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff in exchange for helping his clients.
Ann M. Copland, 52, was charged in U.S. District Court in Washington with one count of conspiracy to commit honest-services fraud. The charge came in a criminal information, a document typically filed by prosecutors when a defendant has agreed to plead guilty.
Prosecutors alleged that Copland, who worked for Cochran for 29 years until last year, used her position to try to persuade unidentified members of the legislative and executive branches to take actions, including "inserting, protecting, removing" items in spending bills. At the time, Cochran was a powerful member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, where he is now the ranking Republican.
Court documents filed yesterday and last month contain e-mails between Copland and the Abramoff team, including with lobbyist and former legislative staffer Todd Boulanger, who has pleaded guilty in the influence-peddling case. Copland had been dubbed "Staffer E" in papers filed with Boulanger's plea.
Discussion of tickets often accompanied requests for official action or information on legislation. In 2002, Copland requested tickets to Paul McCartney and Green Day concerts and Washington Capitals games. She also asked for the circus, but wrote, "I'm only interested in the floor for that event."
The request surprised even some on the Abramoff team, with one lobbyist replying, "Wow." But when the chain of e-mails was copied to Abramoff, he replied on March 11, 2002: "She'll get everything she wants."