- The DC restaurant industry is not happy with congressional efforts to prohibit lobbyists from treating lawmakers and their staff to meals, according to the Los Angeles Times. In response to this attempt at reforming lobbying the restaurant industry has dispatched its own team of lobbyists to lobby Congress to allow lobbyists to be able to spend freely for lawmakers’ meals.
- What happens when you violate safety laws, don’t pay fines, and oppose increased oversight? The Hill reports that you get tax breaks: “After fatal mining accidents this year, the mining industry is on the verge of winning tax breaks to help pay for new safety technologies as it lobbies against government-imposed safety requirements.” Back in January the Washington Post reported that, “the Bush administration abandoned or delayed implementation of 18 proposed safety rules that were in the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration's regulatory pipeline in early 2001”.
- President Bush’s Faith and Community Based Initiative is directing millions of dollars into organizations run by his religious right supporters, according to the Washington Post. Rep. Mark Souter (R-IN) says that the program has “gone political” and Rep. Chet Edwards (D-TX) asserts, “I believe ultimately this will be seen as one of the largest patronage programs in American history.” Outspoken televangelist Pat Robertson’s Operation Blessing received tens of millions of dollars; “local antiabortion and crisis pregnancy centers have received well over $60 million in grants for abstinence education and other programs;” Shepherd Smith, the strategist for Robertson’s 1988 presidential bid, received $7.5 million; many of the recipients of federal grants were “influential supporters of Bush's presidential campaigns.”
- Prosecutors in the Tom DeLay (R-TX) money laundering case are trying to get two charges reinstated against the troubled former Majority Leader, according to the Associated Press. Meanwhile, the Houston Chronicle reports that DeLay believes that the charges are just political theater and prosecutor Ronnie Earle will throw out the charges after the 2006 midterm elections.
Tom DeLay (R-TX) remains in legal limbo with regards to the unfolding Jack Abramoff scandal that is roiling Congress, according to the Houston Chronicle. DeLay, who is under indictment for laundering money in Texas, “is likely to be linked to the probe for the foreseeable future because of his previous close association with Abramoff” despite recent comments made by Abramoff in a Vanity Fair interview about DeLay. Abramoff stated that “he didn't extensively lobby DeLay, partly because they already were in tune as conservatives.” However, DeLay’s involvement in any wrongdoing hinges on the cooperation of a former top aide, Tony Rudy, currently under investigation by the Justice Department. Rudy “is believed to be cooperating with federal officials, and sources close to the case said he is expected to reach a plea deal with the Justice Department.” Meanwhile, judicial partisanship may pop up again in DeLay’s appeal attempts on money laundering charges. One of the appeals court judges donated money to an opponent of prosecutor Ronnie Earle and another worked with an organization that had close ties to DeLay’s Texans for a Republican Majority, the PAC at the center of the money laundering case.Continue reading
In a major victory for former Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) an appeals court judge threw out more than 30 subpoenas issued by the prosecuting attorney Ronnie Earle. According to the Houston Chronicle, “Most of the subpoenas concerned political fundraising controversies involving DeLay, some dating back to 1996.” Some of the records sought included information related to PerfectWave Technologies, a firm related to the Duke Cunningham bribery case; a subpoena of DeLay’s wife relating to ties to Jack Abramoff; and a subpoena for records of former Abramoff coworkers at Preston Gates, a lobbying firm that donated $25,000 to DeLay’s TRMPAC. DeLay’s lawyers claim that this ruling indicates that Earle is “abusing his office”.Continue reading
Roll Call reports that the Department of Justice has pulled the personal financial disclosure reports of nine members of Congress, some of them directly connected to Jack Abramoff. Those directly connected to the Abramoff case include Representatives Tom DeLay (R-TX), Bob Ney (R-OH), John Doolittle (R-CA), Senator Conrad Burns (R-MT), and a number of their aides. The other members listed, three Democrats and two Republicans, do not appear to have any connection with the Abramoff case and their records may have been accessed for separate matters. The article notes that, “Searching the financial disclosure forms of these lawmakers and ex-staffers is likely part of Justice’s efforts to match up actual ‘things of value,’ as they are known in legal terms, with so-called ‘official acts.’ While campaign contributions can be a part of an indictment against lawmakers and staff, Justice has usually shied away from bringing corruption cases unless they can show that politicians were actually receiving things of cash value for their own personal use.”Continue reading
Investigators issued a subpoena to an associate of Jack Abramoff for all documents related to activities with “any department, ministry, or office holder or agent of the Russian government.” The Boston Globe reports that the subpoenas look to shine a light on the business dealings of, and possible congressional bribery by, Abramoff client Naftasib, a Russian energy giant and a “major supplier to the Russian military.” Investigators believe that Naftasib, run by Alexander Koulakovsky and Marina Nevskaya, paid Abramoff and his associates $2.1 million for lobbying services through a Dutch shell company, Voor Huisen. Of particular interest is a trip to Russia that Abramoff took with then-Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) arranged by Naftasib executives and the $1 million dollars Naftasib donated to U.S. Family Network, “a shell operation for Abramoff” run by former DeLay chief of staff Ed Buckham.Continue reading
Ex-lobbyist Jack Abramoff was paid $1.2 million by the former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammed to set up a meeting with President Bush, according to the Associated Press. Mahathir was persuaded by the conservative Heritage Foundation to seek the meeting because, “the conservative think tank believed he could help ‘influence (Bush) in some way regarding U.S. policies.’” Sources claim that Abramoff used his connections to White House aide Karl Rove to set up the meeting. The Malaysian government also paid $300,000 to an Abramoff connected company to lobby members of Congress and to set up trips to the country, including a 2001 trip by then-Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX). Mahathir states that he cannot recall where the money paid to Abramoff came from but that it did not come from the Malaysian government.Continue reading
Justice Department prosecutors issued subpoenas for the records of the U.S. Family Network, a non-profit started in 1996 by Ed Buckham, then-chief of staff to Tom DeLay (R-TX). According to the National Journal, of particular interest to prosecutors is a $15,600 payment by the U.S. Family Network “to Liberty Consulting, a firm run by Lisa Rudy, the wife of Tony Rudy, who was a deputy chief of staff to DeLay before becoming a lobbying colleague of Abramoff's.” Tony Rudy has subsequently been named in Abramoff’s plea agreement with federal prosecutors. Named in the subpoena of the U.S. Family Network are Tony and Lisa Rudy; Ed Buckham and his wife, Wendy; “several dozen other individuals and groups that have been linked to Abramoff by investigators and news reports;” and Abramoff associates Ralph Reed and Grover Norquist.Continue reading
Travis County prosecutor Ronnie Earle, currently prosecuting former Majority Leader Tom DeLay, issued a subpoena to Primedia for records regarding their $2,500 donations to DeLay’s Texans for a Republican Majority political action committee, according to the Austin American Statesman. Primedia was represented at the time by disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff. The donation may also be tied to a vote on the State Board of Education that scuttled an attempt to end the school news broadcasts that Primedia’s Channel One produces.Continue reading
The Los Angeles Times reports that indicted former Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) has been handed a seat on the Appropriations subcommittee overseeing NASA and has received a seat on the subcommittee overseeing the Justice Department, which is investigating congressional bribery tied to Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff. The seat on the Appropriations Committee was vacated by ex-Rep. Duke Cunningham, who pleaded guilty to bribery charges. DeLay, fearing criticisms and possible charges relating to his close relationship with Jack Abramoff, sent out a nine page letter to constituents stating that accusations that the two were “close personal friends” are “absolutely untrue”, according to Roll Call. DeLay associates Tony Rudy and Ed Buckham are already being investigated for their roles in Abramoff’s influence-peddling.Continue reading
John Boehner (R-OH) was elected to the House Majority Leader post vacated by the scandal-plagued Tom DeLay (R-TX) as Republicans issued a “cry of concern” over “voter unease about corruption and partisan excesses”, according to the New York Times. Despite the victory of Boehner’s campaign of change over the status quo, the Washington Post reports that, “Boehner, who has extensive links to lobbyists, hardly represents a radical break from the past.” Boehner was “an active member of the lobbying-governing culture” in Washington during Republican rule and “is unlikely to take House Republicans in a notably different direction than his predecessors when it comes to the big issues facing Congress this year, like tax cuts, spending restraint and the war in Iraq.” One of Boehner’s strengths was that he appealed to both status quo – assuring GOP members that he would not overreact to the Abramoff scandal – and change, siding with the rock hard conservatives allied with John Shadegg.Continue reading