by RonK, Seattle
In the howl over a flat-out false assertion (that Jack Abramoff donated to both parties), WaPo ombudsman Deborah Howell amended her position, granting that Abramoff was a GOP player, that his scandal is a GOP scandal, and that he contributed exclusively to Republicans.
She then asserts that donations were "were directed to lawmakers of both parties". The left blogosphere went beserk -- insisting that Abramoff directed his clients to reduce their established levels of donation to Democrats.
In this instance, Howell is correct. Her critics are flat-out wrong, and calling for Howell's head on this account may
reflect badly on the blogs. (The MSM has both "ink by the barrel" and "the facts".)
It's true (in aggregate, and just barely ) that tribes under Abramoff's influence allocated a larger percentage of their dollars to Republicans. It's NOT TRUE that they reduced their donations to Democrats. Total dollars to Democrats from "Abramoff tribes" INVARIABLY INCREASED in the "Abramoff years".
How can this be? Dollars to D's increased. Dollars to R's increased even more, swinging the contribution ratio in the R's favor -- at least in some cases. Details (below) vary from tribe to tribe.
[This summary draws on subscriber-only detail data from FECinfo. Source data is public, but compilation of raw FEC is challenging -- especially where tribal donations are concerned. See this explainer.
Discussion below covers federally regulated contributions only. Some tribes also conducted extensive campaigns in state-level influence markets.]
Consider first the Coushatta of Louisiana -- who made NO contributions in the immediate pre-Abramoff (1999-2000) election cycle.
In the 2001-2002 cycle, they gave $10K to the New Democrat Network, $10K to DSCC (and related accounts), 2.5 to DCCC accounts, 4 to Mary Landrieu, 3 to Tim Johnson (and 3 to the SD Democratic Party), 1 to Harkin, 2 to Breaux, 5 to Harry Reid's Searchlight fund, 5 to Daschle's DashPAC, 5 to Dorgan's Great Plains Leadership fund, and 5 to the Blue Dog PAC .. all net increases in dollars to Democrats.
The famous Tiguas (Ysleta Del Sur Pueblo of Texas) recorded a total of $2,500 in the 2000 cycle: $1K to Jeff Bingaman (D), and $1.5K to Henry Bonilla and Dave Camp (R's).
In 2002, the Tigua show 72 federally-reported political donations, for a total of $217K. They leaned heavily to the Republican side, but gave Patrick Kenned $2K, Blue Dogs 5, Mikulski 2, DashPAC 5, and DSCC 3.
The Agua Caliente gave $18.5K in the 2000 cycle (17.5 to Dem's).
2002 shows 224 donations, for $585K. $30K to DSCC accounts, 22 to DCCC accounts, 15 to DNC, 1 or 2 to Democarts Rangel, Stark, Gephardt, Kleczka and Jim Maloney. [Here I found my first decrease: Maloney got only $500 in 2002, vs $1,000 in 2000.]
2004? DNC 25, DSCC 49, DCCC 25.
The Choctaw of Mississippi made 14 contributions totalling $168K in the 2002 cycle -- only $20K to Dem's (RIPAC).
In 2002 we have 164 contributions for $658K. RIPAC got $80K, DCCC accounts 100, DSCC 35, DGA 40, DashPAC 5, Great Plains 4, Searchlight 2 and so on ... both a net increase and a percentage increase.
The Saginaw Chippewa totalled $39K -- both parties -- for the 2000 cycle.
2002 cycle contributions included $22K to DSCC accounts, DCCC 10, NDN 5, SD Dem's 5, Great Plains 5, DashPAC 5, Searchlight 5, Harkin 10, and lesser amounts to Baucus, Lieberman, Lowey, Carl Levin, John Dingell, Patty Murray, Patrick Kennedy, Pat Leahy.
The Chitimacha Tribe of Louisiana gave DSCC $25K in the 2000 cycle (plus $720 to Bob Borski) out of a $37K total.
In 2002, DCCC accounts got $30K, GUMBO PAC 5, Landrieu 4 and Tim Johnson 1 -- out of a $150K contribution program. Our percentage fell off a cliff, but our net dollars increased.
The Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma were small players. No dollars in 2000 or 2002, but $50K in 2004 (heavily D, made lopsided by enrolled tribal member Brad Carson's Senate candidacy.)
The Pueblo of Sandia? Pikers. $4K to Dem's in 2000, $9K in 2002, $10K in 2004.
The Pueblo of Santa Clara had no activity in 2000, $2K to Dem's (out of 4.5) in 2002, and 2.5 (out of 3.5) in 2004.
Those are the Nine Lost Tribes of Abramoff. Every tribe INCREASED donations to Democrats in the cycles when Jack Abramoff was engaged on their behalf. [There are many details to sort out, and historical patterns to compare across unlike regulatory regimes, and Abramoff's engagements did not begin and end on election cycle boundaries, and casino tribes may change giving patterns abruptly depending on legal and political circumstances, and so on and so forth.]
Does all this mean Abramoff "directed" them to give more dollars to Democrats? In a word, "yes" -- but that's a more complex discussion for a later post.
 Per Center for Responsive Politics summaries, "Abramoff tribes" already gave over 61.4% of their contributions to Republicans in the pre-Abramoff 2000 election cycle, versus 64.4% in the 2002 and 2004 cycles combined. Prior period comparisons are distorted by the effect of a large delta in the numerator (Saginaw's $220K to DCCC accounts in the 1998 cycle) on a narrow pre-Abramoff denominator.