by RonK, Seattle
Yesterday's post brought out a lively crowd gunning for the messenger, complaining "numbers don't mean anything". (Numbers meant something a few hours earlier, when it was assumed the numbers were different.) Now it's "prove he directed those (Democratic) contributions".
Another day, I'll lay out the "born yesterday" logic of denial ... and all the auxiliary premises you'd have to accept in order to believe Jack Abramoff did not direct tribal contributions to both Republicans and Democrats.
But my time is scarce and so's yours, so today we'll serve up a sampler of horse's mouth testimony.
First the horse's ass, from WaPo, 2005-06-02:
An Abramoff spokesman said: "Each tribe has its own protocol for approving political contributions made by the tribe. Mr. Abramoff and his team provided recommendations on where a tribe should spend its political dollars, but ultimately the tribal council made the final decision on what political contributions to make."
But that was before his plea bargain, wasn't it?
For the Coushatta of Louisiana, general counsel Jimmy Faircloth, former counsel to the anti-Abramoff dissidents, speaks (due to pending litigation) exclusively on the matter, under the imprimatur of the tribal Council Chair and full Council, and the implicit imprimatur of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee and staff investigators, who in effect vouch for his possession of documents and depositions to back up statements like these.
"Jack Abramoff directed many, many tribes to donate many, many dollars to a laundry list (of politicians) on both sides of the aisle," said Jimmy Faircloth, general counsel for the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana. ... A lot of the contributions accomplished nothing for the tribes, Faircloth said, but they boosted Abramoff's reputation as a lobbyist extraordinaire. "A lot of it was done so it would increase his clout," Fairclothsaid. "He would make these tribes think that these (donations) were important contacts ... when in fact he would use the money to build his prowess in D.C. as a fundraiser."
"But," you object, "Faircloth doesn't know. He wasn't in the room. And besides that, he's a Republican." (And so he is, though not a lobbyst or operative as has been alleged.)
OK. For now, disregard Faircloth. (You'll be sorry.) Forget the Coushatta.
How about the Tigua? Is tribal governor Arturo Senclair (who was in the room, in charge, for the whole Abramoff joyride) lying, or merely misinformed?
Arturo Senclair, governor of the tribe officially known as the Ysleta Del Sur Pueblo, said Friday that the tribe isn't demanding its donations back but that anyone returning money should check with the Tiguas first. ... The tribe contributed between $250,000 and $300,000 to congressional campaigns between 2002 and 2004 based on Abramoff's direction, Senclair said.
He says he has 250 e-mails to back up his story. Making that up too?
What of the Agua Caliente -- taken for a $10M ride? Here's tribal Chairman Richard Milanovich, under oath in the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, 2004-09-29.
Senator Inouye. Chairman Milanovich, you indicated that you were provided with a list of candidates to support.
Mr. Milanovich. Yes, sir.
Senator Inouye. And you supported these candidates with money?
Mr. Milanovich. Some of the candidates were, it was agreed to support, make contributions to the recommendations list,yes, sir.
Senator Inouye. Were the candidates Federal candidates?
Mr. Milanovich. There were some Federal candidates, yes, sir.
Senator Inouye. Were they from the State of California?
Mr. Milanovich. I do not remember. The list was long, and I questioned and the vice chairman also questioned certain names on the list because we did not know who they were. As [Saginaw Chippewa] SubChief Sprague states, there were PACs, there were charitable organizations, and we did not know who they were. We questioned, but again there was a forward movement of some tribal council members who said just approve it.
Senator Inouye. Were any of the contributions made to political party organizations, like the presidential committees?
Mr. Milanovich. I do not recall a presidential committee, but perhaps the two party committees.
Senator Inouye. Democrat and Republican?
Mr. Milanovich. Yes, sir.
Senator Inouye. And you have the list and you can provide it to the committee?
Mr. Milanovich. It has been submitted, yes, sir.
Senator Inouye. When you made these contributions, were you advised as to what the nature of benefits you might be able to receive from the recipients of your contributions?
Mr. Milanovich. Not directly, no, sir. It was mailed to us. If we had questions, we questioned Mr. Abramoff or one of his staffers with Greenberg Traurig. Why are we doing this? Why this contribution being made to this person or this candidate or this organization? Many times, it was just because it is for the best interests of the tribe.
(You really must read the whole thing.)
Today, the tribe takes a somewhat different posture:
"We are receiving refunds on contributions made directly by us, implying that somehow we were involved in the subterfuge (by Abramoff)," Milanovich said. "I resent that. All of us resent that."
Casino tribes don't like controversy.Not good for business, and they are controversial enough as it is.
From the same hearing, sub-chief Bernie Sprague of the Saginaw Chippewa:
Mr. Sprague. The Saginaw Chippewas were taken by Mr. Petras and Mr. Scanlon and Mr. Abramoff over a 2-year period of approximately $1 million in contributions.
Senator McCain. In campaign contributions?
Mr. Sprague. Campaign contributions to people we never heard of, people we knew nothing about, organizations, different things of this nature. And we will get that list to the committee of all those individuals that were donated to.
Last, we come to the Choctaw of Mississippi, taken for about $14M. Chief Phillip Martin denies Abramoff's influence.
"The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians has voluntarily contributed to political campaigns and causes along the ideological spectrum for more than a decade," Martin said in a Dec. 21 letter to Hayworth. "Our decisions on political contributions were made by us. They were not coerced or controlled by our former lobbyist, Mr. Jack Abramoff, with whom we have severed all our ties." ... On Wednesday, the Choctaws announced they'd reached a settlement with Greenberg Traurig, Abramoff's former lobbying firm, over padded bills.
"That settlement fully and fairly resolves all of the tribe's claims for recovery of funds arising from Mr. Abramoff's misconduct through his 'gimme five' scheme with Michael Scanlon or otherwise while Mr. Abramoff was employed at Greenberg Traurig," said the tribe's statement.
Interesting. Plausible? They've been in the game longer than most. (also on the Abramoff longer than most ... as early as 1995.) Chief Martin points to longstanding personal relationships with Sen. Lott and Rep. Kennedy. On the other hand, they invested $8K in Bob Ney ... they did secure a cash settlement ... and as we noted above, casino tribes don't like controversy.
None of this was hidden away anywhere. Some of it has been on the sworn public record for as long as 15 months. But if it's messengers you want, messengers you'll get. Good shooting!