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January 24, 2006

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Comments

There is a real fraudster quality to these diaries.

A conclusion desired, non-evidence treated as conclusive, your logic demanding acceptance as gospel.

It also has a Wingnut quality to it, for obvious reasons.

Some have chosen to appllaud you for "intellectual honesty."

I find the idea laughable. This is a hatchet job done with intent.

Frankly, I think you will require fisking to try and put this to bed. But the damage is done.

Congratulations. The RNC thanks you for doing the dirty work.

I guess the end is not nigh now that you have saved us.

Senclair said with the exception of Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-El Paso, no lawmakers had contacted the tribe by Friday afternoon to ask whether they want their contributions returned. Cuellar received $500 from the Tiguas in 2002 and is returning it.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, is keeping $3,000 from the tribe, saying she does not know Abramoff and returning the contributions would be an insult to the tribe.

Rep. Sam Johnson, R-Plano, received $1,000 from the tribe and said Thursday he would give it to the USO of Dallas-Fort Worth. His office was unaware of the tribe's preference when contacted.

Spokesmen for the National Republican Congressional Committee and National Republican Senatorial Committee, which received $20,000 and $30,000 in 2002 respectively, said the groups are not returning contributions.

The Democratic Senatorial Committee received $3,000 from the tribe. A spokesman there had no comment.

Arizona Republican Rep. J.D. Hayworth, co-chairman of the congressional Native American Caucus, has letters from tribes saying they did not want contributions returned. The Tigua did not send such a letter to Hayworth, who has received $2,000 from the tribe.

"If they've changed their minds and let us know they want to have their contribution back, we'd be glad to do that," spokesman Larry VanHoose said.

Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Montana, recently gave up his Abramoff-connected contributions, which included $21,000 from the tribe. Any money linked to Abramoff through his clients went back to the tribes, spokesman Matt Mackowiak said.

The tribe is not alone in wanting money back.

Ronnie Thomas, chairman of the Alabama-Coushatta of Livingston, said the tribe wants its $50,000 it gave to the Capital Athletic Foundation to help pay for a trip Rep. Robert Ney, R-Ohio took to Scotland. The foundation was started by Abramoff.

What seems MOST significant to you about this excerpt Ron? I am curious what you make of the amounts donated.

As I understand your certitude, it is that Abramoff chose the recipients and amounts.

Seems to me the amounts and the recipients as identified in THIS story linked by YOU might have a different significance than the title you selected.

But hey, that's just me.

I'm hoping this is Pt. 2 in a 3-Part series, with the next installment being: What Do We Do About It.

As I wrote last night (and thanks for all of you who helped me try to learn) I am not the swiftest eagle in understanding the political implications here.

Was there something shady going on with the Democrats that we need to address?

Or is this all to hone our arguments so we can shoot down the "Dems were involved too" line without getting caught in a misstatement or lie that (as with TANG papers) would leave us spiritually righteous but losing the fight?

I'm thinking it's the latter. Donations without a quid pro quo are legitimate free speech. I want to get the facts right. To me, after two diaries, this is a Republican scandal, Abramoff is a crook and spent his own money just on R's, and some of his largesse will result in R indictments (see R. Ney).

However, on the face of the evidence, the clients of Abramoff were directed to spend money on both parties, though much more went to R's. It is therefore incorrect to suggest D's took no money form Abramoff's clients, it is incorrect to suggest Abramoff directed all moneys to R's and it is incorrect to suggest this is not a Republican scandal.

RonK....

with all due respect, while there is some evidence that money was directed to Democrats, the case you are making seems to be that

1) Indians gave money to some people they'd never heard of at Abramoff's request.

2) Some of these people were probably Democrats

3) Therefore, we can say that Abramoff directed money to Democrats

Its a weak argument -- especially when you are trying to convince skeptics like Armando.

(BTW, do you have the URL for the Coushatta check register? I forgot to save the PDF, and now the Indianz site from which it was linked is down).

Like you (and unlike the skeptics) having gone over some of the actual data, its pretty much inconceivable that Abramoff did not "direct" at least some money to Democrats. But its also obvious that there is no evidence that suggests at this point that any Democrats were aware that Abramoff was responsible for that money.

*************

on another note.... thanks for finding the DASHPAC listing....I spend an hour looking at the raw filings, and hadn't found it. (I gotta say I'm really annoyed that Mark Schmidt thinks it was even possible that FECINFO got its information from the Coushatta check register --- forcing people like us to spend time "proving" to him what anyone familiar FECINFO knows --- that their data is based on FEC data, and not list of checks written on an account whose balance around -$200K.... )

****************

Finally, re: Fairchild. I wouldn't take what he has to say at face value, because he does appear to be spinning for the GOP as hard as possible.

Or is this all to hone our arguments so we can shoot down the "Dems were involved too" line without getting caught in a misstatement or lie that (as with TANG papers) would leave us spiritually righteous but losing the fight?

as of right now, this is precisely where we should be headed. The problem is that as the "Abramoff" scandal spreads beyond Abramoff, at least one registered Democrat is going to be implicated, and suddenly it will be represented as a "bipartisan" scandal.

(For instance, former GOP staffers are not alone in finding jobs in the lobbying industry --- lots of former members of Democratic politicians staffs are now working as lobbyists. We both know that the odds are pretty good that if you look hard enough, you will find at least one such former staffer who did something "wrong"..... and with the GOP and its corporate media buddies working overtime trying to find a Democrat to point at, it will happen eventually.)

Getting a clearer idea of what our argument isn't, I would love a Part III telling me what our argument is.

With new appreciation of the potential for mudpit tit-for-tat between both sides about how widespread this goes, I personally am not chomping at the bit to argue the "Republican-only scandal" point until November.

Actions speak louder, and hope for the future speaks loudest of all. Republicans as corrupt money-grubbers is a pre-cast mold we need not build from scratch -- better simply to act like we're above the fray and push forward (and let indictments speak for themselves) than to keep spinning.

(looking forward to future installments, when I will check my answers against the teacher's key.)

ew...

at this point Abramoff is a purely Republican scandal. Since Bush has been in office, Abramoff made enormous amounts of money by bilking his clients, and has personally contributed only to Republican candidates and causes. His clients contributed to candidates from both parties, but while lots of Republicans like Tom Delay and Gail Norton and Karl Rove have personal connections to Abramoff, there is no evidence that any Democrat were even aware that Abramoff had anything to do with any contribution coming from his clients, let alone any evidence that Democrats were corrupted by Abramoff.

It also appears that the only contributions to Dems from Abramoff clients were of the sort they would have been expected to make, especially in context with overall donation patterns. Indian tribes giving to Dems? File under dog bites man. Indian tribes going out of their way to contribute to Republicans across the country? Man bites dog.

Do I need to point out the obvious -- that Democrats have nothing to be defensive about? Receiving a campaign contribution from an Abramoff-influenced tribe wouldn't make anyone guilty. Receiving an Abramoff-directed campaign contribution wouldn't make anyone guilty.

What's all the whining about? Defensiveness evinces consciousness of guilt. Are we assuming guilt?

I should note -- by the standards of proof demanded in the case of this very tangential question of fact, nobody is guilty ... or ever will be.

Thanks -- this is what I had been wanting to hear, one way or the other.

at this point Abramoff is a purely Republican scandal.

Good. That's what I thought. How strongly do you feel about that "at this point"?

It also appears that the only contributions to Dems from Abramoff clients were of the sort they would have been expected to make, especially in context with overall donation patterns.

This was essentially Dean's response to Blitzer in one widely-circulated clip. He effectively turned it around -- who are you calling corrupt, Abramoff or Native American tribes?

Do I need to point out the obvious

Yes, always. At the top, in bold, underlined.

pockets -- Part 3 is an analysis of why anybody who expected any different is a damned fool. There's no political jeopardy for us here ... unless we unnecessarily march out on a limb that won't bear our weight.

p.l. -- Won't have time to take up your arguments today, but I must say I find them desperate. Coushatta register pdf here

it's 1015 am. i thought i was fully awake. but then again, maybe not.

i really cannot get very excited about armando's "criticism". it seems really unbalanced, or to put it differently, it seems to be coming from a (temporarily, let's say) unbalanced person, i would guess one who cares too much.


if abrahmoff directed the indians tribes to send money to various politicians, democrat as well as republican, so what?

wouldn't that be expected of an influence peddler and snake oil salesman like abrahmoff.

it really is not necessary to squelch every possibility that democrats received money at abrahmoff's direction to continue with the evident conclusion that abramhoff was the bag man for a republican extortion and money laundering effort whose purpose was 1)collecting money to strengthen the republican party's hold on congress and (2) influencing legislation in congress and the state legislatures.

personally (but you knew that), i worry when i see people who care a lot about the direction this country is going get to tangled-up in criticisms others have made of our "side".

it is important to respond factually to lies and to unfair criticism, but it is not necessary that we stomp every false allegation into dust.

let's focus hard on criticizing abrahmoff, delay, and rove (who is deeply involved in this as sure as god made little green apples).

and speaking of that vicious little krait, one of rove's rope-a-dope tactics is to make (through others of course, like the teeevee blowhards) some unfair, absurd, dishonest claim and then watch as those who should be criticizing his perfomance directly, expend their enegies quarreling over how best to refute his latest outrage.


the important issue is not whether democrats got any abrahmoff money. it just isn't.

the important issue is that abrahmoff was part of a rove/delay effort to gain a republican stranglehold on the u.s. congress.

we have seen what terrible problems that can cause our country -- iraq incompetence, billy tauzin and drug "benefits", de-funding of science and public health, failure to prepare for natural disasters or terrorist actions within the country, failure to have a competnent energy/oil conservation effort, etc etc.

Just a minor comment. If parts I and II had been published together there would not have been this big uproar. But maybe that was the point of publishing them separately (with some provocative language thrown in to spice it up.)

Good. That's what I thought. How strongly do you feel about that "at this point"?

The Abramoff scandal is, and always will be, purely Republican.

But as long as there is a single registered Democrat who is corrupt, the GOP and corporate media will do their best to "link" any Democratic corruption to Abramoff.

******************

p.l. -- Won't have time to take up your arguments today, but I must say I find them desperate.

which arguments? The argument that I found your argument unpersuasive as an argument. (i.e. I agree with you, I just don't think you argued your case very well.)

People who know you, and Ron B., and me all know that we consider facts more important than ideological orthodoxy.

If people like Armando can't adjust their talking points in the face of your research, there's nothing you can do about it, other than realize that people like EW, and Jane and Redd, and Duncan, and Marcus, and Digby, and Billmon, and Delong, and every other major progressive blogger out there are intellectually honest, and won't ignore the facts, and that Armando will change his "talking points" once he realizes that everyone he respects has already changed theirs...

:)

Ron, I stand by my earlier claim: you're full of shit. After a remarkable display of chest-beating and arm-waving, here's what you've come up with: not much.

For days you've been referring to "first-person accounts of tribal officials" that supposedly indicate that tribes gave to Dems, and it was because Abramoff told them to. I've been repeatedly asking you to cite those "first-person accounts." How did you respond? You've repeatedly cited Faircloth. Here I explained why I don't take Faircloth seriously. It's not just that "he wasn't in the room;" it's that he didn't even start working for the tribe until years later, and he works for the arch-enemies of the guy who signed the checks. To minimize this to "he wasn't in the room" strikes me as an act of propaganda. The idea that you would imply that Faircloth is offering a "first-person" account is enough to tell me that you're a bullshitter. It's for this and other reasons that you're on my "full of shit" list, and not on my "with all due respect" list. (Let's also not forget that Faircloth's strong Republican ties give him a certain motivation to spin things.)

Then you sent me on a complete wild-goose chase involving a 3-hour hearing, which most definitely did not answer my question.

Now, at long last, buried in the middle of a post filled mostly with your typical posturing and irrelevancies, you finally provide something that I consider mildly substantive: "Senator Inouye. Democrat and Republican? Mr. Milanovich. Yes, sir."

I appreciate knowing this, because I consider it relevant. But here's something I'd like to know. Why did you point me toward a 3-hour video that said nothing relevant, instead of pointing me toward this transcript? The only honorable answer, in my opinion, is that you only just located this transcript. Is that what happened?

Of course this transcript also refers to the famous email: "writing to one of his key allies in the effort to shut down the Tigua's casino, Mr. Abramoff's references the tribe's donations to the Democrats, saying, ``I wish those moronic Tiguas were smarter in their political contributions. I'd love to get our mitts on that moolah.'' " (The speaker is Senator Campbell, a Republican.)

In this hearing, there is also this exchange between McCain and a tribal chief: "when Mr. Abramoff [and Scanlon]... made their presentations to you, ... my understanding of your response is that they would give you enormous influence on both sides of the aisle with both parties on both sides of the Capitol. Is that correct? Mr. Sprague. That is correct. Senator McCain. Thank you. It was not just one certain individual or one party. This was going to give you great influence everywhere. Is that correct? Mr. Sprague. That is correct."

It wouldn't make sense for Abramoff to go to tribes and say "I can get you influence with Republicans." What we would expect from Abramoff is that he would go to tribes and say "I can get you influence with both parties." And of course we know he would say that whether it was true or not.

Milanovich said "the list [from Abramoff, of candidates to support] was long." Given a long list, totaling large amounts, it would have been insane for Abramoff to never put Democrats on such a list. Making the list pure Rs would be incongruent with Abramoff's claim that he had bipartisan influence. Making the list pure Rs would have raised eyebrows within the tribes, who were in the habit of supporting Ds (and Abramoff probably assumed/knew that certain people in the tribes never trusted him; he had no interest in unnecessarily antagonizing those dissidents). Abramoff probably figured he couldn't get the tribes to cut off all D money, so he might as well make those D payments fall under his lobbying-fees umbrella (that is, charge the tribes for giving them advice that amounts to telling them to do more-or-less what they were going to do anyway).

I think it's clear enough that on these "long" lists of suggested donations, Abramoff probably did include some token representation of Ds. This is the basis for the Bushist statement that Abramoff "directed" money to Ds. Such a statement, especially without further explanation, is dangerously misleading.

This charge ("directed") would be credible and fair if we had a tribal leader making a statement such as this: "we normally do not give to Ds, we are predisposed against giving to Ds, but Abramoff urged us to give to Ds, so we gave to Ds." That's the common-sense image conveyed by the assertion that Abramoff "directed" money toward Democrats.

Ron, we've been waiting for you to come up with something resembling such a statement. It's clear enough that you're not going to do that.

"What's all the whining about?"

Bushists should not be able to get away with saying "directed to Ds" without being clear about the broader facts, as I've explained. You seem to be in the business of claiming that the facts support a strong interpretation of that word ("directed"). Trouble is, they don't (at least not the facts you've shown so far).

Frankly, I'm suspicious of anyone who uses that vague weasel-word "directed" (in this context) without being clear what the word is supposed to mean.

Paul,

"Fairchild"

No, Faircloth. Very common error.

"ew..."

Speaking of name confusion, I think emptypockets and emptywheel are not the same person.

By the way, I think your brief statement here (9:51) is an outstandingly simple and clear summary of the Abramoff story.

DHinMI, my compliments on this: "File under dog bites man." Also outstandingly clear and simple, and captures the heart of the matter.

Speaking of powerful images, I'm very fond of the blowjob analogy: "Let me try to explain it in a way that the media can easily understand it. Let's pretend that, instead of money, Jack Abramoff was giving out blowjobs. It would be fair to say that Abramoff gave blowjobs to a lot of Republicans. He did not, as far as we know, give blowjobs to any Democrats. As for Abramoff's clients, these are people who were GIVING Abramoff blowjobs, not receiving them from him. While it is true that some of the people who gave Abramoff blowjobs also gave blowjobs to some Democrats, I've seen no evidence that Abramoff was DIRECTING his clients to give blowjobs to Democrats, and it's a hell of a lot different than getting blowjobs from Abramoff himself. Questions?"

I've lost track of where that started ("Frank Probst," maybe), but it's going around, and I think it's brilliant.

To the extent that D names were on a list Abramoff handed to a tribe, this is Abramoff saying "I know it would look funny if I took the position that your habit of blowing Ds ought to stop completely."

orion,

"it is not necessary that we stomp every false allegation into dust"

Certain false allegations (or dangerously misleading and oversimplified allegations, such as "directed to Ds") have a lot of leverage with regard to tricking and confusing a mass audience, and we lose when we overlook that.

Thanks to Ron for all this hard work. this is still a Republican scandal for three reasons.

First, Abramoff PERSONALLY gave money only to Republicans, and he PERSONALLY worked hand in glove only with Republicans, primarily DeLay & Co.

Second, while he definitely appears to have suggested donations to Dem candidates, the donations to charities and other vehicles that were used for money laundering were exclusively controlled either by him or his GOP allies.

Third, the donations he suggested go to Reps were higher than to Dems. (If a tribe gave $180,000 to Dems and $20,000 to Reps before Abramoff and then $225,000 to Dems and $95,000 to Reps after because he both upped the gross amount and adjusted the relative shares, then he "directed" $45,000 to the Dems and $75,000 to Reps, the latter being greater. This is what Ron was explaining. Moreover, if the money to Dems was long-standing, then it is clearly man bites dog, as DH said, while the increase of $75,000 to GOP candidates was dog bites man.

Thefirst two reasons are the most important. There is no evidence as far as I know that Abramoff directed donations to Dem charities or Dem money-laundering vehicles, or that he worked hand in glove with any Dems or Dem organizations. He has been a GOP operative since his college days with the College Republicans (which he headed) and has worked closely with the GOP ever since, particularly with DeLay and his minions. That makes this a Republican scandal, notwithstanding that Abramoff on occasion recommended to his tribal cleints that they give to some Dems.

And we only undercut our case by not frankly acknowledging the latter point even as we emphasize the others.

I think a review of RonK's innitial reason for posting this is needed. Is he saying that this is a bi-partisan scandal? As near as I can tell he is not. Is he saying that we need to be factually correct, especially when bashing the media? It sure seems that way.

The fact is that we are dealing with a GOP message machine that has made changing the story an art form. The only thing you need look at is CBS and the TANG story. Everyone knew that the story was correct but not only was the message machine able to change the story but they were able to destroy a reporter and keep CBS from running any other stories that might adversely affect Bush during the election. And all of that was done with the full complicity of the rest of the media.

This is a GOP scandal. But giving the GOP message machine an easy avenue to change the story would be a huge tactical mistake.

While I don't think that the transcript excerpts provide definitive, smoking-gun evidence of Abramoff directing clients to contribute to Democratic candidates much less effectively doing so (only a mention of donations to both party committees, which is itself not insignificant), RonK's larger point here is quite sound (and Armando needs to either get off his meds or get back on them; I'm not sure which). That point is that it is overwhelmingly likely that Abramoff recommended contributions to a sprinkling of Democrats along with the Republicans (and that at least some of those recommendations were effective). The 'netrots' are accordingly doing themselves a disservice by going overboard in suggesting that there is no evidence that Abramoff ever directed (or ever effectively directed) a single contribution to a single Democrat (there is; The Washinton Post's selective little tear-sheet from an Abramoff list is such evidence, whether we like it or not) and that it is a reckless slander to suggest that such a thing ever happened. That is a ridiculous position to go out on a limb for, not only because it is easily disproved by a single instance but especially because it is an unecessary position that distracts from the real issues -- indeed it plays right into the hands of the "wingnuts' by making the issue about whether or not Abramoff ever directed clients to donate to Democrats not about which politicians (so far, clearly all Republicans) are squarely implicated in voert vote-buying. I cannot stress enough: the question whether Abramoff directed his clients to donate to some Democratic candidates (with the related question whether his clients took his direction) is an irrelevance. The real question is one of influenece peddling and quid pro quo vote buying.

Now, are the Democrat donations by Abramoff clients being blown put of proportion? Of course they are. Did the share of Democratic contributions by Abramoff's tribal clients decrease? Absolutely. Was Abramoff's whole project desinged to consolidate and perpetuate Republica control over the Capitol and over K Street? You betcha. These things need to be pointed out, but they are not what the left should be getting apoplectic about (although getting a bit exercised about that last point is a-ok). What we need to point out is (1) what the real corruption issues are here (i.e., vote-buying, influence peddling, "attaboy" donations to compliant legislators, getting legislators to intervene in shady, mobbed up business deals); and (2) that these are overwhelmingly Republican corruption issues. And we should be quick to point out that if there are any Democrats who engaged in the same kind of chicanery (and I wouldn't be sure there won't be), they should be nailed to the wall as well.

Sebastian writes:

That point is that it is overwhelmingly likely that Abramoff recommended contributions to a sprinkling of Democrats along with the Republicans (and that at least some of those recommendations were effective). The 'netrots' are accordingly doing themselves a disservice by going overboard in suggesting that there is no evidence that Abramoff ever directed (or ever effectively directed) a single contribution to a single Democrat (there is; The Washinton Post's selective little tear-sheet from an Abramoff list is such evidence, whether we like it or not) and that it is a reckless slander to suggest that such a thing ever happened. That is a ridiculous position to go out on a limb for .. .

Indeed, it is so reckless that I can't imagine anyoner arguing that. Who has? Which goes back to the motivation for this series. What is being proven here? Ron says that it proves that Abramoff directed contributions to both parties. And that is that.

Is that right? That is that? Is that the Media construct that Democrats favor here?

Really? I think that maybe I am not the one who needs to check his meds. I find it almost pathetic that anyone thinks the Media will, after swallowing that line, be able to take some type of nuanced fair look at the import of the Abramoff scandal.

Ron's approach is a recipe for "everybody did it" journalism and it is PRECISELY why the Republicans have fed this line to the Media. Ron protests that Mark Schmitt and Brad Delong and others have protested such a focus. And some want to slap Ron on the back for this "service."

Excuse me, a Democrat would have gathered the facts and then put them in a context that tells the true story and in a way that the Media might understand.

That is not what Ron wants to do. He prefers to bash fellow Democrats and call them fools all the while selling the GOP story on this. And many in this thread say "thank you Ron may I have another."

I got news for you, Part 3 of Ron's series, whatever he might say, won't be a blip on the radar.

If Ron successfully gets the story of Parts 1 and 2 out, no one will ever read his PArt 3 in the Media.

Ron has just slapped a "Kick Me" sign on the back of Dems. And I am the one off my meds. Is it any wonder Dems lose every Media battle? Just depressing.

I'd like to direct everyone to Mimikatz's excellent point:

Second, while he definitely appears to have suggested donations to Dem candidates, the donations to charities and other vehicles that were used for money laundering were exclusively controlled either by him or his GOP allies.

This is to me, IMHO, the heart of the matter. What got Scanlon and Abrhamoff in legal trouble was not Abrahmoff's _official_ capacity as lobbyist for Greenberg & Trauring, it was Abrahmoff's money laundering schemes that took tribal donations to sham PACs and charities, and laundered that money into paying for political junkets for members of Congress and their contributors (e.g. golf trips, skybox rentals, etc.). Abrhamoff also recruited buddies like Ralph Reed to set up protection rackets whereby tribes were literally contrbuting to astroturf organizations that opposed their gambling interests in order that Abrhamoff could get MORE money out of them.

The essence of my point is then, in order to fool these tribes, Abrhamoff needed a legitimate *cover*. And Greenberg-Trauring provided him one. He'd never get these questionable donations in the first place if he couldn't hide them amongst many legitimate donations to BOTH R's and D's (although it is true that post-Abrahamoff, R's were receiving a greater relative share of contributions from his tribes than pre-Abrahomoff, and THAT should be the meme as DH suggests).

The one problem with this reality is that it provides plausible deniability to most Republicans. They can claim they thought Jack was just super-lobbyist extraordinaire and that everything was above board. Maybe they did, maybe they knew otherwise. Clearly, for at least Ney and DeLay, the answer is, they knew exactly what was going on and were even complicit in it. But for everyone else? Hopefully the DoJ will have answers soon.

So to reiterate, the meme should be, yes Abrahamoff directed donations to D's AS PART OF HIS OFFICIAL JOB. And, he directed a relatively larger share of "new" donations to R's once he took over lobbying.

But, unofficially, he was bilking these tribes to the tune of millions of dollars and then funneling that money back to corrupt Republicans in the House. That's what's illegal. Not that Abrahamoff also had an official cover.

viget is correct. It's important to get our facts straight, but the tribal donations always have been a minor point in the entire Abramoff scandal. Let me repost what I wrote when Abramoff made his plea:

LOSERS

Indian Tribes: Because four tribes with Casino interests were dumb enough to allow themselves to be represented by Abramoff, just about every tribe will now have difficulty getting time or the attention of members of Congress of whom they aren't constituents. Some of the tribes with casinos have been rife with nasty inter-tribal bickering and legal finagling over who is and isn't a member of the tribe. And it's clearly possible that Abramoff, Scanlon et al will implicate accomplices with some or all of the tribes they fleeced. But now even tribes that never had anything to do with Abramoff will be shunned by politicians afraid of the taint of tribal money, even though it was the tribes themselves who were the initial victims of Abramoff's malfeasance. It's as if the Enron retirees were being tarred by association with the crooks who gambled away their pension fund.

Now the Republicans are further demonizing the tribes by asserting that any money from tribes represented by Abramoff is tainted. It's a shrewd move by the Republicans, as other than the four tribes that Abramoff defrauded, almost all tribes donate a majority of their contributions to Democrats. Kudos to Harry Reid and Patrick Kennedy for not taking the GOP bait.

And viget is correct to echo mimikatz' point that the official FEC-regulated donations aren't where the problem is, it's the other expenditures of money. For instance, in Michigan in 2004, we had a casino referenda. This was after the Saginaw Chippewa had ditched Abramoff and Scanlon, so I'm pointing this out not to suggest a link with Abramoff, but simply to illustrate the amounts of money flowing on the non-FEC regulated expenditures. How much money did the Saginaw Chippewas spend on that campaign?
$8,457,301.79
.

It's the non-FEC regulated transfers where the real illegalities were occuring.

Did Armando say something?

"the official FEC-regulated donations aren't where the problem is, it's the other expenditures of money."

The kernel. The nut. The key graf. That really is worth an explanatory post by someone better qualified than me.

Watch the indictments. As I predicted weeks ago, they will be R only.

Nothing at all DH.

Ignore my med crazed rantings.

I am sure you folks have the Media strategy all worked out.

I truly hope you can do it.

Of course my view is that two things can happen here - One, Ron's approach is ignored. My hope.

Or it gets noticed. My dread. Because if that happens the Abramoff scandal officially becomes a "bipartisan scandal."

I understand you think there are other alternatives and cdertainly a difference of opinion is no sin.

Armando: Loads of people on this site, Kos, and FDL -- not to mention loads upon loads of commenters on washingtonpost.com -- have been busting a gut arguing that there is no evidence that Abramoff directed any of his clients to give to any Demoncrats. And specifically, many commenters, having caught Howell in a true boner (stating the flat-out lie that Abramoff himself contributed to Democrats), have shredded their credibility by going ripshit on Howell for saying that Abramoff did direct donations to Democrats. Howell, was to be sure, about as grudging and hangdog an admitter of error as any I've seen, but the backlash did manage to procure some nice admissions from her (i.e., this is a Republican scandal). But rather than declare victory (with perhaps some well-deserved sniping over her faux outrage and general hauteur) the commenters have truly gone overboard on this sideshow distraction about whether or not Abramoff ever suggested that a client donate to a Democrat. The short of it is, that lots of people in the netroots (sorry, 'netrots' was truly a product of my poor typing skills) are making this argument and it's not only a loser, it's just plain the wrong argument to be making.
Worse than wrong is Armando's imputation of bad-GOP-favoring motive onthe part of RonK. I regret answering Armando's ad hominen with ad hominem (the meds wisecrack), as it just incites further fallacious noise, so I'll do what i should have done and go after the position taken not the person behind the keyboard. If there is scant evidence (although more than a scintilla) of Abramoff-directed contriubtions to Democratic candidates, there is NO evidence that RonK is in any way proponding his analysis with the "intent" of benefitting the GOP spin machine. You might try to argue that the *effect* of RonK's analysis is to render some assistance (I think you lonse this argument on thee merits, but it would at least be a position that can be defended with logic and evidence), but you simply have no business traducing the bona fides of this particular contributor (all evidence from this blog runs counter to the irresponsible accusation you made). I therefore call bullshit on your screed at the top of the comments. (Disclosure: I have no idea who RonK is and have no dog in the fight other than the fact that I read this blog frequently and that I'm sick of jackasses who resport to accustaitons of conspiring with the Wurlitzer whenever someone points out uncomfortable realities.)

Moreover, if the money to Dems was long-standing, then it is clearly man bites dog, as DH said, while the increase of $75,000 to GOP candidates was dog bites man.

Heh. Made me read that twice, Mimikatz.

(Some joke about Bay Area men in there that I will leave as an exercise for the reader.)

Ron,

You said this yesterday: "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."

Yesterday you showed that Abramoff's tribes gave "more" to Ds (in the sense of "more" that you defined carefully: more compared to their own history, albeit less as a proportion of their total donations).

Today (in what I assume is the "later post") you showed (via Milanovich) that Abramoff probably included some D names on the lists he submitted to tribes.

How does this prove your claim, that "Abramoff 'directed' them to give more dollars to Democrats?" (Emphasis mine.)

You've proved your claim only if one adopts the premise that the tribes always did exactly what Abramoff told them do to (and therefore Abramoff gets "credit" for everything they did). The proof for this would be documents showing A) what Abramoff suggested and B) what the tribes actually did, and a comparison indicating that A=B. The trouble is that while B is somewhat available, A is mostly unavailable.

You're observing that tribes gave a certain amount to Ds, and you're suggesting that Abramoff is the reason they gave that exact amount. Trouble is, you haven't come close to proving this.

I think you frequently make strong, potentially misleading, statements that go beyond the evidence you're prepared to present. This is part of why I don't trust you.

Here's an example: "Tribes under Abramoff's influence gave MASSIVELY more money to Dem's than they did in pre-Abramoff years." Not just "massively." "MASSIVELY." Your numbers (if they're correct) probably demonstrate "more," but they don't consistently demonstrate "MASSIVELY" more.

And you said this: "Democratic receipts of 'Abramoff-related' money increased from $73K to $428K to $623K over the 1999-2000, 2001-02 and 2003-04 contribution cycles." I don't see those numbers supported by what you posted here yesterday.

Your headlines ("Abramoff Clients Increased Donations to Democrats" and "Abramoff Directed Tribal Donations to Democrats") are each true, but only narrowly. And you're trying to put those two assertions together to say this: "they gave more to Ds, and they did so because Abramoff told them to give more to Ds." I've explained why I think that assertion is unwarranted. And you've been careful to define "more" carefully, but that word, in this context, is very easily misunderstood.

Armando, viget, DHinMI, I strongly support everything you said.

viget

Well said.

Everyone on the left needs to be repeating that point. We were fooled, frankly, in engaging the question of whether Abramoff directed money to Dems or not. That allowed the GOP to criminalize legal Native American political speech. And it allowed the GOP to dodge the crux of the issue. Most politely, a lot of GOP legislators (and a few Dems) and their staff took illegal gifts from Abramoff, from a seat in his skybox to boondoggle trips to Scotland. More troubling, Abramoff was engaged in a giant money-laundering scheme, through ostensibly "educational" non-profits and poliical consulting firms. Most troubling of all, we just don't know where the money went. (Or, for that matter, some of the money involved in the Cunningham scandal). And all of this was made possible by DeLay's K Street project.

Sebastian:

If the impression I gave is that Ron intends to benefit the GOP, then let me clarify. To the contrary, I am positive Ron has no such intention. Let me add that Ron is an incredibly astute political observer and, to be quite honest, it is what bothers me the most about this.

I guess we have a difference of opinion of the effect of this type of story, particularly as it goes after other Left bloggers. It seems to me that the effect is bad, if this gets traction.

The issue of Ron's motivations rises for me because I don't see the sense of this presentation. The same facts, assuming them valid, can be presented, in an entirely different context, one more helpful in providing the proper context.

That is my beef. And it is because I know Ron to be extremly astute and well aware of the Media situation that his approach causes me such agita.

These high end discussions as in this thread are all well and good, but they have little in common with a Media strategy.

RonK, my problem with your post is that all you're pointing out is that there were times when Abramoff was actually doing his job as a lobbyist.(In a very extreme way) Um...you see...one of the things that lobbyists do for their clients is direct their contributions to help get the biggest bang for their buck. This is not illegal. (We all know now that it was Abramoff trying to get the biggest bang from their buck.)

When you can prove that a Democrat actually did something in exchange for the money then I'll think you're a smart guy on to something that everyone else has missed. Until then, you're just someone else who can copy and paste.

Receiving contributions from Indian Tribes is not illegal. Receiving contributions from Indian Tribes at the direction of their lobbyist is not illegal. It really is that simple.

Oh, and Faircloth's quote about Abramoff directing many, many tribes to give many, many dollars isn't proof. I could say you're a horse's hind end and that's not proof that you are. I think we have a finite number of tribes listed as Abramoff's clients and honestly, there are only a handful involved. There certainly aren't the "many, many" referred to by Faircloth. To give Faircloth's quote and then fail to quantify or qualify it is a bit misleading and possibly a bit dishonest.

The only thing you've proven in copying and pasting the interviews with tribal leaders is that they trusted a very greedy man and perhaps they didn't have very good business sense.

I don't shoot the messenger, especially since you weren't the original messenger. This is all old news available to anyone willing to look for it. You sure do have that right click mouse action down, though.

Just a note: The FECinfo data has soft money (non federal) included in the information available to the public. This data is not included in the CRP data and must be searched for separately. This has caused some confusion. Otherwise, the numbers appear to match up.

I think it's helpful to put all this in the terms that have been conveyed to mass audiences. I think the famous Dean-Blitzer encounter is the most useful example.

Blitzer said Ds "took money from Jack Abramoff." Wrong. They didn't.

Blitzer then backpedaled and said "through various Abramoff-related organizations and outfits, a bunch of Democrats did take money that presumably originated with Jack Abramoff." Wrong again. And it's certainly wrong to say that tribe money "originated with" Abramoff, even if one accepts the idea that Abramoff "directed" the tribal donation.

Dean said this: "There is no evidence that Jack Abramoff ever gave any Democrat any money." True.

Now here's where it gets interesting. Dean said this: "There's no evidence that I've seen that Jack Abramoff directed any contributions to Democrats."

I wish he hadn't said that. He didn't have to. The problem is that to the extent that Abramoff put some Ds on a list, then there is indeed a basis to claim, in a narrow sense, that Abramoff "directed ... contributions to Democrats." But I think it's deeply dishonest to promote and overinterpret this statement, which is what the Bushists (including Howell, in my opinion) are doing.

I think Ron is right to point out that Dean's statement is technically incorrect, but unfortunately, as I've explained, I think Ron is going much further than that.

By the way, the only solid evidence I've seen that Abramoff put Ds on a list is the statement by Milanovich (Howell's mangled graphic is not what I would call "solid"). But I'm willing to assume Milanovich is reliable, and representative.

There's a tangential but important discussion to be had here about the role of blogs and open-source politics in doing pre-emptive oppo research on Dems. The questions are, 1. should we do pre-emptive oppo research on Dems?, 2. should we publish it openly?

Personally my answers are 1. yes and 2. yes. It's hard to make the case that this shit won't come out from Republicans anyway, or that we should let ourselves get hit unprepared.

I suggest RonK did this exactly right by (as Armando said) doing the RNC's work for them, so we can get our responses squared away before we're under fire, and by publishing it on what is still a relatively small site and NOT cross-posting it to one of the bigger sites (you didn't did you?).

emptypockets:

Your high end discussion is one I embrace. How should Ron have gone about this? Well, a couple of things. This blog is pretty darn prominent now. With good reason. Whatever differences I have with Ron, DH, et al, no one can deny this blog produces some of the finest work anywhere.

Now, if you accept my premise, then to me TNH really is ineligible for the "laboratory" idea you espouse, at least I think you do.

My suggestion to Ron would have been to write his story in a manner that provides the full context of his findings and views. His approach, or so it seems to me, was more along the lines of debunking Left blogs, than in providing an alternate approach.

I submit that that is what is problematic here.

I just found this posting in the comments of Mark Schmitt's diary at TPM Cafe. It is by Roy Temple, Jean Carnahan's Chief of Staff, during her tenure in the Senate. You all recall that her name is on that scrap of a list provided in the WaPo's graphic Howell has referred to as "proof". http://www.tpmcafe.com/comments/2006/1/23/111529/768/23#23

Short version...Carnahan took no money from the Coushatta's even if it was offered.

The lists only prove that there were lists.

Armando: you're right, the "laboratory" blog is exactly what I'm suggesting there's a key role for. but there's an inherent tension. If it is a site without reputation or readership, then publishing it there is like burying it in the ground. If it is an extremely prominent site with tremendous readership, well, we both see the problem with that I think.

The other problem is that even the smallest most obscure blog will get a readership spike if something significant is put up on it. So what does one use for one's laboratory, to hash out our arguments before taking them mainstream (and here I'm using mainstream to mean dailykos)?

I'd agree with you that for a shout-it-from-the-mountain blog, RonK's series would have needed to be told in a way that makes it never in doubt that this is a Republican-only scandal. I think, even here, you can see me pushing in my own way to make that clear and asking it be headlined more prominently. But I don't think it matters on a site like this, where posts are inherently more "what do you think..." than moral pronouncements.

(Not for me to presume to speak for the folks who actually run the site or anything, of course...)

Here's the thing...

When you say 'Abramoff didn't direct any money to Democrats' you had better know exactly what you mean by that statement, because there is strong evidence (short of proof at this point) that Abramoff DID, in fact, "direct" money to Democrats from the Coushatta tribe.

This list ( http://www.tray.com/docs/CoushattaPortrait.pdf ) of checks that were written contain the names of Democrats like Tom Harkin, Tim Johnson, and John Breaux all of whom reported to the FEC as having receiving money in the amount listed within four weeks of the checks being written. It also contains the names of PACs like those associated with Dorgan (Great Plains Leadership PAC) and Patty Murray (M-PAC) who also reported contributions from the Tribe in the same amounts as those found on the list within four weeks.

The reason I say "evidence" as opposed to "proof" that Abramoff "directed" those contributions is that while there are 61 "political" checks on the list, I can find corresponding contributions for only 34 of them -- and only 17 of those checks were reported to the FEC within one month of the date they were issued.

in other words, less than 30% of the checks on the list appear to have gone out to the intended recipient within a month....(note that there was only about $47K available for those 17 checks as of 3.6.02, and they totalled $91K)

In addition to that, there are a number of contributions that were reported to the FEC within that same month long period that do not seem to correspond to anything on the list itself...those total $21,000.

Someone, in other words, was picking and choosing which checks to send out from the list, and (apparently) deciding to issue contributions to people who were not on the list. (And, in the case of the New Democratic Network, a "check" for $10000 was written, but a donation of only $5000 was registered with the FEC, which suggests that someone CUT the amount to be sent to the NDN after the check was generated.)

At this point, we don't know WHO made those decisions...or if they were "directed" by anyone -- so there is no "proof" that Abramoff did not "direct" the contributions to Democrats, only "proof" that he suggested donations to Democrats that were sent out as a result of those suggestions.

Here is the list of checks that match up with contributions registered with the FEC within a month of 3.6.02

Rohrbacher for Con… 1000
The Winning Margins 5000
Funds for a Free M… 5000
Hutchinson for Sen… 2000
KOMPAC 5000
Tim Johnson for So… 2000
Friends of Roger Wi 1000
PETE PAC 1000
Pete Sessions for C… 2500
Citizens for Harkin 2000
Friends of Conrad B… 25000
Great Plains Leader… 5000
Sam Brownback for 25000
Rehberg for Congre… 1000
Iowa Senate 2002 3000
M PAC 5000
John Breaux Comm… 1000


(Not for me to presume to speak for the folks who actually run the site or anything, of course...)

wait... you mean that emptypockets and emptywheel aren't related? :)

p. lukasiak, maybe I'm her long-lost idiot cousin. Give my regards to p.diddy at your next family reunion by the way!

Paul:

It seems to me the issue of whether there is evidence that "Abramoff directed contributions to Dems" misses the point.

As I argued to Ron at dkos, to me the issue is, on the aggregate, what was Abramoff trying to achieve with regards to the tribes' contributions vis a vis giving to Dems vs. Republicans.

Did Abramoff generally try to steer contributions to Republicans or Dems? You can no doubt find individual cases where Abramoff steered to particular Dems, but the pattern and the evidence support the idea that Abramoff was trying to move the tirbes' money towards the GOP in the aggregate.

Is this legally significant? It is if Abramoff was trying to serve GOP interests rather than the interests of the tribes.

It seems clear to me, and frankly, common sense, that Abramoff, a lifelong Republican, tied to the GOP to the hip in the manner of say, as Ed Kilgore puts it, James Carville to Democrats, would be steering funds to the GOP.

Thus, at least as I try to explain the storyu, Abramoff is a GOP scandal.

Armando: I'm genuinely glad you clarified your position on RonK's intent in posting this series (you will, I'm sure forgive me for making my inferences based on the statements "real fraudster quality to these [i.e., RonK's Abramoff] diaries ... Wingnut quality ... 'intellectual honesty' ... laughable ... hatchet job with intent ... you will require fisking ... the damage is done ... Congratulations. The RNC thanks you for doing the dirty work.").
That out of the way, we can debate effect. I take it that our principal point is that it is dangerous for an astute analyst on a respected liberal blog to criticize those on the liberal/left side who argue that there is no way nohow that abramoff ever directed contributions to Democrats (or that any such direction was efficacious). The premise is that this will be picked up by The Media and trotted out as a trophy by the windbags to show, "see, even librulz admit that Abramoff directed clients to donate to Democrats." It's really a 'how-dare-you-air-our-dirty-laundry-in-public' argument. Here's why I think this argument goes nowhere.
First, leaving aside the merits for a moment, the *effect* of these posts is going to be felt primarily in and among the denizens of Left Blogistan, who are the primary consumers of TNH and other such sites. This intramural debate is unlikely to affect much in the way of wider-distribution media, except in a minor, healthy respect that I will explain in a second. It is not only folly but vain folly to suppose that Kyra Phillips is going to start bleating the newsflash that "'RonK in Seattle' -- an anonymous poster on liberal blog TNH who has been described as "astute" by none other than Armando from DailyKos -- actually agrees with Deborah Howell's point that Abramoff directed contributions to Democrats as well as Republicans." Not gonna happen. Not a serious concern.
The way in which these posts can help in an indirect and constructive way is to help to warn our side off of making a shitty argument that not only will be exploded factually and that already has contrary evidence against it, but that is simply playing in the wrong arena. If we are warned off the factually and strategically bad argument, we can help push the right response to Howell and Howell-types, e.g., "Thank you for grudgingly admitting that you lied when you said that Abramoff contributed to Democrats and your candid admission that the Abramoff scandal is a Republican scandal. But your suggestion that you meant to say, "Abramoff directed his clients to contribute to both parties," misses the point of this Republican scandal entirely. The issue is not a question about whether Abramoff ever suggested that a client should contribute to a Democrat; the issue is that Abramoff has bribed lawmakers, Republican lawmakers, as part of a larger enterprise of consolidating Republican power in Congress as a way of enriching Republican lobbyists and their clients." It's a shame that Dean didn't have someone like RonK on his staff. He would have been able to avoid putting his foot in his mouth on this issue.
(By the way, did you notice the careful wording by Dean on this point, i.e., "There is no evidence that I have seen ...." This is a contrast from his unqualified denials on other matters. I think, unfortunately, Dean knew that that there's some evidence out there he hasn't seen.)

emptypockets:

Your point is well taken, a good "laboratory" blog becomes a prominent blog quickly.

That is why I think the solution is to present the story in a proper context.

i have a feeling i've stepped into some sort to personal contretemps. in the words of the irishman, is this a personal fight or can anyone join in?


for me it comes down to what we can control and what we cannot.

it certainly is appropriate to rebut misrepresentation in the media to the extent possible.

but the best we can do is blunt those false statements. there the web log world has done well - libby/rove/miller, wapo ombudscretin howell, niger forgeries, iraq wmd lies, election corruption, smears of kerry, incipient smears of murtha, et al.

there really is nothing we can do to prevent media types from saying, if they chose to or need to, that bush is a great warrior leader, that the economy is doing spendidly, that the abrahmoff money scandal involves democrats as well as republicans, that the country is becoming more religious, or any of a number of other falsities.

recently i read a criticism of teevee newsman bob schieffer on one of the web logs. i think it may have been criticism of a comment he made about abrahmoff and democrats, but i don't remember. what i did not know then but learned a couple of days later (during one of the playoff games i think) was that schieffer and bush were going to talk. am i right in suspecting schieffer's critical comment about democrats was some sort of quid-pro-quo for the presidential intrerview. fact and solid logic will not overcome that sort of obstacle to accurate political reporting.


what we can best control is not what media stars say but our own criticism, unstinted, unyeilding, and factual, of the performance of president bush and his administration over the past five years.


for me this is the central effective act of rebellion for our times.

for political weblogs, documenting and disseminating fact and argument unmasking the bush administration's incompetence in governing this country supports that rebellion.

the central political question is how to connect the weblogs with a potential audience of voters which does not know about political weblogs.

in december, my wife went to a professional meeting in philadelphia. one of her casual converations was with a group of other professional women which conversation turned in time to their collective dissatisfaction with political reporting from the main stream media. my wife mentioned that i had stumbled on some political weblogs a few months earlier. her colleagues were uniformly ignorant of these. some asked her to email them URL's.

so

hold media and republican toesies to the fire for their ignoranct, inaccurate, or deliberately false commentary, but remember that the real job of education of the american public is to fill in with facts and honest argument the picture that has been forming in their heads for some time now of the terrrible job of governing bush and his minions have done over the last five years.

It seems to me the issue of whether there is evidence that "Abramoff directed contributions to Dems" misses the point.

absolutely. there is no argument about that.

What I (and I think Ron) are trying to do is just get people to stop saying stuff like "there is no evidence that Abramoff directed contributions to Dems" because there is strong evidence (short of proof) that he did so.

In other words, I'd hate to see Jane say something "dumb" during the on-line chat with Brady tomorrow.... so I just spent the last three hours typing in and compiling the available data about the Coushatta lists...

Sebastian:

I hope you are right. My concern is the way the Right blogs can move a story.

On Ron, only an idiot (and I know it appears to some I might qualify) could question Ron's Dem bona fides. Anyone with the close ties Ro has to McDermott can't be questioned on that by anyone.

Which reminds me, we need to find a way to help McDermott's LEgal Defense Fund.

Paul:

Perhaps then our disagreement is on method, not substance.

I found nothig to diagree with in your comment.

Orion:

The personalities are strong, some of the participants, your truly especially, are how do I say this, jerky and arrogant.

From my side, the brain power and commitment to Dem causes of Ron et al can not be questioned.

But I disagree with method here. Strongly obviously.

I am sympathetic to those concerned that RonK has done the WaPo's work for them, but the facts are going to come out anyway. Debbie Howell PRINTED unproven, unsubstantiated assertions that ALL the tribes were complicit with Abramoff to bribe Congress. Debbie hasn't even asked the questions that would lead to those kinds of answers. Then, on top of those unproven assertions, Debbie PRINTED further unproven and unsubstantiated assertions that ALL the Democrats were complicit with ALL the tribes in accepting bribes. When any reporter uses general terms, such as "Democrats," s/he is opening themselves up to slander allegations. Please also note that according to Debbie, this is an "indian" problem. Debbie's completely unacceptable vagueness has indicted all Native Americans, not just a few tribes.
Special gratitude to viget for re-explaining that Abramoff's crimes go far beyond the tribes and gambling. We haven't even mentioned Guam here.
Wrt to soundbytes, I think the wisest course for the Dems to take is to attack Debbie for making statements lightyears ahead of what the meager facts she was in possession of allowed her to say. That's not as easy as it sounds. We don't want to appear to be defending a particular tribe that might turn out to be guilty. Dems would be wise to replay parts of Patrick Fitzgerald's news conference where he talked about the rights of the accused and the rights of those who testify before a grand jury. Debbie only worries about that when the GOP is indicted. IMO the Democrats need to get out that "we are the Minority Party." Why would anyone bribe a Democrat? This "Minority Party," soundbyte is great, because it works on so many issues.
One other note, it would be a mistake to let the WaPo rely simply on Federal Election Commission filings. McCain has called the FEC "corrupt" and a greater threat to the Republic than the "K Street Project." If Debbie and the WaPo want to brand the tribes as guilty, they better certify that the FEC donations records agree with the tribal contribution records.

It took me all the way until viget's post to figure out what was going on here. but I am not going to comment more until I read part 3. I am guessing parts 1 and 2 & the headlines especially probably grabbed enough attention to generate a much a bigger audience than usual for part 3. Can't wait.

Armando: I hope so, too. I think that one of the best way to deprive the right blogs of ammunition is careful fact-checking of our own lines for the very reason that the right is better funded and better organized. Hate to see us try to take a sip and end up onthe wrong end of a firehose (e.g., the TANG documents overreach).
p.lukasiak: One possible explanation for the discrepancy between checks cut and reports to the FEC is a simple one -- folks screw up their FEC reporting all the time, sometimes just through negligence. It would be interesting to compare contributor disclosures with recipient disclosures to see if they match up. Another explanation is that the recipients might have sent the checks back or shredded them.
On the "evidence" and "proof" front in general: I appreciate a healthy cynicism toward the Post's little list fragment, but if we credit the provenance that accompanies it (which matches up with the Abramoff list-methodology testified to in the SIAC hearings), it's hard to deny that there's evidence of circa 2002 Abramoff recommendations for Dem contributions. I don't see any reason to question the provenance given by the Post, but it is interesting that the evidence is so selective. It's part of the "Cs" and the beginning of the "Ds" but doesn't make it to "DeLay," which gives one a very good idea where the leak of this fragment came from. My bet is that the little fragment is wildly unrepresentative and contains the most Dems in the smallest place, but that's just my feeling.
It also pays to keep in mind as a ageneral matter that lobbyists routinely suggest donations to both sides of the aisle (which is not to say that proprtions aren't significant), it's basic bet-hedging in many cases and in some cases there are just undeniably certain legislators whose voting records are really good for the client, and thus it would be nutso not to suggest donations. This is why this was a safe talking point (factually safe that is) for the right to push. And for that reason it is a tarbaby for our side.

Sebastian...

p.lukasiak: One possible explanation for the discrepancy between checks cut and reports to the FEC is a simple one -- folks screw up their FEC reporting all the time, sometimes just through negligence. It would be interesting to compare contributor disclosures with recipient disclosures to see if they match up. Another explanation is that the recipients might have sent the checks back or shredded them.

that's certainly possible.... but the fact that $336,000 worth of checks were written on an account that had only $51,000 suggests that priorities for checks and contributions were set after the checks were entered into the bookkeeping system. Indeed, we know for a fact that changes were made after the list itself was compiled, because we know that the original request for CREA was $50K, and yet the check was cut for $100K.

*********************

John Caspar wrote:

IMO the Democrats need to get out that "we are the Minority Party." Why would anyone bribe a Democrat? This "Minority Party," soundbyte is great, because it works on so many issues.

oh, how soon they forget....

Remember the Jeffords defection, and how that gave the Democrats control of the Senate for much of 2001 and all of 2002? The "minority party" stuff is the kind of thing that could backfire bigtime, when someone points out that the Dems were the majority in the Senate in 2002, when Abramoff's ability to "suggest" contributions was at its peak....

Thanks for catching that pretty significant error Paul, I stand corrected.

oh, lord. i've got to get out of here but

with repsect to john casper's comment immediately above

for me, deborah howell's big sin is using her omnbudsman post to punish her critics.

the questionable allegations i'm referring to are not with respect to abrahmoff/indians/democrats, but with regard to her comments on the numbers of criticisms she got and the nature of those criticisms.

my feeling is that howell used her position and her column to punish her critics by exaggerating, as a class, their behavior and creating a sterotype of crazed, rude, ideologues.

this tactic could be a special category of what might be called "the bob woodward press": grant me the interview or you'll be sorry.

in howell's case, it was not an interview at issue but punishment for criticizing her (corollary 1: criticize me and i will use my employer's newspaper to punish you). i strongly suspect she used her follow-up posts and some of her wapo colleagues to paint an inaccurate picture of "left" bloggers, most of whom were no more "left" than my belt buckle: they were just pissed at the blase unfairness of her comments, not only about abrahmoff/democrats but about dan frooomkin's column a few weeks earlier.

it will take an audit of the responses to howell's columns to be sure, but given what i saw yesterday at "jukeboxgrad-- dkos), i suspect howell substantially and deliberately mischaracterized her critics as a group.

if so that could be why james brady (or someone) put many of the comments back up surreptitiously on sunday. and why all of a sudden the washington post has gone dark on this issue.

or maybe it was that email from one karen marriott (sp?).


Sebastian...

p.lukasiak: One possible explanation for the discrepancy between checks cut and reports to the FEC is a simple one -- folks screw up their FEC reporting all the time, sometimes just through negligence. It would be interesting to compare contributor disclosures with recipient disclosures to see if they match up. Another explanation is that the recipients might have sent the checks back or shredded them.

that's certainly possible.... but the fact that $336,000 worth of checks were written on an account that had only $51,000 suggests that priorities for checks and contributions were set after the checks were entered into the bookkeeping system. Indeed, we know for a fact that changes were made after the list itself was compiled, because we know that the original request for CREA was $50K, and yet the check was cut for $100K.

*********************

John Caspar wrote:

IMO the Democrats need to get out that "we are the Minority Party." Why would anyone bribe a Democrat? This "Minority Party," soundbyte is great, because it works on so many issues.

oh, how soon they forget....

Remember the Jeffords defection, and how that gave the Democrats control of the Senate for much of 2001 and all of 2002? The "minority party" stuff is the kind of thing that could backfire bigtime, when someone points out that the Dems were the majority in the Senate in 2002, when Abramoff's ability to "suggest" contributions was at its peak....

Begin with the premise that everyone here has basically the same goal: to give a press, generally inclined to ration out political blame on a "they all do it" basis, the least opportunity to make that the case here. RonK and Sebastian Dangerfield -- and perhaps others; I haven't been able to read every single post -- argue for a full-disclosure "here's where it's true" strategy. Armando and others think this will immediately become the basis of full-bore press equivalence.

Honestly...I can't say who's right. I can see (as I think Armando does) this jumping from "thanks for the concession" to "so you ADMIT it" to "see: they're all crooks" within a fortnight. I don't think the history of limited liability-acceptance in this political climate has exactly been a cheering one -- in fact, it's frequently made into a huge flaw, a la "I voted for it before I voted against it".

And on the other side, it's not as if brazening-it-out has never succeeded. Look how the Bushies got through Abu Ghraib in 2004 -- probably the single event that, from the polls, most threatened Bush's re-election. The decision was made, fairly early on, to tough it out: few public concessions; no resignations. And it worked; by Fall, the issue had receded enough that it didn't carry the weight it had in May. Suppose, instead, some major commanders had resigned to acknowledge responsibilty -- even, as was suggested at the time, Rumsfeld? Wouldn't that have given the issue more salience? I've heard more than one GOP strategist say the refusal to take responsibility -- on something where no one doubted culpability -- enabled the party to dodge major flack from the issue.

Of course, I'm aware of the difference to which many will no doubt point: the GOP has its totally supportive echo-chamber media, and has intimidated the alleged neutrals to a point where they're afraid to push back from a propaganda war. The real answer for Dems is to get a similar situation (a partisan press, and equal intimidation with the "refs"), but that's a subject for another time. But, even given the lay of the land at present, I'm truly unsure which way works best for us.

Paul, thanks for catching my rather significant error about Jeffords. John Casper.

demtom wrote:
I can see (as I think Armando does) this "thanks for the concession" to "so you ADMIT it" to "see: they're all crooks" within a fortnight. I don't think the history of limited liability-acceptance in this political climate has exactly been a cheering one -- in fact, it's frequently made into a huge flaw, a la "I voted for it before I voted against it".

Your example of Abu Ghraib is a great example, and while I wouldn't ever accept a moral equivalence, there's a tactical equivalence with my suggested tactic for dealing with the rather narrow issue dealt with in these last two posts.

Essentially say, "yeah, but it doesn't matter, because it doesn't mean what you think it means," and then go back on the offensive. More specifically, ".sure, Abramoff may have directed some legal donations to Democrats to draw attention away from his illegal theft of the tribes' money. The Democrats and the tribes did nothing wrong. And all evidence anyone has offered suggests that the corruption only involved Republicans, and only benefited Republicans."

In short, "there were a few bad apples" (concede something happened, but don't concede you did anything wrong), and then carry on.

I spelled it out in more detail in the piece I just posted.

Armando--

You said this:

As I argued to Ron at dkos, to me the issue is, on the aggregate, what was Abramoff trying to achieve with regards to the tribes' contributions vis a vis giving to Dems vs. Republicans.

Did Abramoff generally try to steer contributions to Republicans or Dems? You can no doubt find individual cases where Abramoff steered to particular Dems, but the pattern and the evidence support the idea that Abramoff was trying to move the tirbes' money towards the GOP in the aggregate.

Maybe I'm not "media savvy" enough, but to me, it seems like you're just trying to legitimize this strawman debate by trying to argue based on patterns in the FEC filings and saying "Abramoff still steered more money to the GOP than the Dems."

But while that's true, that's the merely the blip of noise in the towering inferno of signal that is the money-laundering GOP scheme.

Looking for patterns within the FEC filings is EXACTLY what the repug spin machine WANTS us to do, because let's face it, the data are somewhat equivocal, as RonK is 100% right to point out. And, I might add, inconsequential to the real substantive issues at stake.

As I said upthread (and mimikatz and DH and EW have also said), the real story is in the ILLEGAL actions, the stuff of the plea agreement (and whatever else the DoJ's investigating).

I would contend that Abramoff was trying to acheive nothing besides keeping a cover with Greenberg-Trauring in (possibly) directing tribal donations to this party or that. Maybe he threw a few more bucks the GOP way, whatever. It's inconsequential. The real money, and real story, is in all the phony PAC and charity donations that were then laundered 100% into benefiting the GOP. And the tribes went right along with that because they had no idea that Abramoff was anything else than what he told them he was: a lobbyist. It's even possible that his firm didn't even know what Abramoff was doing (but of course DeLay, Ney, Reed, Norquist, et al. obviously did).

Maybe these schemes are too complicated for the media soundbite, maybe Joe Sixpack doesn't get it, I don't know. Like I said, I'm not media savvy. But I sure as hell understand corruption, phony charities, incriminating emails, and the resemblance to an episode of the Sopranos.

It's time to call a spade a spade. The man is a CONVICTED felon (he pled guilty). He personally gave EXCLUSIVELY to the GOP. He has called the very tribes he purported to represent derogotory names such as "troglodytes," so obviously he couldn't have been in cahoots with them. And he's got a life-long history of GOP loyalty and doing whatever it takes to get his. Does that sound like a man who would voluntarily cooperate with the "enemy" to you?

I don't know how to frame this, but I liked (Hunter's? I think) meme of calling Jack a GOP bagman. If we can reframe Abramoff as a foot soldier in the GOP mob of corruption, I think that'll get people's attention.

In the meantime, I suggest we come right out and admit that yes, donations were made to Dem PACs and candidates (like they had been before), but that's not the issue. The real problem (and money) is in these phony charities and PACs that Jack Abramoff tricked the tribes into donating to. And those organizations gave EXCLUSIVELY to the GOP. Donating to dems (who already were receiving tribal money, btw) was merely a smokescreen to hide the ugly truth, that nearly all the money benefitted only the GOP. The dem contributions are a drop in the bucket.

In fact, Ron, do we have a tally of all the legal+illegal contributions that benefitted the GOP? If we put those up against the legal Dem contributions, doesn't that give some perspective here?

I've been watching/reading all this with interest.

Going back to Ron original point, he is narrowly proving that a small portion of what Howell had to say in defense is true.

Yes Ron, you've conclusively proven that a very narrow part of Howell's defense is correct, and those on the left who disputed her on THAT point were wrong.

To conclude anything beyond that very narrow point that you are making is not appropriate from the evidence. I think everyone who's interested is now forwarned not to make the point that Dems got less money from Indians under Abramoff's involvment.

But that's all. IMO it's a clarification, not a "bombshell".

But thanks for that clarification!

To P.Lukasiak:

Look, I understand the annoyance -- I have my own reasons to doubt FECInfo, which I believe I've written about -- but the fact is that this info did not come from the FEC. It turns out that it came from IRS data involving DASHPAC's non-federal account, that is, money that at least in theory could not be used to support Daschle's own campaign or other federal campaigns. (And which, since McCain-Feingold, is illegal.)

Here's the bottom line, for me: The Washington Post cited one document, of which only a small portion was made public, as proof of it's claim that Abramoff directed contributions to Democrats. That fragment of proof contained two legible contribution suggestions (Cleland and Carnahan) and one that was illegible (Daschle). The illegible one has now turned up. The two legible ones are still nowhere to be found. Maybe the names are garbled (although I've checked it a million ways, including looking at all Louisiana contributions), maybe they went to non-federal accounts yet to be identified. All things are possible. But until they turn up, the Post's particular case rests, it seems, on a document that is not borne out by the public record.

And that's all I wanted to show. It's entirely possible that Abramoff directed money to Democrats, and that fact doesn't change the essential nature of the scandal. In one case that we have some non-documentary evidence of, a contribution to Sen. Byron Dorgan that Jimmy Faircloth spoke about, we know that Abramoff told his clients that their donation to Dorgan was a quid pro quo for Abramoff's convincing Dorgan to sign on to a letter supporting a generic tribal education program. But anyone who knows anything about Dorgan knows that it would be big news if he DIDN'T sign a letter supporting Indian school construction! So this was just Abramoff doing what lobbyists do -- convincing their clients that they are more influential than they really are.

A final note: I don't know what information FECInfo has hidden behind the links on its "explanation" page for tribal contributions. A general search for "Coushatta" on the public portion of their site does reveal the DASHPAC non-federal contribution, but not Carnahan or a $2000 Cleland contribution, and also does not show many of the Republican contributions that appear on the check register.

And a really final note: I appreciate RonK and everyone else trying to make the most of public information to understand this scandal fully. Nobody's motives are in doubt here (and I would include the Washington Post and Deborah Howell in that statement). We're all trying to understand what happened in an area that is kept deliberately murky.

dab,

Maybe I'll read your long comment here. But maybe I wont, because your string of comments last night on the FDL thread showed you to be far more interested and engaged in who RonK is and what evil motives he may have than in actually engaging in what he was arguing. Reacting like that not only doesn't get my respect, it's also the kind of behavior that gets liberals in trouble. Engage the facts, regardless of the motives, and you're generally going to come out stonger in the end. Obsess about the motives without engaging the facts, and usally you end up doing something really stupid. That's one of the lessons to be learned here. Maybe you'll learn it.

Mark Schmitt -- Roy Temple (in your TPMCafe thread) notes that Jean Carnahan had a policy of rejecting gambling-related donations. It's possible a check was produced, received and returned. (The Cantwell campaign does not accept interest PAC contributions, but standard practice, if I'm not mistaken, is to deposit the check and cut a check in the same amount to effect the refund.)

Note, the register abbreviates recipient names, and at least one is a pet charity rather than a political committee.

We also do not know whether the "register" was a contemporary primary business record, or a planning document, or a reconstruction from database history (though the hand notations appear suggestive of a planning document).

There are also strong reasons to believe the tribe has more documentation and testimony, and the Committee has more, and the fed's have more, and the WaPo has more. I hope to return to these and related issues in a tutorial discussing why scenarios in which Abramoff did not direct contributions to Dem's are astronomically far-fetched.

BTW, in the Saginaw case, in comparison to the Bloomberg article, I find $20K less to Dem's in the 1997-2000 cycles (both CRP and FECinfo), and $60K more in the 2001-2004 cycles. Any clues to the missing $20K?

dab -- As I understand it, you feel something different should have been written, about issues other than those discussed here. Several discussants have already expressed this view much more concisely. Unpublished, for the convenience of our readers.

The bottom line is that it looks hard to refute the line that Abramoff donated to Dems;moreover, it's not a central theme, and doesn't hurt the Dems: time to move on.

Let's talk about the Mariannas and Russian gangsters!

Ron,

Maybe you're missing this one for the 2000 election cycle:

CHIPPEWA, SAGINAW
12/31/1999 $20,000.00
MT PLEASANT, MI 48858
[Contribution]
DEMOCRATIC SENATORIAL CAMPAIGN COMMITTEE

marky -- And SunCruz! And then everybody come over for cupcakes!

Ron B -- No, got that. Need an addl 20 in the 97-98 cycle.

Uh oh. I told you this was pretty thin.

http://www.prospect.org/web/page.ww?section=root&name=ViewWeb&articleId=10924

HeavyJ -- Uh-oh. You'd better read that Prospect piece more carefully. Won't have time to address it for publication today (though have in background with other discussants), but: give it up.

Piece of friendly advice, Ronk.
Spend more than overnight working on a response to the Prospect piece. If they paid a professional firm---specializing in campaign finance issues no less---then it looks poor for you to "refute" the article based on such short reflection.

I don't know what you are planning to post, obviously;however, if it is correct that total tribal donations to Dems went down for Abramoff's Indian client, then there is no sensible meaning for the statement that Abramoff "directed" donations to the Dems.

I'm just a bystander who wants to see the facts prevail, but I am seeing too much ego and haste in your work.
Slow down, for the sake of all of us.

Give it up. With the American Prospect investigation (www.prospect.org/web/page.ww?section=root&name=ViewWeb&articleId=10924) carried out by a nonpartisan research firm, we have proof that RonK is full of crap on this issue. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Proven Wrong. Debate over. Find something else to lie about to cover the administration's butt-- you have a lot to choose from!

Why don't you focus your efforts on denying the fact that Bush's minions are making all photos of Bush with Abramoff disappear. Retroactively airbushing people out of photos to make the past disappear-- where did I read about that? Oh Yeah, 1984.

marky -- I detect haste in your assessment of the Prospect piece. Surprises lie ahead.

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