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Mississippi Choctaws focus of Senate lobbying hearing

Indianz.Com Listening Lounge:
Note: All files are in MP3 format.

Intro - 28:06 - 11.2MB
Introductory Statements

Panel I - 24:51 - 9:95MB
Panel I Testimony

Q&A - 34:05 - 13.6MB
Panel I Questions and Answers

Panel II - 11:08 - 4.46MB
Panel II

Panel III - 13:20 - 5.34MB
Panel III Testimony

Q&A - 51:12 - 20.5MB
Panel III Questions and Answers
A Republican lobbyist hired by the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians used tribal money to pay off loans, finance a "sniper school" in Israel, fund a trip to Scotland for House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) and help finance a White House dinner with President George W. Bush, the Senate Indian Affairs Committee was told on Wednesday.

During nearly three hours of testimony, witnesses told of deception and fraud by Abramoff and his partner Michael Scanlon. Representatives of the tribe said the two men abused their trust and that they never authorized the questionable use of their funds. Charlie Benn, Donald Kilgore and Nell Rogers said Abramoff apparently "padded" the bills at his former law/lobbying firms and that they are in settlement negotiations with the firms.

A longtime friend of Abramoff testified that she was "lied" to about a $1 million donation from the Choctaws that was meant to support a nationwide campaign to promote Indian gaming. Amy Ridenhour, the director of the National Center for Public Policy Research, said she trusted Abramoff but eventually realized he was never going to provide documentation of the work he was supposed to perform.

Two other witnesses refused to testify, invoking their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. Kevin Ring and Shawn Vasell are former associations of Abramoff who used to work for Republican members of Congress. A third witness connected to Scanlon also invoked the Fifth.

Two more witnesses provided marginal testimony about their dealings with Scanlon. David Grosh elicited laughter for his straight talk about the shadiness of an international organization set up by Scanlon that merely acted as a "pass-through" for tribal funds. Aaron Stetter said he was paid by Scanlon to run "phone scripts" for phony Christian organizations that opposed tribal casinos in Texas, Louisiana and Michigan.

The committee released dozens of pages of documents detailing Abramoff's and Scanlon's dealings [Part 1 | Part 2]. Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona), the chairman, promised one more hearing on the scandal. Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-North Dakota), the vice chairman, suggest an additional joint hearing with the Finance Committee to look into alleged tax and charity-related fraud.

Get the Story:
Panel Says Abramoff Laundered Tribal Funds (The Washington Post 6/23)
Indian Affairs panel hears 'tale of betrayal' (The Hill 6/23)
Lobbyist Directed Indian Funds To Reed and Norquist Operationsm (The Wall Street Journal 6/23)
Senators Hear of Wink-Wink Lobbyist Move (The New York Times 6/23)
Pair ripped off Indians, senators told (USA Today 6/23)
Tribe, Focus point fingers at lobbyist (The Denver Post 6/23)
Senators accuse lobbyist of `outright fraud' (The Dallas Morning News 6/23)
More light thrown on lobbyists' tribal 'scam' (The Arizona Republic 6/23)
E-mails: Reed knew tribal money funded anti-gambling campaigns (The Atlanta Journal Constitution 6/23)
Testimony: Tribe unwitting contributor to Reed (The Gwinnett Daily Post 6/23)
Lobbyist tapped tribal fees, papers show (Bloomberg News 6/23)
Tales of deception and betrayal (The Houston Chronicle 6/23)
'Gimme five' was skim scheme (AP 6/23)
Tribes' lobbyist used their money for sniper school (The Cleveland Plain Dealer 6/23)
Lobbyist Accused of Swindling (The Los Angeles Times 6/23)
How a Lobbyist and a Former Tom DeLay Aide Ripped Off Clients and Padded Their Pockets (Capitol Hill Blue 6/23)
Panel Details Abramoff Spending of Tribal Funds (NPR 6/22)

Witness List/Testimony:
Oversight Hearing Before the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs on the In Re Tribal Lobbying Matters, Et Al (June 22, 2005)

Relevant Links:
Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians -

Related Stories:
Update on Senate hearing into lobbying scandal (6/23)
Mississippi Choctaws at center of lobbying hearing (6/22)
NIGA issues statement on tribal lobbying scandal (6/22)
Coushatta Tribe gave millions to lobbyists, campaigns (6/22)
Influence peddling on the rise in Washington (6/22)
Another hearing on Abramoff lobbying scandal (06/21)
Reed's story on Tiguas doesn't match Abramoff's (06/20)
Opinion sought on GOP group's use of tribal funds (06/16)
Other tribes attended White House meeting with Bush (06/08)
Two tribes paid $50K to attend White House meeting (06/07)
Miss Choctaws say gaming cash not used to lobby (05/31)
Gaming leads to new concerns about lobbyists (05/26)
Ralph Reed changes story on $1.15M tribal donation (05/20)
GOP group funneled tribal money to anti-gamblers (05/13)
McCain plans to finish hearings on lobbyist scandal (03/21)
FEC ruling separates tribes from their businesses (03/14)
Mississippi Choctaw lawyer referred Abramoff (11/22)
High-priced lobbyist scam linked to lawmakers (11/18)
Choctaw Tribe's lobbying documents kept secret (10/4)
Ex-tribal lobbyists slammed in Senate hearing (9/30)
Busy Indian Affairs Committee hits snag on big issues (06/17)
Indian Affairs Committee activity this week (6/15)
Choctaw chief Martin defends embattled GOP lobbyist (04/09)
McCain pushing Choctaw tribe to cooperate with probe (4/8)
GOP lobbyist scores big with tribes (04/03)