Abramoff Scandal
Abramoff pleads guilty in Washington lobbying scandal

Disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff pleaded guilty on Tuesday to three felony counts, admitting to a conspiracy to defraud tribal clients, bribe a member of Congress and evade federal taxes.

The once-powerful Republican appeared in federal court in Washington, D.C. to answer to the charges. Unlike his former partner who pleaded guilty in late November, he sounded remorseful about his actions in a major controversy that has tainted the lobbying industry.

"Your Honor, words will not be able to ever express how sorry I am for this, and I have profound regret and sorrow for the multitude of mistakes and harm I have caused," he said before U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle.

In a deal with federal prosecutors, Abramoff agreed to a sentence between nine and a half to 11 years. He vowed to repay about $25 million to five tribes that he defrauded and to pay $1.7 million for tax evasion.

He also agreed to cooperate with a wide-ranging investigation that threatens to ensnare several Republican members of Congress and their former aides. Court papers detail schemes in which Abramoff allegedly funneled campaign contributions, expensive trips and other "things of value" to public officials in exchange for legislative favors.

The probe is the centerpiece of a major corruption scandal, the likes of which haven't been seen in Washington in over a decade. At a press conference yesterday, Department of Justice officials promised to pursue the case "no matter where the trail leads," said assistant attorney general Alice Fisher.

"Government officials and government action are not for sale," said Fisher, who is in charge of the criminal division. "The Justice Department will aggressively investigate and prosecute these types of cases which have a devastating impact on the public's trust of government."

Officials wouldn't identify any lawmakers they are targeting. But the court papers make clear that Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio) -- dubbed "Representative #1" -- is at the center of the scandal for taking money from the Tigua Tribe of Texas and for using funds from another Texas tribe to go on a golfing trip to Scotland, while agreeing to sponsor legislation to help both tribes.

"Lawful lobbying does not include paying a public official a personal benefit with the understanding -- explicit or implicit -- that a certain official act will occur," Fisher said yesterday. "That's not lobbying; that's a crime."

The investigation also points to a former aide to Ney and to a former aide to Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas), who is under indictment in Texas in an unrelated but politically charged case. Labeled "Staffer A" and "Staffer B" in the charge of information that was filed in federal court yesterday, they were hired by Abramoff in order to influence Ney and DeLay, according to prosecutors.

"Staffer A" -- believed to be Tony Rudy, DeLay's former deputy chief of staff -- and hid wife were given "things of value" in order to put a stop to Internet gaming legislation, according to the papers. DeLay ended up voting against the bill, which was opposed by tribes and non-Indian gaming interests.

"Staffer B" -- believed to be Neil Volz, Ney's former chief of staff -- lobbied Ney on behalf of Texas tribal gaming legislation, according to prosecutors. The contact occurred within one year of Volz leaving Congress in apparent violation of federal lobbying laws.

Beyond those names, there was no indication in the court papers of the focus of the probe. But news reports indicate several lawmakers -- all of them Republican -- are of interest to prosecutors for accepting campaign contributions while taking actions that benefited Abramoff's former clients.

Department of Justice officials wouldn't say when charges, if any, might be brought against anyone else. They only said the investigation was "ongoing."

There was no word either on a plea agreement with David Safavian, a former White House official who was indicted in connection with the Abramoff scandal. Safavian represented several tribal gaming clients and the National Indian Gaming Association.

Abramoff's deal is the third reached by federal prosecutors in relation to his activities. In November, his former business partner Michael Scanlon pleaded guilty to one charge of conspiracy and agreed to pay nearly $20 million in restitution to four tribes.

Adam Kidan, Abramoff's former partner in another venture, pleaded guilty late last month to bank fraud in Florida. Abramoff is working on a plea deal in that case.

Relevant Documents:
US v. Abramoff | Abramoff Plea Agreement | Department of Justice Press Conference

November 17, 2005, Hearing:
Video | Exhibits

November 2, 2005, Hearing:
Video | Exhibits | Witness List / Testimony

June 22, 2005, Hearing:
Video | Exhibits 1 | Exhibits 2 | Witness List / Testimony

November 17, 2004 Hearing:
Video | Exhibits | Witness List / Testimony

September 29, 2004 Hearing:
Video | Exhibits | Witness List / Testimony