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Abramoff Scandal
Nonprofits part of Abramoff's tribal lobbying scheme

E-mails released by a Senate committee on Thursday paint a broader picture of Jack Abramoff's tribal lobbying effort amid the questionable use of conservative nonprofit organizations.

The scandal erupted in response to high fees charged to the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, the Saginaw Chippewa Tribe of Michigan and the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana. The Senate Indian Affairs Committee investigation revealed that the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians from California, the Tigua Tribe of Texas and Sandia Pueblo in New Mexico were also affected.

Unredacted and new e-mails released by the Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee show the Abramoff affair extended to more tribes. The Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, the Hopi Tribe of Arizona, the Kickapoo Tribe of Texas, the Meskwaki Tribe of Iowa and the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe of Massachusetts were courted by the now-convicted lobbyist as he tried to use nonprofits to further their interests, the report said.

According to the investigation, which had been authorized by committee chairman Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), "some officers of these organizations were generally available to carry out Mr. Abramoff's requests for help with his clients in exchange for cash payments."

Not everyone bought into the effort. Of the newly named tribes, only the Meskwakis gave money to the Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy, which was run by a close associate of former Interior Secretary Gale Norton.

According to the report, Abramoff used CREA to lobby former deputy secretary J. Steven Griles on issues affecting tribal clients. CREA and its executive director, Italia Federici, were enriched by about $500,000 thanks to donations from the tribes.

More money could have come in had Abramoff been successful in persuading the Cherokee Nation and other tribes to give to CREA. "The chief of the Cherokees is meeting with Steve Griles tomorrow afternoon," Abramoff told Federici on September 24, 2002. "This is the one I have talked to about representation and giving to CREA."

Abramoff wanted Griles to "mention both your name and mine" during the meeting in an attempt to show their alleged influence. "He can just say �we have mutual friends� or something if that is possible. It would really help Thanks so much!!!" the e-mail stated.

Just a couple of months later, Cherokee Nation Enterprises signed up as a client of Abramoff and his firm to lobby on "appropriations" and "sovereignty." A spokesperson for Cherokee Nation told The Native American Times this past January that Abramoff solicited the tribe but that the tribe never hired him.

Along with the Cherokees, Abramoff tried to get the Hopi Tribe on board with CREA. In the fall of 2001, Federici arranged a private dinner at a home in Washington, D.C. The guest list included Norton, Griles and Neal McCaleb, the former head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

In an e-mail, Abramoff wondered which tribes -- besides the Choctaws, the Saginaw Chippewas and the Coushattas -- to invite. "Do you think Hoppi wants to join?" he wrote on August 7, 2001.

"The hopi aren�t good republicans, but I will check it out," responded Kevin Ring, a fellow lobbyist.

"Whether they are good Republicans or not, they need clout with the Interior Dept, I would imagine," said Abramoff.

Many of the e-mails included in the Finance report were released by the Indian Affairs Committee. But the Indian Affairs staff redacted some of the names of the tribes.

For example, Indian Affairs blacked out the phrase "Chief of the Coushatta" in one of Abramoff's e-mails. The Finance Committee report doesn't contain the redaction.

Indian Affairs also blacked out the word "Cherokee" in the "chief of the Cherokee" e-mail that was released by the Finance Committee yesterday. It's not clear why such a redaction was made.

The Finance report is the third to be released by a Congressional committee. The House Government Reform Committee focused on White House contacts in a report released late last month.

In January, Abramoff pleaded guilty to a conspiracy to defraud tribes and bribe a member of Congress. Three of his associates have pleaded guilty and so has Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio), who was in court today to admit to being the recipient of some of the bribes.

The other nonprofits examined in the Finance report were Americans for Tax Reform, Citizens Against Government Waste, the National Center for Public Policy Research and Toward Tradition.

Senate Finance Committee Democratic Report:
Text Only | Response to Democratic Staff | Investigation of Jack Abramoff�s Use of Tax-Exempt Organizations (October 12, 2006) Note: 18.3MB file may be slow to load.

Senate Finance Committee Materials:
Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy | Americans for Tax Reform | National Center for Public Policy Research | Citizens Against Government Waste | Toward Tradition | News Article Clippings

House Government Reform Committee Documents:
Report | Billing Records Spreadsheet | Attachment 1 | Attachment 2 | Press Release

Senate Indian Affairs Committee Abramoff Report:

Pre-2001 | 2001 | 2002 | 2003 | 2004 | Undated | Finance

Relevant Links:
Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy -