Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The Truth about Abramoff Contributions

The truth about lobbyists and campaign contributions is simple. It isn't illegal to receive them and in the case of the Abramoff scandal, it isn't illegal to receive them from Indian Tribes. It isn't illegal to receive campaign contributions that were directed by a lobbyist. There are a lot of Democrats and Republicans who received contributions from Indian Tribes from 1999 to 2004 who are guilty of doing absolutely nothing wrong.

I'm amazed at the members of the press who become convulsive with glee at the thought of painting Democrats as being complicit in Mr. Abramoff's illegal actions simply because they received campaign contributions from his clients. Quite frankly, mentioning the contributions is the only way for the press to include Democrats in this scandal. For some reason they are so terrified that they will be accused of unfairness by the conservatives, the traditional media has overcorrected and what has resulted is a train wreck.

The Washington Post has been the worst offender. No matter how hard reporters, editors and ombudsmen for the Washington Post try, they don't seem to be able to tell the truth about contributions made or directed by Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff. They refuse to correct their inaccurate reporting and they're digging themselves into a very deep hole. At some point, the entire truth will be out and the public will know the Washington Post reporters were either completely uninformed or they were intentionally lying. Either way, the hole will then be so deep they won't be able to climb out.

The Dems, like many of their Republican counterparts probably had no idea that there was anything illegal going on with Mr. Abramoff and his tribal clients. In looking at the lists available through several different sources and knowing what I know about the whole mess, what strikes me as odd is that Abramoff really only had to buy off a few people to pull this thing off. These laundry lists of contribution orders would have been unneccesary if he weren't in it to line his own pockets. These lists, however, created a diversion.

Abramoff had to make the tribes and their leaders believe that playing with the big dogs in Washington cost a lot of money. He had to do this so that when he slid in lists that included contributions to the Capital Athletic Fund and other "unknown" entities, the tribes would write the checks without question because at that point it was business as usual. The contributions spread around to primarily Republicans helped ensure a Republican majority in Congress. This was a good thing for Mr. Abramoff. They stayed in power, he remained powerful.

If you believe what the Washington Post is saying then you are assuming that the Indian tribes had no mind or will of their own. Many had made financial contributions to political candidates before they hired Jack Abramoff as their lobbyist, so to say he directed all of their contributions is false. As reported in the Clarion-Ledger, Chief Phillip Martin of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, had this to say:

"The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians has voluntarily contributed to political campaigns and causes along the ideological spectrum for more than a decade," Martin said in a Dec. 21 letter to Hayworth. "Our decisions on political contributions were made by us. They were not coerced or controlled by our former lobbyist, Mr. Jack Abramoff, with whom we have severed all our ties."

Questions have been raised about one of the graphics touted by Deborah Howell, Ombudsman for the Washington Post, as proof that Abramoff directed his clients to make contributions to Democrats. That graphic can be found here. Ms. Howell obviously failed to check the information carefully. The list has 3 Democrats on it. When checked against the contributions made by the tribe in question it is discovered that the tribe, the Coushattas, evidently did not follow Abramoff's advice. He may have directed them to make contributions to the Democrats on the list, but they either did not or they made a contribution for a lesser amount. Update: This has been taken up in a discussion at TPM Cafe by Mark Schmitt.

In the partial list shown in the Washington Post graphic Jean Carnahan's name is seen with a contribution suggestion of $2000. While the Coushatta bank register shown here does have a contribution shown for Carnahan, there isn't one found in her FEC filing. This is easily explained. Roy Temple, Carnahan's Chief of Staff while she was in the Senate, is quoted in the TPM Cafe discussion comments as saying,

I was Senator Carnahan's Chief of Staff during her tenure in the U.S. Senate. Senate Carnahan had a policy against accepting Indian gaming funds.

She did not solicit money from the Coushatta in 2002, nor would she have accepted it had it been offered.

A review of her contributions database show no contributions from the Coushatta, or any related entity. Nor did a review of her FEC reports produce any reason to believe that such a contribution made it through the contribution screening process

Clearly, the WaPo did not care if their graphic was accurate. Deborah Howell has waved it in our faces as proof that Abramoff directed his clients to give contributions to Democrats. Big Damn Deal Deborah. That's what lobbyists do. It isn't illegal and I'm tired of traditional media outlets grabbing this one little tidbit and turning this scandal into something other than what it is.

To date every single person under investigation or under indictment is a REPUBLICAN. Plain and simple. End of story.

UPDATE: There are a few things that will be updated soon with this post. I have tables of numbers breaking out the contributions and realized that some did not include soft money. I will be adding that and then will post the numbers tomorrow.

UPDATE II: While I've been researching FEC filings this week other people have been writing about this. Jane and Redd at Firedoglake have done their usual stellar job, so head on over. Jane has truely been in rare form.


Post a Comment

<< Home