Snake Eyes for 'Casino Jack'
Lobbyist Jack Abramoff was the toast of the town. Now he's persona non grata. It's a Washington story
Today, Abramoff and DeLay are both waiting to see what the future holds for them. The Justice Department has confiscated more than 500,000 of Abramoff's E-mails. The House ethics committee, which has admonished DeLay three times already, is set to begin yet another investigation into his relationship with Abramoff. Around town, the $64 million question is whether a sinking Abramoff could take DeLay and others down with him. "If Abramoff flips in the criminal investigation," says a senior federal investigator, "that will be bad for a lot of people." Abramoff, who calls himself a sinner, has told associates that he will not bear false witness against DeLay or anyone else. DeLay, for his part, blames partisan politics for all the questions surrounding his relationship with Abramoff.
But questions remain--and lots of them. Some involve trips taken by DeLay and paid for by Abramoff or groups connected to Abramoff. They have become the basis of accusations that DeLay violated House rules, which require that such trips be paid for by interest groups but not lobbyists. The golf outing to St. Andrews was supposedly paid for by a conservative think tank, the National Center for Public Policy Research, on whose board Abramoff sits. But records reportedly show that some of the expenses were, at least initially, paid for with Abramoff's credit card. Since the accusations came to light, more than 200 lawmakers have filed reports providing new details on who paid for their travel. There are questions, too, about the use of Signatures for political fundraisers. In the wake of news stories about the many fundraisers hosted by the restaurant, a handful of lawmakers, including House Speaker Dennis Hastert, have paid long-overdue tabs for events that were held there.
The most pointed questions by far, however, are about the lobbying that Abramoff and Scanlon did for those Indian tribes. Blum, Abramoff's spokesman, says that "any fair reading of Mr. Abramoff's career would show that his [Indian] clients benefited immensely from the hard work he and his team did on their behalf." Others, unsurprisingly, see it differently. "It is a story of greed run amok," says former Colorado Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, an American Indian who preceded McCain as chairman of the Indian Affairs Committee. "It is a story of two already powerful, wealthy men lining their own pockets with the hard-earned money of people whom they held in contempt."
With Edward T. Pound and Betsy Streisand