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June 3, 2005
Abramoff Was Ecumenical In His Lobbying, It Seems

Despite the Democrats' best efforts to paint controversial lobbyist Jack Abramoff as a GOP tool -- especially in relation to Tom DeLay -- further investigation by the Washington Post shows that Abramoff put significant money into the coffers of leading Democrats as well. In fact, two of Abramoff's biggest winners were the present and former Senate Minority Leaders:

Lobbyist Jack Abramoff and an associate famously collected $82 million in lobbying and public relations fees from six Indian tribes and devoted a lot of their time to trying to persuade Republican lawmakers to act on their clients' behalf.

But Abramoff didn't work just with Republicans. He oversaw a team of two dozen lobbyists at the law firm Greenberg Traurig that included many Democrats. Moreover, the campaign contributions that Abramoff directed from the tribes went to Democratic as well as Republican legislators.

Among the biggest beneficiaries were Capitol Hill's most powerful Democrats, including Thomas A. Daschle (S.D.) and Harry M. Reid (Nev.), the top two Senate Democrats at the time, Richard A. Gephardt (Mo.), then-leader of the House Democrats, and the two lawmakers in charge of raising funds for their Democratic colleagues in both chambers, according to a Washington Post study. Reid succeeded Daschle as Democratic leader after Daschle lost his Senate seat last November.

Democrats are hoping to gain political advantage from federal and Senate investigations of Abramoff's activities and from the embattled lobbyist's former ties to House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.). Yet, many Democratic lawmakers also benefited from Abramoff's political operation, a fact that could hinder the Democrats' efforts to turn the lobbyist's troubles into a winning partisan issue.

Of course, this is the danger of playing holier-than-thou with baseless ethics complaints. The Democrats have targeted Tom DeLay not because he's committed crimes, but because of his political effectiveness. Ronnie Earle has chased DeLay for years, and still hasn't filed an indictment despite his highly partisan effort to get him behind bars. Howard Dean claims that's where DeLay belongs, and both he and Nancy Pelosi have used Jack Abramoff as a chief reason for their ire.

Now, all of a sudden, the Democrats have become very, very silent. Those that have commented claim no knowledge of Abramoff's involvement with the six Indian tribes that donated tens of thousands of dollars to their campaigns between 1999 and 2004 through Abramoff's recommendations. While the biggest winner in this handout festival was Republican Conrad Burns ($141K), one-third of the largest recipients were Democrats. Here's a list of a few of them:

Rep. Patrick Kennedy: $128K
Senator Harry Reid: >$40K
Senator Tom Daschle: >$40K
Rep. Dick Gephardt: $32.5K

The Democrats all of a sudden have discounted the link between donations and supposed influence-peddling by Abramoff:

A spokesman for Kennedy said the congressman's donations from the tribes "have nothing to do with Abramoff." Kennedy traces the money's genesis to his family's long-standing commitment to Indian causes, to the fact that he co-founded the Congressional Native American Caucus in 1997, and to his personal relationship with Mississippi Choctaw Chief Philip Martin, whom Kennedy met in 1999 on a fundraising trip for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. "They just became close friends," said Kennedy spokesman Sean Richardson. ...

Daschle was familiar with another of Abramoff's Democratic lobbyists, Michael Smith. According to Steve Hildebrand, who was Daschle's campaign manager last year, Smith "helped with a lot of Democratic campaigns." In addition, Daschle was a favorite of Indian tribes and received donations from 64, including five Abramoff clients. "We took about $150,000 in this last election cycle from Indian tribes around the country," Hildebrand said. "Tom is viewed as a champion of Indian issues. We have nine tribes in South Dakota, and they worked hard for him."

But by far the most difficult effort to distance himself from the Abramoff story will be that of Harry Reid. The Post reports that not only did Reid get in excess of forty grand from Abramoff's clients, but that Abramoff hired one of Reid's political aides, who simultaneously helped raise funds for Reid:

James Patrick Manley, Reid's spokesman, also asserted that Reid's connection to tribes was remote from Abramoff. He said that Reid does not know Abramoff. But Abramoff did hire as one of his lobbyists Edward P. Ayoob, a veteran Reid legislative aide. Manley acknowledged that Ayoob helped raise campaign money for his former boss. Lawyers close to the Abramoff operation said that Ayoob held a fundraising reception for Reid at Greenberg Traurig's offices here.

That tasty revelation occurs below the jump in the Post article, but it should send a message to the rabid anti-DeLay forces in the House and at the DNC. Blowing ordinary lobbying efforts and sloppy paperwork into hysterical charges of corruption and ethics violations could hurt Tom DeLay, but it could absolutely cripple the current Democratic leadership.

As I said earlier, glass houses. Stones. Bad idea.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at June 3, 2005 7:17 AM

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» Missing the Point from Three Way News
The problem isn't the legal donations the tribes made. Abramoff screwed his clients and made illegal contributions, almost exclusively to Republicans, and largely to Tom DeLay. [Read More]

Tracked on June 3, 2005 10:30 AM

» Democrats Also Got Tribal Donations from Don Singleton
Perhaps the Left Wint Washington Post forgot it was just expected to bash Republicans, and they slipped up and reported some real truth. [Read More]

Tracked on June 3, 2005 12:10 PM

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