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January 5, 2006
Kennedy Stays Bought

Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) has decided to buck the current fashion of donating the money given to him linked to Jack Abramoff clients to charity, while the rest of Kennedy's colleagues distance themselves from Abramoff-directed contributions as fast as possible. Kennedy insists that he has nothing to hide -- since he's been taking Indian gambling money for ten years and acting on their behalf for, coincidentally, the same amount of time:

Rep. Patrick Kennedy, citing his support for American Indian causes, says he has no plans to return any of the $42,500 he took from tribes represented by GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

"He's proud to have their support," Kennedy chief of staff Sean Richardson said Wednesday. "He's got direct personal relationships with tribes. ... He looks at it as a human and civil rights issue, the fact that they're still not treated with the dignity and respect they deserve."

Kennedy, D-R.I., was the top congressional Democratic recipient of Abramoff-linked funds, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a campaign watchdog group that analyzed contributions from 1999 to 2005. He was eighth overall among members of Congress. ... The congressman has received contributions from 110 tribes and visited about a dozen reservations, Richardson said. Kennedy has accepted donations from Indian gambling interests since he first came to Congress a decade ago.

Well, one has to respect a man who stays bought once the money gets into the bank, but it seems a rather risky way to make a point. Kennedy claims that Abramoff never lobbied him on behalf of the tribes in question but that they donated to him outside of Abramoff's direction. Why? Kennedy says that he already delivers on their needs -- in effect, admitting that he acts on their behalf as long as the donations keep coming. His spokesman made clear that Kennedy has actively gone forth to ask for those donations.

It takes some imagination, however, to believe that Abramoff controlled these tribes to such an extent that he defrauded them, but they then retained so much of their autonomy from his advice and control that they threw even more money at politicians that Abramoff didn't bother to even visit. The amount isn't a drop in the bucket; Kennedy ranks eighth among all politicians for contributions from the Abramoff client list.

Kennedy wants to bluff his way through by claiming that contributions don't equal influence, while his peers want to argue the exact opposite for GOP contributions and actions. It's a bluff that should get called soon.

UPDATE: Buma and Rocketman wonder why I think the money should get returned or donated to charity if it didn't get used to bribe someone. Rocketman says that the politicians should stand up and say that they weren't bought at all. The problem is that Abramoff has admitted in court to defrauding clients out of their money and using it to buy influence. At best, the money that the politicians refuse to unload are likely the results of fraud and deceit.

And yes -- if the White House has donations from Abramoff's clients involved in the fraud, then they should cough it up right now.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at January 5, 2006 5:52 AM

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