President George W. Bush and three
scrambled to return money
connected to lobbyist Jack Abramoff
Most Lawmakers Say Abramoff Not Tied to Money
RUBY L. BAILEY / Detroit Free Press 5jan2006
WASHINGTON — President George W. Bush and three dozen lawmakers scrambled to return money connected to lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who pleaded guilty this week to felony charges that he bribed members of Congress with trips and gifts.
But just one of seven lawmakers from Michigan, U.S. Rep. Dave Camp, a Midland Republican, is considering returning any of the $35,000 in campaign cash given by a Michigan Indian tribe that was represented by Abramoff. Camp had the largest amount of donations of the seven from Michigan.
Two Michigan House members — Dale Kildee of Flint and John Dingell of Dearborn, both Democrats — said they won't return the money because it was not connected to Abramoff. Another, Pete Hoekstra, a Holland Republican, said he wouldn't return money linked to Abramoff's former employer or a Mississippi tribe that Abramoff represented.
In all, three dozen lawmakers outside of Michigan — three-fourths of them Republicans — announced plans this week to return donations, mostly funds that came from Abramoff or Indian tribes he represented.
Abramoff has agreed to cooperate with the Justice Department in its investigation of bribery and influence peddling in Congress.
Camp was checking the timing of contributions from the Saginaw Chippewa tribe before deciding whether to return any part of it, a spokesman said.
As the investigation proceeds, more politicians may scramble to return money from Abramoff or Indian tribes, said Larry Noble of the Center for Responsive Politics, which monitors political money.
"The implication is the money was raised by Abramoff or directed by Abramoff," Noble said.
He said it will be interesting to see whether members of Congress continue taking money from Indian tribes with big casino profits.
Camp's relationship with the Saginaw Chippewa tribe began when he was a state representative in 1988, said his spokesman, Sage Eastman. The tribe is in Camp's district. Camp, elected to Congress in 1990, is a former cochairman of the House Native American Caucus, a panel of House members concerned about Native American issues.
"There's a history that long predates any connection to Jack Abramoff," Eastman said.
Kildee said in a statement that he will not return the roughly $19,000 he has received from the tribe since 1999. Kildee said he has never met Abramoff, nor received contributions from him, his family or his lobbying firm.
"Whatever I do on behalf of Native Americans, I do because of my long-standing support for their cause, not because of who lobbies for them," the statement said.
Dingell received $1,000 from the tribe in 2002 and again in 2004, despite his support in 2004 for a Romulus casino the tribe opposed.
Hoekstra's spokesman said he has no plans to return the $2,000 he received from Greenberg Traurig, the firm where Abramoff worked.
In 2000, Hoekstra got $5,000 from the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, one of Abramoff's clients. The funds went to the now disbanded ED XL PAC, which supported conservative education issues. Hoekstra was the chair of a subcommittee, which had jurisdiction over tribal education. The subcommittee had no jurisdiction over casino gaming.
Both of Michigan's U.S. senators, Democrats Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow, also received money from the Michigan tribe in the last few years. Levin got $2,000 and Stabenow received $5,000. U.S. Rep. Sander Levin, a Royal Oak Democrat, got $4,000. Spokesmen for Carl Levin and Stabenow didn't know immediately whether their bosses planned to return any money. Sander Levin's spokesman could not be reached for comment.
Meanwhile, the Mt. Pleasant-based tribe plans to spend only about half as much — $250,000 — for political contributions in 2006 as it has in recent years, Larry Rosenthal, who replaced Abramoff as its lobbyist, said Wednesday.
Abramoff, hired in 2001, spent millions of dollars the tribe could not account for, according to congressional testimony last year. The tribe fired Abramoff in 2003 after paying him and his partner, Michael Scanlon, roughly $14 million.
"The current tribal council believes that it's important to help people who support Indian tribes," said Rosenthal, whose firm was hired in 2004. "It's being tainted as something nefarious. It's all done ... in accordance with the law."
source: http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060105/NEWS07/601050438/1009&template=printart 6jan2005