Senate Panel: Former Lobbyist, Partner Pocketed $6.5M From Tribe
By James V. Grimaldi and Susan Schmidt, Washington Post
Wednesday, June 22, 2005; 4:42 PM
A former Republican lobbyist and his partner pocketed $6.5 million of the $7.7 million in consulting fees they received from a Mississippi Indian tribe in 2001 while congratulating themselves on their "gimme five" relationship, according to e-mails released today by the Senate Indian Affairs Committee.
The hearing is the third held by the committee examining the practices of Jack Abramoff, formerly one of the most prominent Republican lobbyists in Washington, and his partner Michael Scanlon, a public relations consultant and former spokesman for House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas). Abramoff also is at the center of a Justice Department investigation into the tens of millions of dollars in lobbying fees he and Scanlon received from tribes around the country.
"Today's hearing is about more than contempt," said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the chairman of the committee, who called on the Justice Department to investigate materials released today for possible mail and wire fraud. "It is simply and sadly a tale of betrayal."
Records examined by the committee also showed that a charitable foundation created by Abramoff directed 80 percent of its funds to an all-boys Jewish academy established by Abramoff. The Capital Athletic Foundation -- which had received hundreds of thousands of dollars from Indian tribes -- also paid a monthly stipend to a high school friend of Abramoff's living in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, and made loan payments on his jeep, according to the committee's investigation. The friend was conducting sniper workshops for members of the Israeli Defense Force, records show.
When pressed to justify the Israeli expenses as legitimate for a charity, the old friend offered to send an invoice with his Sniper Workshop logo. Abramoff replied in an e-mail, "No, don't do that. I don't want sniper letterhead."
McCain said that Abramoff had directed the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians to hire Scanlon for consulting work, but never revealed to the tribe that they had a secret partnership, which they called "gimme five," according to the e-mails released today. Whenever Scanlon pitched his services to a client, Abramoff would remind him of their extra profits. On Aug. 16, 2001, Abramoff wrote to Scanlon, "Don't forget the gimme five aspects." On Oct. 17, 2001, Abramoff wrote, "So there is more gimme five coming on all these as well, right?"
The "gimme five" schemes began with a $50,000 diversion of Choctaw money from Scanlon back to Abramoff, but "it would soon rocket into millions," McCain said. In all, investigators found that the Choctaw paid Scanlon's companies about $15 million and Scanlon then diverted about $5 million of those payments back to Abramoff, without the knowledge of the Choctaw.
"I'm past anger and bitterness," Nell Rogers, the Choctaw official who had worked most closely with Abramoff, told the committee. "It is an extraordinary story of
betrayal." [read more]