Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Democracy 21 Calls for Ethics Investigations Concerning Jack Abramoff and Intervention by Members of Congress at Interior Department

To: National Desk
Contact: Elenia Saloutsi of Democracy 21, 202-429-2008 or http://releases.usnewswire.com/redir.asp?ReleaseID=57094&Link=mailto:esaloutsi@democracy21.org
WASHINGTON, Nov. 22 /U.S. Newswire/ -- In a letter sent today to the House Ethics Committee, Democracy 21 President Fred Wertheimer called on the Ethics Committee to conduct an investigation ''to determine whether a number of House Members engaged in official acts to influence a case-specific regulatory matter at the Interior Department that benefited lobbyist Jack Abramoff's clients, and received contributions and financial favors from Abramoff and these clients, in violation of House ethics rules.''
A similar letter was sent to the Senate Ethics Committee concerning Abramoff's clients and official acts taken by a number of Senators.
Copies of both letters are available at http://releases.usnewswire.com/redir.asp?ReleaseID=57094&Link=http://www.democracy21.org.
The letters followed an Associated Press story published on November 17, 2005, which reported that numerous Representatives and Senators intervened in a case-specific regulatory matter with Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton to urge the Interior Department to reject a request from the Jena tribe of Choctaw Indians for a new casino in Louisiana.
''According to the AP story, 'Nearly three dozen members of Congress, including leaders from both parties, pressed the government to block a Louisiana Indian tribe from opening a casino while the lawmakers collected large donations from rival tribes and their lobbyist, Jack Abramoff,''' the letter states.
''Many intervened with letters to Interior Secretary Gale Norton within days of receiving money from tribes represented by Abramoff or using the lobbyist's restaurant for fundraising, an Associated Press review of campaign records, IRS records and congressional correspondence found,'' the AP story further stated.
According to the Democracy 21 letter, ''the House Ethics Committee must investigate and determine whether the intervention by House Members in a case-specific Executive Branch regulatory matter was a scheme organized by Jack Abramoff and his agents; whether House Members or House staff were involved with Abramoff in organizing such an intervention scheme; and whether contributions and financial favors were provided to House Members by Abramoff, his associates and his clients as part of such an intervention scheme.''
Democracy 21 called for a similar investigation and determination to be made by the Senate Ethics Committee regarding the intervention by Senators.
The Democracy 21 letter was accompanied by the AP article and a chart released by AP, which listed 24 House members ''who wrote letters urging the Bush administration to reject a Louisiana Indian casino as they collected political money from rival tribes, their lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his associates between 2001 and 2004.''
According to the letter, ''These 24 House members received total contributions of $454,225 during the period, according to the information in the AP chart.''
The Democracy 21 letter states, ''Top recipients of these contributions during the period, included Representatives Dennis Hastert (R-IL), $103,500; John Doolittle (R-CA), $64,500; Tom DeLay (R-TX), $57,000; Chris John (D-LA), $56,625; Jim McCrery (R-LA), $36,250; Eric Cantor (R-VA), $31,500; Ernest Istook (R- OK), $29,000; Pete Sessions (R-TX), $22,500; and Roger Wicker (R- MS), $20,100.''
''The stonewalling by the House Ethics Committee of an investigation into lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his activities with various House Members, including former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX), must come to an end,'' according to Democracy 21 President Fred Wertheimer.
During the past year, Democracy 21 has written on three previous occasions to the House Ethics Committee calling for an investigation of Jack Abramoff's activities with various House members. Copies of the three previous letters sent by Democracy 21 to the Ethics Committee, on December 28, 2004, February 16, 2005 and March 1, 2005, are available at http://releases.usnewswire.com/redir.asp?ReleaseID=57094&Link=http://www.democracy21.org.
''In the 1970s and 1980s when the Tongsun Park and ABSCAM scandals engulfed the House, the House Ethics Committee met its institutional responsibilities and investigated these scandals,'' Wertheimer stated.
''During 2005, with the Abramoff scandal engulfing the House, the House Ethics Committee has done nothing to investigate the scandal, and has failed the House and the American people by abrogating its responsibilities,'' according to Wertheimer.
The Democracy 21 letter sent today to the Senate Ethics Committee also was accompanied by the AP article and a chart released by AP, which listed nine Senators "who wrote letters urging the Bush administration to reject a Louisiana Indian casino as they collected political money from rival tribes, their lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his associates between 2001 and 2004."
According to the letter sent to the Senate Committee, ''These nine Senators received total contributions of $388,984 during the period, according to the information in the AP chart.''
The Senate Ethics committee letter states, ''Top recipients of these contributions during the period included Senators Trent Lott (R-MS), $92,000; Thad Cochran (R-MS), $82,500; Harry Reid (D-NV), $67,441; Charles Grassley (R-IA), $62,500; and Mary Landrieu (D-LA), $32,000.''
The Democracy 21 letters conclude by strongly urging the House and Senate Ethics Committee to exercise their inherent jurisdiction, explicitly granted by the Committees' rules, to investigate the serious ethics issues raised in the AP story.
http://releases.usnewswire.com/redir.asp?ReleaseID=57094&Link=http://www.usnewswire.com/
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/© 2005 U.S. Newswire 202-347-2770/

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