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Politics
Mississippi Choctaws at center of lobbying hearing


The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians will be at the center of today's Senate Indian Affairs Committee hearing on the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal.

The tribe was one of Abramoff's oldest clients, having signed on when he was at the Preston Gates firm and moving with him when he went to Greenberg Traurig. Chief Phillip Martin often boasted of Abramoff's alleged influence among Republicans in Washington.

Martin is not on today's witness list [Text] and neither is C. Bryant Rogers, one of the tribe's top lawyers. Rogers negotiated a deal with the committee to keep some of the Choctaw documents out of the public eye.

Three other Choctaw officials will testify, however. They are: Charlie Benn, the director of administration; Donald Kilgore, the tribe's attorney general; and Nell Rogers, the tribe's planner.

Also on the witness list are Kevin Ring and Shawn Vasell, two former associates of Abramoff. According to The New York Times, they plan to invoke their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

Other witnesses will testify, according to the paper. They include: Amy Ridenour, the director of the National Center for Public Policy Research, a conservative organization that received at least $25,000 in Choctaw funds; Gail Halperin, Abramoff's former tax preparer/advisor; and Brian Mann, David Grosh and Aaron Stetter, former associates of Michael Scanlon, Abramoff's partner.

The hearing begins at 9:30am. A live video link can be accessed at http://indian.senate.gov.

Get the Story:
Crucial Witnesses Are Set for Testimony on Lobbyist (The New York Times 6/22)
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Choctaws to testify in hearing about lobbyist (The Jackson Clarion-Ledger 6/22)

Relevant Links:
Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians - http://www.choctaw.org

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