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Politics
Update on Senate hearing on lobbying scandal


The Senate Indian Affairs Committee held a hearing today on the Jack Abramoff/Michael Scanlon lobbying scandal. The hearing, the third so far, focused on the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, one of Abramoff's earliest tribal clients.

Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona), the chairman of the committee, read a lengthy statement and said the tribe is not accused of wrongdoing. Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-North Dakota), the vice chairman, also said the same thing and mentioned Republican activist and Georgia lieutenant governor candidate Ralph Reed three times.

Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) read a short statement. Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) also attended and entered a statement into the record, which he did not read.

The hearing lasted about 2 hours and 45 minutes. There were three panels of witnesses.

The first panel was composed entirely of representatives of the Mississippi Band of Choctaws. They were: Charlie Benn, the tribe's director of administration; Donald Kilgore, the tribe's attorney general; and Nell Rogers, the tribe's planner. They were accompanied by C. Bryant Rogers, the tribe's longtime outside counsel.

The tribal witnesses said Abramoff built up their trust then abused it. They said they had no idea Abramoff and Scanlon were business partners. They admitted to giving millions in "pass-through" donations to other organizations for various efforts, which appeared to be directed at gaming efforts by other tribes, according to documents released by the committee.

The second panel was composed of former associates of Abramoff. Kevin Ring and Shawn Vasel both invoked their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination repeatedly in response to questions from McCain.

The final panel was composed of former associates of Abramoff and Scanlon. They were: Amy Ridenour, a longtime friend of Abramoff who is 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 Scanlon.

All of the witnesses on the third panel testified except Mann, who invoked his Fifth Amendment right. Grosh and Stetter did not have any opening statements.

Ridenhour said Abramoff "lied" to her about his dealings with the Choctaws and has not spoken to him since late last year. Halperin said Abramoff recorded $15 million in income from Scanlon in one year alone but that she did not question it.

Grosh said he knew Scanlon from childhood and readily agreed to serve on a questionable "international" organization created by Scanlon because it sounded like a good deal. Stetter said he prepared "phone scripts" for Scanlon that were used to oppose gaming efforts by other tribes and gaming efforts in general.

For In The Hoop's off-color commentary on the hearing, click here.

You can download audio files of the hearing here in case you missed it or would like to listen to it on your computer, iPod or listening device.

All the files are in MP3 format, 56 Kbps (Mono), to keep file size at a minimum without sacrificing too much quality. The files were recorded directly off the Senate website feed at http://indian.senate.gov.

Intro - 28:06 - 11.2MB
Introductory Statements

Panel I - 24:51 - 9:95MB
Panel I Testimony

Q&A - 34:05 - 13.6MB
Panel I Questions and Answers

Panel II - 11:08 - 4.46MB
Panel II

Panel III - 13:20 - 5.34MB
Panel III Testimony

Q&A - 51:12 - 20.5MB
Panel III Questions and Answers

Witness List/Testimony:
Oversight Hearing Before the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs on the In Re Tribal Lobbying Matters, Et Al (June 22, 2005)

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