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Abramoff Scandal
Abramoff lobbied White House on behalf of tribes

Jack Abramoff and his colleagues lobbied the White House more than 400 times on behalf of tribal clients, with the overwhelming majority of the contacts billed to the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, according to a Congressional report released on Friday.

The bipartisan report from the House Committee on Government Reform examined four years of billing records from the Greenberg Traurig firm. Lawmakers discovered numerous contacts with White House staff on issues affecting Abramoff's tribal clients.

Abramoff's colleagues, for example, pushed the White House to nominate Tim Martin, the former executive director of the United South and Eastern Tribes, to head the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The Mississippi Choctaws and the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana, another client, are members of USET.

The report shows Team Abramoff pressed the White House on gaming, land claims, taxation, land-into-trust, appropriations, legislation and other issues from January 2001 through February 2004, right before the scandal broke.

But the records paint an incomplete picture of the lobbying effort. Many of the bills for meals and drinks at restaurants came with little explanation for the service rendered.

For a "Lunch at Rio Grande Cafe with White House Legislative Affairs staff/OMB staff," lobbyist Shawn Vasell billed the Choctaws $64.64 on May 12, 2001.

For a "Dinner at Angelo & Maxie's with White House staffers," lobbyist Kevin Ring billed the Choctaws a total of $384.76 on June 12, 2002.

Details that could reveal more about the nature of the contacts were blocked out in the records. For example, an entry for a $685.36 dinner billed to the Saginaw Chippewa Tribe of Michigan contains a redaction that would indicate which White House staffers ate with lobbyist Todd Boulanger on March 11, 2003.

Overall, the Congressional report lists 485 contacts with the White House. The overwhelming majority, more than 300, were billed to the Choctaws, who were Abramoff's first tribal client and his most lucrative.

According to the report, the Greenberg Traurig firm billed the Choctaws and the other tribes more than $25,000 in meals, drinks and tickets to entertainment events for White House staff and officials, some of whom may have been prohibited from accepting such gifts.

"That Native American tribes were bilked and that ethics rules may have been violated is dramatic enough," said Rep. Tom Davis (R-Virginia), the chairman of the committee.

The report attempts to present an unbiased view of Abramoff's alleged prowess. Abramoff frequently boasted of his successes in Washington and the committee confirmed several of them, including a $16.5 million jail for the Choctaws that came after 73 instances of lobbying in a six-month period.

Other successes included legislation to settle Sandia Pueblo's land claim in New Mexico, the defeat of a casino compact in Louisiana that threatened Abramoff's clients and a $3 million appropriation for a Saginaw Chippewa school that the tribe has since returned to the BIA.

The committee counted Abramoff's numerous failures as well, namely the Tim Martin nomination and other executive branch nominations. The report noted that the Louisiana gaming compact eventually went against Abramoff's clients, although the issue is still pending at BIA.

Several members of Team Abramoff have pleaded guilty to a conspiracy to defraud tribes and bribe members of Congress. One Congressman, Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio), pleaded guilty to helping Abramoff's tribal clients in exchange for gifts.

Committee Documents:
Report | Billing Records Spreadsheet | Attachment 1 | Attachment 2 | Press Release