Lobbyist Jack Abramoff laundered money from a Mississippi tribal client, using it to set up bogus Christian anti-gambling groups and fund other right-wing projects, including gear for a “sniper school” in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, The Washington Post reports in today’s editions.
E-mails and testimony before Senate Indian Affairs Committee show an incredible trail of lies, fraud and deceit by Abramoff and Michael Scanlon, public relations executive and former spokesman for scandal-ridden House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.).
Abramoff, under investigation by the Justice Department, directed the Indians to donate to tax-exempt groups that the lobbyist later used for his own purposes. One project involved Abramoff’s effort to arrange for military equipment, including night-vision goggles and a “jeep,” for the sniper training conducted by a high school friend, Post reporters Susan Schmidt and James V. Grimaldi reported.
Aaron Stetter, who worked for Scanlon, told the committee Scanlon and Abramoff manufactured opposition to casinos proposed by rival tribes by establishing phony Christian phone banks. Callers would identied themselves as members of groups the Christian Research Network or Global Christian Outreach Network and urged voters to contact their representatives.
Stetter’ testimony, along with other material given to the committee, contradict claims by former Christian Coalition executive director Ralph Reed, currently running for Georgia lieutenant governor.
While Reed admits getting $4 million from Abramoff and Scanlon to run anti-gambling campaigns in the South. he claimed he did not know the source of the money, but e-mails show he knew a major chunk of funds money came from casino-rich Choctaws.
Other e-mails proved Abramoff padded their bills and expense accounts to the Choctaws by tens of thousands of dollars a month.
Committee chairman, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), said investigators had uncovered evidence of mail and wire fraud along with tax evasion. The Justice Department is investigating $82 million in lobbying and public relations fees Abramoff and Scanlon received from tribes and McCain said information is also being turned over to the Internal Revenue Service.
Three former associates of Abramoff and Scanlon refused to testify, hiding under Fifth Admendment protections. They include lobbyist Kevin Ring, who continues to represent the Choctaw tribe, and Shawn Vasell, who like Ring was a congressional aide before joining Abramoff’s lobbying team. The third, Brian Mann, was a director of the American International Center, a foundation set up by Scanlon in Rehoboth Beach, Del.
Mann, a yoga instructor, was an AIC director, along with former lifeguard and Scanlon beach pal Brian Grosh. On its web site, AIC called itself “a premiere international think tank,” that was “determined to influence global paradigms in an increasingly complex world.”
Grosh testified Scanlon asked him to serve as a director of the AIC, paying him $2,500.
“I’m embarrassed and disgusted to be part of this whole thing,” he testified.