The Senate Finance Committee casts an eye towards Tom DeLay.
The Senate Finance Committee yesterday opened an investigation into allegations that lobbyist Jack Abramoff used nonprofit organizations to pay for a variety of improper activities, including overseas trips for House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (Tex.) and another Republican lawmaker.
Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) and Sen. Max Baucus (Mont.), the panel’s top Democrat, faxed a letter to Abramoff’s attorney seeking information from the Capital Athletic Foundation, a charity he created. The committee wants financial records and receipts for travel, which would include a 2002 trip to Scotland by House Administration Committee Chairman Robert W. Ney (R-Ohio) and lobbyist and former Christian Coalition leader Ralph Reed.
The Finance Committee also asked Abramoff about contributions from Indian tribes and whether they were used to influence lawmakers. “Explain why [the foundation] solicited contributions from various Indian Tribal governments,” the senators asked, “and why they should not be deemed payments for attempts to influence federal and state laws and regulations regarding gaming.”
The letter also asked about the activities of a second tax-exempt charity, the National Center for Public Policy Research; Abramoff served on the group’s board until he resigned last October. The center sponsored a trip to Britain in mid-2000 by DeLay, his wife, two aides and Abramoff.
As an example of just how tangled this web is, check this out: when one of the Indian tribes for whom Jack Abramoff was lobbying needed to replace Abramoff because of his legal troubles, who did the Louisiana Coushattas turn to?
Why, the same law firm that is representing one of DeLay’s cronies indicted for illegal campaign contributions in Texas, of course.
When a Senate committee started investigating whether U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay’s lobbyist friend and a former aide had misled Indian tribes into giving them millions of dollars in fees, the Coushatta Indians of Louisiana needed to replace the lobbyist with new legal representation.
They turned to Hance Scarborough Woodward & Weisbart LLP, the Austin law firm that is defending the DeLay-founded Texans for a Republican Majority in civil lawsuits brought by losing Democratic candidates.
Former Texas congressman Kent Hance said it is just coincidence that he is representing the Louisiana Coushattas while his partner, Terry Scarborough, represents Texans for a Republican Majority, or TRMPAC.
Hance said DeLay had nothing to do with him getting the work. “There was a gentleman in Louisiana who is a friend of mine that they (the Indians) talked to,” Hance said.
Hance’s partner, Scarborough, has been defending TRMPAC and its treasurer, Bill Ceverha, in lawsuits in Austin.
Hance said his firm’s involvement in the TRMPAC case “is a separate matter.”