Follow the Bouncing Bribe Scandal: Keeping Tabs on the Abramoff Lobbying Investigation

Oct 31, 2006 10:48am

With another figure in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal beginning an 18-month prison sentence, here’s an update on the key players and where the investigation stands: Jack Abramoff: The once powerful D.C. lobbyist pleaded guilty to bribery and corruption charges last January, but sentencing has been postponed twice to give him more time to cooperate with government investigators. ABC News has learned he’s spending "hours and hours" talking to FBI agents and detailing his relationships with dozens of members of Congress. Abramoff is scheduled to begin serving almost six years in prison on Nov. 15 for a separate Florida fraud conviction.  He will go before a federal judge in Washington for sentencing in the bribery case in December. David Safavian: Former chief of staff of the General Services Administration, Safavian is the only one implicated in the scandal so far who didn’t cop a plea; he went to trial and was convicted in federal court last June. Safavian was convicted of accepting lavish favors from Abramoff, including a 2002 golf trip to Scotland, while helping Abramoff make business deals with the GSA. Safavian was sentenced Oct. 27 to 18 months in prison. Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio): Ney pleaded guilty Oct. 13 on federal charges of conspiracy and making false statements. He lied on financial disclosure forms about the now infamous golf trip to Scotland and also permitted a Syrian businessman to bankroll two gambling trips to London in 2003. Sentencing is scheduled for January. House Republican leaders say they’ll move to expel Rep. Ney when Congress reconvenes after the elections, but until then he continues to draw his $165,200-a-year salary. So far this year, Ney has spent at least $296,500 in campaign funds on legal fees, according to documents filed with the Federal Election Commission. Former House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Texas): DeLay stepped down from Congress to fight unrelated charges of illegal fundraising in Texas. ABC News reported DeLay took numerous trips at Abramoff’s expense, including a first-class golf trip to Scotland in 2000; DeLay claimed he was unaware of the "logistics" of paying for that trip. Sources told ABC News that Abramoff was providing details of his dealings with DeLay, but DeLay has not been charged in that investigation. Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.): Sen. Burns received $150,000 in campaign contributions from Abramoff and his clients — more than any other member of Congress. The money has since been returned to its original donors or given to charity. Abramoff said in an interview with Vanity Fair magazine, "Every appropriation we wanted [from Burns' committee] we got," but Burns says, "I have done nothing wrong," and he has not been charged with any crime. Ralph Reed: Former director of the Christian Coalition and a business associate of Abramoff’s, Reed was tarnished by his Abramoff connection and lost his primary race for lieutenant governor of Georgia. Reed maintains he did not know Abramoff was breaking the law, and he has not been charged with any crime. He and Abramoff are being sued by a Texas Indian tribe that claims they used fraud and racketeering to shut down the tribe’s casino, allegedly to benefit an Abramoff client who owned a rival casino. Michael Scanlon: Scanlon left his job as an aide to then Rep. Tom DeLay to work at Abramoff’s lobbying firm. He pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy to corruptly influence public officials and is cooperating with the Justice Department. Tony Rudy: Another former DeLay staffer who went to work for Abramoff, Rudy also pleaded guilty and is cooperating with investigators. Neil Volz: Rep. Bob Ney’s former chief of staff, he admitted conspiring with Abramoff to influence the congressman and is cooperating with investigators. His testimony helped convict David Safavian. Susan Ralston: A former Abramoff staffer who went to work for White House political strategist Karl Rove, she resigned on Oct. 6 after a Congressional report showed she accepted gifts from Abramoff. A White House spokeswoman said Ralston "did not want to be a distraction to the White House at this important time," a month before midterm elections.

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