The Peregrine Gallery
Sightings from The Catbird Seat
October 19, 2005
Republican Scandal Roundup
Posted by Mike Disharoon
Is the Abramoff Scandal a record-breaker? Two members of the Double-Dealing Caucus continue to prove their membership credentials. And a Connecticut Congresswoman shows what it takes to get her interested in an issue: a free vacation.
Norman Ornstein has a column in this morning's Roll Call examining just how deep the Jack Abramoff scandal may ultimately reach:
...based on all the Abramoff stories of the past few months, we can see a clear modus operandi: extract large sums of money from eager lobbying clients, skim a lot off for yourself and your firm, then launder a lot of what is left through a series of nonprofit and for-profit organizations, enriching your friends, advancing your causes and covering your tracks.
The same pattern of laundering money through a series of organizations, real and shell, is characteristic of DeLay as well, as another recent story, this one by The Associated Press, makes clear. DeLay and his temporary successor as House Majority Leader, Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), deliberately raised far more soft money than they needed to finance parties at the 2000 GOP Convention. They then shuffled the excess funds from from corporations and other interests — hundreds of thousands of dollars worth — back and forth between each other via their leadership PACs, Americans for a Republican Majority PAC and the Rely On Your Beliefs Fund.
...even to a jaded veteran of the lawmaking scene, the Abramoff Chronicles is over the top. Every new story I read makes me want to take a long shower to get rid of the grime. I don’t think we have had something of this scope, arrogance and sheer venality in our lifetimes. It is building to an explosion, one that could create immense collateral damage within Congress and in coming elections.
If I were a Member of Congress who knew Abramoff and played footsie with him, a staffer who worked with him and then for him, or a prominent outside activist who did business with him, I would be afraid — very afraid. And if I were a Member of Congress who staunchly defended other Members of Congress who played footsie with Abramoff, I would be pretty nervous as well. [emphasis added]...
In other news from the Double-Dealing Caucus, the Center for Public Integrity released a report yesterday revealing that Rep. Richard Pombo (CA-11) failed to pay required taxes on a trip abroad that was sponsored by a foundation that advocates against - and this is no big surprise, given that it's Pombo - environmental and animal rights groups.
A Washington, D.C., watchdog group says Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Tracy, might have violated tax laws in connection with two trips to New Zealand and Japan that cost more the $23,000.
The trips were paid for by the International Foundation for the Conservation of Natural Resources, a tax-exempt private foundation set up to oppose environmental and animal rights groups.
As a private foundation, it is not allowed to pay for international travel for government officials unless it pays taxes on that travel, according to the Center for Public Integrity, which made the charge late Tuesday.
Neither the foundation nor Pombo paid the taxes, the center said.
"If they don't do that, and Chairman Pombo accepts about $23,000 worth of travel, he should be required to reimburse money for those trips," said Bob Williams, a project director at the center.
And, predictably, Pombo offers the Sgt. Schultz defense:
Pombo said he knew nothing of the distinction between travel paid for by public charities and private foundations.
"I've never heard of that before and nobody else has either," Pombo said, adding, "If there's a liability, I'll take care of it."
Not being familiar with the rules isn't really a legitimate excuse here; I'd have to think that most of his constituents would prefer that he actually find out his responsibilities before accepting a $23K trip New Zealand and Japan. But, in Pombo's world, he's deserving of special treatment simply because, well, he's Richard Pombo.
It should also be noted that The Huffington Post is reporting that both Ney and Pombo could soon be facing consequences from these transgressions.
And finally, not to be left out of the free-vacation club, Rep. Nancy Johnson (CT-05) recently took a paid vacation to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands on the Nature Conservatory's dime, claiming that the trip was made so that she could speak about immigration issues with Ecuadorian officials. However, it appears that this is an issue she is only interested in when she can get a free trip out of it:
Thumbs down to U.S. Rep. Nancy Johnson, R-5, for taking a questionable junket with her husband to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands that was funded by the private Nature Conservancy. Johnson, who has served 11 terms in Congress, said she took the trip to gain a better understanding of international environmental issues since she is a member of Congress' International Conservation Caucus and to talk with Ecuadorian officials about immigration issues. Her sprawling district includes Danbury, which is now home to a large number of Latin Americans and continuing unrest on immigration issues. However, Ecuadorians in Danbury questioned Johnson's motives because she has never met with them. The Nature Conservancy receives about $42 million in federal government grants. Officials said it spent more then $64,000 to bring Johnson and three other congressmen and their spouses to Ecuador in late May, but underlined that no federal funds were involved. It may be weak, but an argument can probably be made for such a congressional junket, but do elected representatives really need their spouses with them as well? This junket comes off looking more like a paid vacation to exotic locales. [emphasis added]
Funny how a paid vacation can make a typical Republican care about an issue they've never expressed any interest in before.
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