Abramoff Report Issued ... Trouble for Reed and Ney?
The Senate Indian Affairs Committee released its report [PDF] yesterday on the sordid tale of the Jack Abramoff-run operation to bilk several Indian tribes out of millions of dollars ($80 million, give or take). The 357-page tome, backed by more than a thousand additional pages of emails and financial statements, has been in the works for almost two years - and it could spell serious trouble for GA Lt. Gov. candidate and former Christian Coalition poster-child Ralph Reed as well as former House Resources Committee chairman Rep. Bob Ney.
Interestingly, the major papers each "pick a target" in their coverage of the report: the NYTimes focuses on the $5.3 million payoffs made to Ralph Reed, who is "depicted as having used his contacts among conservative Christian groups in the South and Southwest beginning in the late 1990's to block the opening or expansion of casinos that might compete with the gambling operations of Mr. Abramoff's clients." Reed said yesterday "The report confirms that I have not been accused of any wrongdoing," adding "... it is now clear with the benefit of hindsight that this is a piece of business I should have declined." While Reed may not be in legal jeopardy, having his relationship with Abramoff so thoroughly detailed could be (and one hopes would be) a major political liability.
While the Times article mentions Ney, the main coverage of his role in the Abramoff ring comes from the Washington Post; their report today is headlined "Senators' Report on Abramoff Case Disputes Rep. Ney." Ney told committee staff in the fall of 2004 that he "'was not at all familiar with the Tigua', and could not recall meeting with members of the tribe, the report said." Later testimony from tribal representatives revealed that at a meeting in Ney's office in 2002, the congressman had "assured them he was working to insert language that would reopen their casino into an unrelated election reform bill." Ney says that when he was asked, he didn't recognize the name of the tribe.
The report also notes that Abramoff attempted to stifle the investigation by the Indian Affairs Committee; a Choctaw representative "told the committee that 'Abramoff asked me if I would ask the Chief to approach Sen. McCain and suggest that each of the tribes, since they had their own police departments and courts, conduct their own internal investigations.'"
An important report at the end of a key investigation, issued by a committee which has managed to work without partisan rancor and come to a good conclusion. Imagine that.