It’s time to put out the trash from all the Christmas wrappings and give the kitchen a final clean-up. Or you can let that go for a little while and do some reading.
Even if you’re trying to forget this year’s news, this quiz should be relatively painless. It’s a test of how much trivia you accumulated — or at least, how good you are at guessing. Happy News Year.
For most politicians, fundraising is a dreaded chore. But until recently, Rep. John T. Doolittle of California and other members of the House Republican leadership had adopted a painless solution: fundraising events in luxury sports boxes leased largely with the money of Indian gaming tribes, where supporters snacked on catered fare in plush surroundings as they watched the Wizards, Caps, Redskins or Orioles.
Doolittle, a Mormon, is an ardent opponent of casino gambling, so it is somewhat ironic that he would invite supporters to watch the Wizards play the Sacramento Kings from an MCI Center suite paid for by casino-rich Indian tribes. But the plaque at the door to Suite 204 did not say Chitimacha or Choctaw. It said “Jack Abramoff,” a name synonymous with largesse and influence in the GOP-controlled Congress.
Until the power lobbyist’s downfall this year, Abramoff spent about $1 million annually in funds largely provided by his tribal clients to lease four skyboxes — two at FedEx Field and one each at MCI Center and Camden Yards. Season after season, he kept them brimming with lawmakers, staffers and their guests, part of a multimillion-dollar congressional care and feeding project that even the brashest K Street lobbyists could only watch with awe or envy.
Federal investigators are examining tens of millions of dollars in lobbying and public relations fees Abramoff obtained from the tribes. They are also looking into his dealings with members of Congress and their staffs, lawyers involved in the inquiry said. Senior prosecutors in the Justice Department’s fraud and public integrity sections are poring over hundreds of thousands of e-mails, computer files and bank records subpoenaed from Abramoff and former associates, including records of campaign contributions and trips, meals and gifts such as the use of skyboxes that Abramoff lavished on members of Congress.
Abramoff, once one of the most powerful lobbyists in Washington, was forced to resign from Greenberg Traurig after disclosures earlier this year about the lobbying and public relations fees he and an associate charged a group of Indian tribes. The Senate Indian Affairs committee has tallied fees from six tribes that total $82 million over a three-year period.
Abramoff’s most powerful ally on the Hill, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), another gaming opponent, held a fundraiser in the MCI Center box for the performance of the Three Tenors on May 7, 2000, according to the list of events maintained in Abramoff’s office. The list also shows he held an event in a box at FedEx Field on Sept. 18, 2000.
DeLay spokesman Stuart Roy said that DeLay’s fundraising aides remember sending out invitations for the Three Tenors event to reward donors and that the event probably occurred. There was no obligation to report the use of the box under federal law, he said, because the site was used for an event that benefited DeLay’s state political action committee.
Fundraising events were held at only a fraction of the many games at the three venues. The rest of the time, the boxes were filled with Abramoff’s lobbyists and congressional staffers they sought to cultivate. Members of his lobbying team typically carried around wads of tickets to dole out to Hill aides.
Abramoff not only lobbied staffers, he regularly hired them. Three former aides to DeLay worked as lobbyists for Abramoff at Greenberg Traurig: former deputy chiefs of staff Tony Rudy and Bill Jarrell; and former DeLay spokesman Michael Scanlon, who formed a public relations company that worked in tandem with Abramoff.
Other Hill veterans joined Abramoff’s lobbying team and entertained their former congressional colleagues in the skyboxes, including former aides for Doolittle, Sens. Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), John Breaux (D-La.) and Conrad Burns (R-Mont.), and Young, the representative from Alaska.
I think it would be a really good start to the new year and the Bush administration’s new term if we had a nice juicy scandal to kick it off.
Football: The Dolphins have hired Lou Saban as their new head coach after Mr. Saban did an audition including a scene from Hamlet. Tonight the Dolphins play the Cleveland Browns. Sorry, NTodd, I go with the ‘Fins. The Lions play the Bears; no idea.
It’s going to be a warm and windy day here in South Florida, so between the puzzle, football, and episodes of M*A*S*H from my growing collection of DVD’s, I’ll have plenty to do.