Sunday, November 27, 2005

Venal Sins

One of the biggest stories of 2005 (excluding the Iraqi war and all its subsets) has been the Fitzgerald investigation into the outing of Valerie Plame and the subsequent indictment of the Vice President's chief of staff, I. Lewis Libby. That investigation continues, and another indictment may issue this year.

There is another story brewing, however, one that may surpass the Plame story in both ink and importance: the investigation into bribery and corruption involving lobbyist Jack Abramoff and members of Congress. The Washington Post had a story yesterday that provides a nice summary of that investigation.

The Justice Department's wide-ranging investigation of former lobbyist Jack Abramoff has entered a highly active phase as prosecutors are beginning to move on evidence pointing to possible corruption in Congress and executive branch agencies, lawyers involved in the case said.

Prosecutors have already told one lawmaker, Rep. Robert W. Ney (R-Ohio), and his former chief of staff that they are preparing a possible bribery case against them, according to two sources knowledgeable about the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The 35 to 40 investigators and prosecutors on the Abramoff case are focused on at least half a dozen members of Congress, lawyers and others close to the probe said. The investigators are looking at payments made by Abramoff and his colleagues to the wives of some lawmakers and at actions taken by senior Capitol Hill aides, some of whom went to work for Abramoff at the law firm Greenberg Traurig LLP, lawyers and others familiar with the probe said.

Former House majority leader Tom DeLay (R), now facing separate campaign finance charges in his home state of Texas, is one of the members under scrutiny, the sources said. Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.), Rep. John T. Doolittle (R-Calif.) and other members of Congress involved with Indian affairs, one of Abramoff's key areas of interest, are also said to be among them.

The Justice Department investigation is also looking into Abramoff's influence among executive branch officials. Sources said prosecutors are continuing to seek information about Abramoff's dealings with then-Deputy Interior Secretary J. Steven Griles, including a job offer from the lobbyist at a time when he was seeking department actions on behalf of his tribal clients.

The former top procurement official in the Bush administration, David H. Safavian, has already been charged with lying and obstruction of justice in connection with the Abramoff investigation. Safavian, who traveled to Scotland with Ney on a golf outing arranged by Abramoff, is accused of concealing from federal investigators that Abramoff was seeking to do business with the General Services Administration at the time of the golf trip. Safavian was then GSA chief of staff.
[Emphasis added]

That the scandal has reached into both Congress and the Administration is depressing, if not surprising. Money for access is apparently the most important element in governance these days, and apparently officials in Washington are even willing to involve their spouses in the subterfuge that accompanies the wheeling and dealing.



Blogger charley said...

or as josh marshall called it, a giant slush fund.


if the truth is fully revealed, nixon will look a lot better in history. least he won't be the worst of the worse.

6:02 AM  

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