Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
February 9, 2006
POLITICS: The Trouble With Harry

If Harry Reid wants to make favors for Jack Abramoff an issue, bring it on:

Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid wrote at least four letters helpful to Indian tribes represented by Jack Abramoff, and the senator's staff regularly had contact with the disgraced lobbyist's team about legislation affecting other clients.

The activities - detailed in billing records and correspondence obtained by The Associated Press - are far more extensive than previously disclosed. They occurred over three years as Reid collected nearly $68,000 in donations from Abramoff's firm, lobbying partners and clients.

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Abramoff's records show his lobbying partners billed for nearly two dozen phone contacts or meetings with Reid's office in 2001 alone.

Most were to discuss Democratic legislation that would have applied the U.S. minimum wage to the Northern Mariana Islands, a U.S. territory and Abramoff client, but would have given the islands a temporary break on the wage rate, the billing records show.

Reid also intervened on government matters at least five times in ways helpful to Abramoff's tribal clients, once opposing legislation on the Senate floor and four times sending letters pressing the Bush administration on tribal issues. Reid collected donations around the time of each action.

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Abramoff's firm also hired one of Reid's top legislative aides as a lobbyist. The aide later helped throw a fundraiser for Reid at Abramoff's firm that raised donations from several of his lobbying partners.

And Reid's longtime chief of staff accepted a free trip to Malaysia arranged by a consulting firm connected to Abramoff that recently has gained attention in the influence-peddling investigation that has gripped the Capitol.

There's more; read the whole thing. Is all of this the end of the world? No. But it certainly shows that Reid was every bit as much in bed with Abramoff, and maybe moreso, than many of the Republicans he is criticizing, and as such his ties to Abramoff will become a major liability to the Democrats' need to make the Abramoff issue a campaign theme this fall (as Reid himself has signalled it will be their main theme, if not their only theme). If there's nothing wrong with what Harry Reid did - a position Democrats will need to take if they don't want to throw their own leader under the bus - then the bar for a Republican scandal over ties to Abramoff will have to be set pretty high.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 4:03 PM | Politics 2006 | Comments (13) | TrackBack (0)
Comments

Remember when there was a hint of scandal and a politician was even slightly implicated, they disappeared. They weren't on TV, radio, quoted in teh paper or seen in public. Oh for the good old days.

Posted by: maddirishman at February 9, 2006 4:21 PM

oh come on. first of all, this is old, old news and reid has already addressed it. second, lobbying meetings are not illegal. third, abramoff pleaded guilty to defrauding the indian tribes. he was screwing them over. they were not in cahoots with abramoff. the CoS malaysia trip was cleared by the senate ethics committee.

where's the scandal here, again? reid provided no service to abramoff in exchange for money. reid did nothing in response to any direction from abramoff. the tribes sent less money to reid after abramoff took over working for them anyway. There's no story here crank.

Posted by: kevin at February 9, 2006 4:48 PM

how does it show that reid was in bed with abramoff again? because reid helped an abramoff client, one that abramoff was screwing over?

hmm. face it, its a republican scandal. stop defending crooks and clean up the republican side of the aisle. if there's corrupt democrats, they need to go too, but this isn't evidence of it.

Posted by: kevin at February 9, 2006 4:54 PM

Ooo! Ooo! Does that mean that Howard Dean was lying when he said that Democrats hadn't done anything for Abramoff's clients?

BTW, I'm afraid that some of the previous commentors need to read the whole article. Reid contacts with the Abramoff organization and their interactions at least raise the appearance of impropriety.

Posted by: Strick at February 9, 2006 5:28 PM

i read it. I saw no impropriety there. Are we assuming that Abramoff was hired as a lobbyist, and then NEVER did his actual job? No! He probably did many legal functions in his job position. Sometimes, his firm lobbied democrats. somtimes, republicans. That is legal and not the issue. Jack Abramoff directed nearly $3M from his clients in legal political contributions to both parties. Jack Abramoff charged nearly $100M in consulting fees to his clients and funnelled it all to Republicans. That's the issue!

Posted by: kevin at February 9, 2006 6:14 PM

additionally reid didnt take the abramoff position on any votes. so obviously abramoff wasn't paying reid to do anything. no quid pro quo.

from elsewhere, but highly relevant:
Abramoff is a convicted criminal. He pled guilty, in Federal courts, to the following:

* Defrauding the Indian Tribes
* Tax evasion
* Conspiracy to bribe a Congressman (Bob Ney) with material gifts and lavish trips
* Bank fraud in the purchase of the SunCruz casino deal

Now, looking at this article, how is Harry Reid implicated in any of these charges? He wasn't.

Posted by: kevin at February 9, 2006 6:30 PM

Kevin, I see you picked up the MyDD talking points.

Just one request: apply the same test to any Republican before complaining about their ties to Abramoff. That's precisely my point: Reid's ties to Abramoff have raised the bar for GOP scandals, thus complicating Democrats' ability to paint with a broad brush.

Posted by: The Crank at February 9, 2006 6:49 PM

One thing that Ralph Nader ahd right. They are really all the same. That includes Ralphie himself.

Anyone here ever see the Eddie Mruphy movie, The Distinguished Gentleman? Very funny, all about congressional con games, and sadly, very believable.

Posted by: Daryl Rosenblatt at February 9, 2006 7:37 PM

So the Democrats are just as dishonest at the Republicans? Is that what you are trying to say?

Posted by: BN at February 10, 2006 8:38 AM

Can you show us an instance where Abramoff EVER directed money to a Democrat, Crank? Seriously. He was a hard-core Republican operative working to cement the Republican strangle-hold on Congress and the lobbying world. Abramoff's whole mission was a scorched earth policy towards Democrats.

The fact that some of his clients might have hedged and given a small fraction of money to Democrats on their own does not in any way put Reid "every bit as much in bed with Abramoff", or, frankly, any other Democrat.

In particular, on the Marianas topic, Reid not only didn't vote for Abramoff's position, he co-sponsored against it.

Posted by: Mr Furious at February 10, 2006 10:53 AM

Abramoff ripped off the Indian Tribes worse than anyone else. He blew through hundreds of millions fo their dollars and insulted them in emails to others while he was doing it.

So if these vicitimized clients also gave money to Democrats, what's the relavence?

Meanwhile, Abramoff traces his roots as a loyal Republican back to 1980, when he took not a small amount of credit for delivering Massachusetts to Reagan.

To paint this as a bi-partisan scandal is a JOKE!!

Posted by: patrick at February 10, 2006 1:22 PM

I agree, this really isn't that big a deal, however.......if the name in the article was changed from 'Reid' to "Frist', Hastert' or 'Hatch' does anybody doubt this story then becomes much bigger?
If Senator Reid wasn't such a sanctimonius prig about all of this then this story just wouldn't resonate with so much of us.....but he is so it does; even if we don't find it dispositive as to actual wrongdoing.

Posted by: Maryland Conservatarian at February 10, 2006 3:17 PM

You will note, of course, that at least in the case of the MArianis Island, Reid was a co-sponsor of the bill Abramoff was trying to defeat and Reid voted for the bill.

Posted by: none at February 11, 2006 7:59 PM
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