The musings of one Andrew Langer - defender of liberty, passionate protector of individual rights, foodie. (Note: Said Musings of Andrew Langer are his own, and the views represented herein are likewise his views, and not the views of any other people, entities, foodstuffs, etc [unless otherwise specifically and explicitly noted].)

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

No Hypocrisy Here, Eh Senator Dorgan?

Those of you who know me know that there are two things in life that I cannot stand: bullies and hypocrites. I have a special disdain for hypocritical bullies (or bullying hypocrites) – those who attempt to throw their weight around despite the clear double-standards that this might uncover. This held true when I was writing on Usenet, where bullying by hypocrites seems to run rampant, and it holds true today, in the real world.

Today, I’d like to turn to Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND). The good senator joined with his colleague, Senator McCain, in attempting to expose corruption in Washington, DC, though a series of hearings investigating the activities of superlobbyist Jack Abramoff. Senator Dorgan expressed incredulity that Italia Federici, President of the Coalition of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy, could have received monies from Jack Abramoff and his clients in return for nothing.

I'll say nothing more, except to offer a story from the AP (and the Grand Forks Herald), which states that Senator Dorgan apparently received some $95,000 from Abramoff and his clients - something not disclosed before the hearings:

Posted on Fri, Nov. 25, 2005

WASHINGTON: Tribes obtain school dollarsLawmakers helped Abramoff-aided tribes get money, collected donationsBy John Solomon and Sharon TheimerAssociated Press
WASHINGTON - More than a dozen members of Congress intervened to help Indian tribes win federal school construction money while accepting political donations from the tribes, their lobbyist Jack Abramoff or his firm.

The lawmakers hailed from both parties, including House Appropriations subcommittee Chairman Charles Taylor, R-N.C., and Sen. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, the top Democrat on the Senate committee currently investigating Abramoff.

Most wrote letters that pressed a reluctant Bush administration to renew a program that provided tribes federal money for building schools. Others worked the congressional budget process to ensure it happened, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.
And most received donations, ranging from $1,000 to more than $74,000, in the weeks just before or after their intervention. One used Abramoff's restaurant for a fund-raiser a month after a letter.

As a group, they collected more than $440,000 from Abramoff, his firm or his tribal clients between 2001 and 2004, when Abramoff represented the tribes.

In Washington, special interests with business before Congress commonly provide donations to lawmakers as they lobby.

But ethics rules require lawmakers to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest while performing official duties, a requirement that became famous a decade ago during the Keating Five scandal when several got in trouble for pressuring regulators on behalf of Charles Keating while taking donations from the savings and loan operator.

Lawmakers said their letters had nothing to do with Abramoff and instead were prompted by their desire to keep the government's Indian school building program alive so tribes in their own states might one day benefit. The timing of donations, they said, were a coincidence.

"It really had nothing to do with Jack Abramoff. Senator Dorgan had a personal interest in the program and how it benefits tribes at large and the Three Affiliated Tribes in his state," Dorgan chief of staff Bernie Toon said, echoing comments from many lawmakers.

A former federal prosecutor said the size of the donations and their close proximity to official actions could impact the current Justice Department investigation of Abramoff. The lobbyist has been charged with fraud in a Florida case, and an associate has pleaded guilty in Washington and is cooperating with investigators.

Dorgan, along with Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont., signed a Feb. 11, 2002, letter asking the Senate Appropriations Committee for a "long-term extension" of funding for the Indian school building program.

One of Abramoff's client tribes, the Mississippi Choctaw, was using the program, and his team was lobbying furiously to extend it for other tribal clients, including the Saginaw Chippewa of Michigan. The Saginaw prevailed the next year. The Burns-Dorgan letter specifically mentions the Choctaw.

Nine days later, Dorgan's campaign got $2,000 from the Choctaw, and by late spring had received $17,000 more from three other Abramoff tribes and his firm. In all, Dorgan got nearly $95,000 in Abramoff-related money between 2001 and 2004.

Asked whether Dorgan should have disqualified himself from the Senate investigation of Abramoff, Toon said the senator had pursued the investigation in an "aggressive and bipartisan way" and didn't need to step aside.

Burns also benefited handsomely. In the quarter he sent the 2002 letter with Dorgan, Burns collected $70,000 in Abramoff tribal donations to one of his political groups, Friends of the Big Sky PAC, and an additional $2,000 to his campaign.

© 2005 Grand Forks Herald and wire service sources

Begs a few questions, doesn't it?

- Andrew Langer


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