- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 13, 2005

Democrats have started using the indictment of lobbyist Jack Abramoff to raise money and go after Republicans.

“Republicans in power know they’re in trouble when C-SPAN looks like an episode of ‘The Sopranos,’” said Toby Chaudhuri, communications director for the liberal Campaign for America’s Future. “We’re working hard to inform the public that honest working people are paying more at the pump and at the pharmacy because these congressmen are abusing their power with corporate lobbyists.”

He said congressmen such as House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Texas Republican, and Rep. Bob Ney, Ohio Republican, “are caught in a web of corruption.”

Mr. Abramoff and his business partner, Adam Kidan, were indicted by a grand jury in Florida on Thursday on fraud charges relating to their attempt to purchase a casino cruise ship company in 2000.

Mr. DeLay took a golfing trip to London and Scotland in 2000 that was charged on Mr. Abramoff’s credit card. Allowing lobbyists to pay for the travel of members of Congress is against House rules, but Mr. DeLay said he thought the nonprofit sponsor of the trip legally paid for it.

The House ethics committee is expected to convene in the coming months to take up the DeLay case and other matters. DeLay spokesman Kevin Madden said the majority leader looks forward to the committee’s scrutiny.

“He welcomes an examination of the facts because he knows that he will be exonerated,” Mr. Madden said. “He didn’t break any rules.”

Federal investigators also are looking into whether Mr. Abramoff, whom Mr. DeLay has called one of his “closest and dearest friends,” is involved in a scheme to defraud Indian-tribe clients. The case in Florida involves the purchase of SunCruz Casino Ltd. in 2000, in which Mr. Abramoff and Mr. Kidan purportedly lied to creditors about contributing $20 million in cash to close the deal.

The man who sold the company, Konstantinos “Gus” Boulis, was expected to be a key witness in the case, but he was shot in a drive-by-style killing in February 2001 that has yet to be solved.

Mr. Ney condemned the business practices of Mr. Boulis in the Congressional Record before the sale and praised Mr. Kidan when it was completed. Mr. Kidan has “a renowned reputation for honesty and integrity,” Mr. Ney said on Oct. 26, 2000, adding that “he is also well-known as a solid individual and respected member of this community.”

Mr. Ney’s spokesman, Brian Walsh, said federal investigators never contacted the congressman during their investigation of the fraud case.

“This has been out there for four years,” Mr. Walsh said. “The Congressional Record story was reported as far back as 2001. The Democrats can try to spin this as news, but it doesn’t make it so.”

Democrats also have tried to loop the scandal around Sen. Conrad Burns, Montana Republican, who is up for re-election next year.

The Democratic Senate Campaign Committee released a fundraising letter Friday claiming that Mr. Burns has “received more campaign cash from recently indicted Tom DeLay disciple Jack Abramoff and his associates than any other senator.” The letter also praised donors for helping to fund an ad about the claims on TV stations in Montana.

Jennifer Crider, spokeswoman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, said the indictment of Mr. Abramoff “just underscores the seriousness of the ethics issues that are out there” against Mr. DeLay.

“There’s a lot of smoke,” she said. “There appears to be fire. We’ll see how the investigations develop.”

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