- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Former lobbyist Jack Abramoff reported to a federal prison in Maryland yesterday to begin a six-year sentence for conspiracy and fraud, amid revelations that he gave prosecutors incriminating information on “dozens of members of Congress and staff.”

Abramoff, 47, showed up at the minimum-security Federal Prison Camp west of Cumberland, at about 6:30 a.m., after sending family and friends an e-mail saying, “This nightmare has gone on for almost three years so far and I expect we are not even half way through.”

ABC News reported this week that the former Washington, D.C., power broker has been cooperating with Justice Department prosecutors in an investigation of influence peddling on Capitol Hill, which has focused on “six to eight seriously corrupt senators” — including Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, the incoming Senate majority leader, and Conrad Burns, Montana Republican.

In January, The Washington Times reported that the Justice Department probe had focused on a “first tier” of lawmakers and staff members, both Republicans and Democrats, including Mr. Reid and Mr. Burns, along with Sen. Byron L. Dorgan, North Dakota Democrat, and Reps. J.D. Hayworth, Arizona Republican, and Bob Ney, Ohio Republican.

A source with first-hand knowledge of the near-daily meetings between Abramoff and prosecutors told The Times that the former lobbyist was being questioned about any ties the lawmakers had to him and his former clients. The source said prosecutors wanted to know whether the lawmakers performed “official acts” in exchange for campaign cash or other favors.

All of the lawmakers identified by The Times as part of the preliminary inquiry vigorously denied any wrongdoing involving Abramoff and his clients. Ney has since entered a guilty plea to charges of conspiracy and making false statements in his acceptance of thousands of dollars worth of travel, meals, drinks and tickets to sporting and other events from Abramoff in exchange for legislative favors.

Ney, who served as chairman of the House Administration Committee, faces 10 years in prison at a sentencing set for Jan. 19. He resigned from Congress on Nov. 2.

Mr. Burns was defeated in his re-election bid in Montana, conceding to Democratic challenger Jon Tester, and Mr. Hayworth has congratulated his Democratic challenger, Harry Mitchell, on what he described as Mr. Mitchell’s likely victory in Arizona’s 5th Congressional District race, where a recount was ordered.

Mr. Dorgan, who will take over as chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, has been re-elected as chairman of the Senate Democratic Policy Committee.

While Ney is the only member of Congress named so far in the federal probe, the investigation also has resulted in charges against Ney’s former chief of staff and two staff aides to former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, along with a former Bush administration official.

Abramoff pleaded guilty in federal court in Washington on Jan. 3 to conspiracy, tax evasion and fraud in a Miami scheme involving what he described as the “corruption of public officials.” He told a federal judge he raised campaign cash, funded trips and gave other items to lawmakers “in exchange for certain official acts.”

Seeking to reduce a 30-year prison sentence to 9 years, he agreed with prosecutors to cooperate fully in the government’s ongoing influence-peddling investigation. Prosecutors seized his computer hard drive and have been reviewing nearly 500,000 e-mails. He has yet to be sentenced in that case.

Abramoff also pleaded guilty in the Miami case, admitting to a separate scheme to purchase 200 casino boats. He said in court he and a partner faked a $23 million wire transfer in a $147.5 million deal to purchase the boats. His incarceration in Maryland had been sought by prosecutors, who will continue to interview him about their ongoing case, the source said.

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