Saturday, December 17, 2005

Lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who is under investigation for fraud and corruption of public officials, paid columnists to write editorials favorable to his clients.

One columnist, Doug Bandow, was a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, a Washington-based libertarian research group. Cato accepted Mr. Bandow’s resignation yesterday after learning that he took money from Mr. Abramoff. Business Week Online reported that Mr. Bandow received as much as $2,000 per column.

“Within 48 hours of the allegation and us determining the accuracy, we acted,” said Jamie Dettmer, communications director at Cato. “We considered it inappropriate. Doug acknowledged that in retrospect it was a lapse in judgment.”

Mr. Bandow didn’t respond to telephone messages seeking comment. Peter Ferrara, a senior policy adviser at the Institute for Policy Innovation, who Business Week said also took money from Mr. Abramoff, also didn’t comment.

Mr. Bandow’s syndicated column and Mr. Ferrara’s freelance op-ed column have occasionally appeared in The Washington Times. “We have never knowingly published such ‘paid-for commentary,’ ” Wesley Pruden, editor in chief of The Times, said last night. “Inadvertent it was, but we regret this abuse of our readers. We have taken steps to see that it does not happen again.”

Until two years ago, Mr. Abramoff was a leading Republican lobbyist with extensive ties to lawmakers, including former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas. He is now under investigation for purportedly bilking Indian tribal clients out of millions of dollars and trying to influence lawmakers. He’s facing a separate indictment in Florida for fraud in connection with a business deal.

Mr. Bandow took money from Mr. Abramoff and wrote between 12 and 24 articles for him starting in the mid-1990s, according to Business Week. Mr. Abramoff provided the topics and information so Mr. Bandow could write the editorials. They included a favorable piece on the Mississippi Choctaw tribe, an Abramoff client, the magazine said.

“Doug didn’t change his opinions,” Mr. Dettmer said. “He was writing what he would have written anyway.” He added, “We are confident that no one else within the institute has done anything like this.”

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