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Republican Corruption Scandal Friday: Take Yer Pick

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From left to right, convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff, golf organizer Jason Murdoch, former Christian Coalition leader Ralph Reed, former Bush administration official David Safavian and Rep. Bob Ney, R-OH.  From the Canton Rep.

Republican Representative Bob Ney pleaded guilty today:

Rep. Bob Ney pleaded guilty Friday to bribery charges in the Jack Abramoff influence-peddling scandal.

Ney, an Ohio Republican in his sixth term, faces up to 10 years in prison in a scandal that has tainted the White House as well as Capitol Hill.

With Republicans reeling from the House page scandal, the Abramoff investigation and growing public discontent over President Bush's handling of the Iraq war, some of Ney's House colleagues are threatening to push for his expulsion if he does not resign.

Ney signed papers a month ago admitting to charges of conspiracy and making false statements. He also acknowledged that he had deprived the public of his honest services….

Ney's former chief of staff Neil Volz, who left Capitol Hill to work with Abramoff, pleaded guilty in May to charges that he conspired to corrupt his former boss and others.

Two former aides to former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, also have pleaded guilty to their roles in the conspiracy. Abramoff also has pleaded guilty. All have been cooperating with federal prosecutors.

Ney's court appearance comes two weeks after it was revealed that Abramoff's lobbying team had 485 contacts in three years with White House aides. The tally by a House committee was based on records House investigators obtained from 13 of 24 Abramoff clients.

A week ago, a top aide to White House political adviser Karl Rove resigned amid questions over her links to Abramoff. Susan Ralston left after the House committee reported that she apparently accepted tickets to sporting events from Abramoff without reimbursing him.

In June, former White House official David Safavian, who had been the Bush administration's top procurement official, was convicted of covering up his dealings with Abramoff. He is scheduled for sentencing on October 27.

Quite the tally of corruption isn't it? And the investigation is not nearly finished into Abramoff's network of Republican officials and KStreet cronies.  Ney is reportedly considering resigning in disgrace from Congress as well.

That includes evidence that has just been unveiled about several Republican-leaning "non-profit" organizations — including Grover Norquist's pet group — perpetrated a fraud on the public by peddling their groups' influence to Abramoff in exchange for cash:

Five conservative nonprofit organizations, including one run by prominent Republican Grover Norquist, "appear to have perpetrated a fraud" on taxpayers by selling their clout to lobbyist Jack Abramoff, Senate investigators said in a report issued yesterday.

The report includes previously unreleased e-mails between the now-disgraced lobbyist and officers of the nonprofit groups, showing that Abramoff funneled money from his clients to the groups. In exchange, the groups, among other things, produced ostensibly independent newspaper op-ed columns or news releases that favored the clients' positions.

Officers of the groups "were generally available to carry out Mr. Abramoff's requests for help with his clients in exchange for cash payments," said the report, issued by the Senate Finance Committee. The report was written by the Democratic staff after a yearlong investigation and authorized by the Republican chairman, Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa)….

The Senate report released yesterday states that the nonprofit groups probably violated their tax-exempt status "by laundering payments and then disbursing funds at Mr. Abramoff's direction; taking payments in exchange for writing newspaper columns or press releases that put Mr. Abramoff's clients in a favorable light; introducing Mr. Abramoff's clients to government officials in exchange for payment; and agreeing to act as a front organization for congressional trips paid for by Mr. Abramoff's clients."

The report bolstered earlier revelations that Abramoff laundered money through the nonprofits to pay for congressional trips and paid Norquist to arrange meetings for Abramoff's clients with government officials including White House senior adviser Karl Rove.

The groups named in the report are Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform; the Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy, which was co-founded by Norquist and Gale Norton before she became secretary of the interior; Citizens Against Government Waste; the National Center for Public Policy Research, a spinoff of the Heritage Foundation; and Toward Tradition, a Seattle-based religious group founded by Rabbi Daniel Lapin.

E-mails released by the committee show that Abramoff, often with the knowledge of the groups' leaders, exploited the tax-exempt status and leveraged the stature of the organizations to build support among conservatives for legislation or government action sought by clients including Microsoft Corp., mutual fund company DH2 Inc., Primedia Inc.'s Channel One Network, and Brown-Forman, maker of Jack Daniel's whiskey.

Oh, and next time Cleta Mitchell shows up on a talking head gig, could someone please ask her about her legal representation of Norquist's group and its alleged violations of law?

What a mess.

And speaking of messes, George Bush backed his BFF Denny Hastert at last night's Illinois GOP "no accountability gala."  Meanwhile, back in DC, Kirk Fordham testified under oath to the Ethics Committee that he had warned the Speaker's chief of staff back in 2003 regarding serious concerns about former GOP Rep. Mark Foley.

Oh, and did I mention that former Abramoff aide, Susan Ralston, who was placed in her job as Rove's top assistant by Grover Norquist, resigned recently?  Without saying why, other than she didn't want to be a distraction for the White House after revelations that she accepted lots and lots of gifts and freebies from Abramoff while working for Rove in the West Wing under the George Bush Administration?

Had enough?

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Christy Hardin Smith

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy is a "recovering" attorney, who earned her undergraduate degree at Smith College, in American Studies and Government, concentrating in American Foreign Policy. She then went on to graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in the field of political science and international relations/security studies, before attending law school at the College of Law at West Virginia University, where she was Associate Editor of the Law Review. Christy was a partner in her own firm for several years, where she practiced in a number of areas including criminal defense, child abuse and neglect representation, domestic law, civil litigation, and she was an attorney for a small municipality, before switching hats to become a state prosecutor. Christy has extensive trial experience, and has worked for years both in and out of the court system to improve the lives of at risk children.

Email: reddhedd AT firedoglake DOT com

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