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Corruption Chronicles

Top Congressional Aide Guilty In Lobbying Scandal

Another top congressional aide has pleaded guilty in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal, marking the 13th conviction of a lawmaker, congressional staff member or Bush Administration official associated with the jailed lobbyist.

John Albaugh, a longtime senior staff member to Oklahoma Representative Ernest Istook, pleaded guilty this week to federal conspiracy for accepting gifts—dinners, drinks, thousands of dollars worth of sporting event and concert tickets and campaign contributions—from Abramoff who was seeking specific transportation legislation from Congress. Albaugh faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Abramoff pleaded guilty in 2006 to showering lawmakers and members of their staff with upscale European vacations, sports and entertainment tickets, expensive meals and other pricey gifts in exchange for special favors. The Republican lobbyist raked in millions of dollars by selling his Washington connections to wealthy Native American groups seeking to gain influence in the capital.

Among those busted for taking bribes from Abramoff are a pair of high-ranking Justice Department officials (Deputy Chief of Staff Robert Coughlin and Sue Ellen Wooldridge, a top environmental prosecutor), a congressman (Bob Ney of Ohio) and a Deputy Interior Secretary (Steven Griles). Numerous other prominent politicians and top Washington aides remain under investigation in the ongoing corruption scandal.

Although the media coverage has focused on Republicans’ involvement with Abramoff, many Democrats also have strong ties to the once-powerful lobbyist. In fact, Indian tribes that Abramoff lobbied for contributed about $1.5 million to Democrats since the 2000 election and most have refused to part with the money. Among them are Nevada Senator Harry Reid ($60,000 from Abramoff clients), Washington Senator Patty Murray ($41,000) and Rhode Island Representative Patrick Kennedy ($42,500).

Reid, the Senate Majority Leader, offered an interesting explanation for refusing to return the likely tainted money from Abramoff-connected sources. He said, through a top aide, that “Abramoff was a Republican operative and this is a Republican scandal.”


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