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Wednesday, February 22, 2006
Taking Another Whack At Jack

I've been trying to get a handle on this American Prospect article, which supposedly proved that the Democrats didn't know Jack (Abramoff). I stand by 90% of what I wrote here; the only thing I would change is I would soften the comments about 2004, since many of the tribes fired Abramoff before that election was over.

Part of the problem with analyzing this article is that the analysis by the writer, Greg Sargent, is so shoddy that it's hard to recreate his work. To give a quick example, here's what he says about one of the Indian tribes which Abramoff lobbied for:

7) Tribe: Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians
Pre-Abramoff contributions to Dems (1991 - 1995): $4,600
Pre-Abramoff contributions to GOP (1991 - 1995): $31,000
Post-Abramoff contributions to Dems (1995 - 2004): $409,273
Post-Abramoff contributions to GOP (1995 - 2004): $884,927

Okay, so we go to the spreadsheet that Sargent linked in his piece, and we find the following amounts were donated to the Republican Party by this band by election cycle:

1992: $0
1994: $0
1996: $1,200

So where does he get the notion that from 1991-1995, that the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians donated $31,000 to the GOP? Remember the 1992 election cycle includes contributions made in 1991.

In those same election cycles, the spreadsheet notes that the Mississippi Choctaw band donated the following amounts to Democrats:

1992: $500
1994: $2,000
1996: $12,500

That's a total of $15,000; whence comes Sargent's $4,600 figure? It's possible that the Mississippi Choctaw donated $2,100 to Dems in 1995 prior to hiring Abramoff, then jacked that up to $10,400 in 1996, but you can see the problem with that; it doesn't fit the narrative that once Abramoff came along the Democrats received reduced funding.

So I thought I'd come at the story from a different angle. Rather than try to figure out where Sargent derived his numbers, I'd look at those numbers and see if they were backed up at Open Secrets. The good news is that they have very good information on the tribes who were Abramoff clients very well organized, the bad news is that they don't have all the prior donations by those tribes. They also treat the post-Abramoff donations in 2004 differently than did the American Prospect.

They confirm the general outlines of Monday's post; that far from declining, donations to Democrats from Abramoff's clients soared in 2002 and 2004:

2000: $73,000
2002: $427,730
2004: $622,603

So I think we can dispense with the notion that the Democrats saw their donations decline or remain static when Abramoff began representing these Indian tribes. And since that is the thrust of Sargent's article (and what liberal bloggers and Paul Krugman took from it), I think my point is proven.
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