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Monday, February 25, 2008
 
Desperately Seeking Abramoff

Here's a little bit of sleight of hand from Sam Stein at the Huffpo:

In the 2006 Senate report concerning Abramoff's activities, which McCain spearheaded, the Arizona Republican conspicuously left out information detailing how Alabama Gov. Bob Riley was targeted by Abramoff's influence peddling scheme. Riley, a Republican, won election in November 2002, and was reelected in 2006.

In a December 2002 email obtained by the Huffington Post -- which McCain and his staff had access to prior to the issuance of his report -- Abramoff explains to an aide what he would like to see Riley do in return for the "help" he received from Abramoff's tribal clients.

An official with the Mississippi Choctaws "definitely wants Riley to shut down the Poarch Creek operation," Abramoff wrote, "including his announcing that anyone caught gambling there can't qualify for a state contract or something like that."

The note showed not only the reach of Abramoff, but raised questions about Riley's victory in what was the closest gubernatorial election in Alabama history.

(Snip)

Siegelman soldiered on after the 2002 loss, running again for governor against Riley in 2006. By then, the extent of Riley's connection to Abramoff was still unknown. Moreover, Siegelman was still under investigation for allegations of bribery. The inquiry, detailed in an extensive 60 Minutes report last night, raised many ethical red flags, mainly over political interference from the Bush administration, specifically Karl Rove. On June 22, McCain issued his Senate report without mentioning Riley's name. And one week later, Siegelman was convicted without the Abramoff email ever being made public.


Okay, so the chronology is screwed up here, apparently intentionally as we shall see, to make the tale look stronger than it is. Let's really look at the facts:

November 2002: Riley is elected Governor of Alabama in the narrowest election for that office ever (Riley won by 0.2 percentage points).
December 2002: Abramoff writes email to "aide". Note that Stein does not say whose aide.
2006: Seigelman "soldiered on". Until he was defeated in the Democratic primaries by Lucy Baxley, 60%-35%. Siegelman is convicted of corruption charges and is currently serving seven years on those charges.

The claim that Stein appears to be making is that Riley opposed gambling in Alabama (true) and that Abramoff's client opposed one particular tribe in that state from offering gambling (true) and that therefore the email (which we later find out was to an Abramoff aide and not to a Riley aide) showed that Abramoff had influence with Riley, even though this was a position that Riley had taken years earlier:

Riley had previously opposed gambling in the state. In the late 1990s, he signed a fundraising letter lobbying against the building of a casino within Alabama. "We need your help today," the letter, which reflected another Abramoff objective, read, "to prevent the Poarch Creek Indians from building casinos in Alabama."


The post also makes a nutty claim about the amount donated by the Mississippi Choctaws:

There was a brief footnote in the report that quoted William Worfel, former vice chairman of the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana, saying that Abramoff told the chief of a Mississippi tribe to spend $13 million "to get the governor of Alabama elected to keep gaming out of Alabama so it wouldn't hurt ... his market in Mississippi."


Um, $13 million? That's a joke. The Mississippi Choctaws donated a total of about $1.3 million to political candidates and PACs from 1992-2006, and about a third of that was to the Democrats. He's way off base, there.

Let me remind those who wonder whether I know about the Jack Abramoff story, that I forced (with great assistance from Donald Luskin) the retraction of a Paul Krugman column in the New York Times and a related article in the American Prospect on the subject of the Abramoff story.

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