Monday, May 02, 2005

Rabbi David Lapin (brother of Daniel) and Toward Tradition director Abramoff take center stage in government corruption scandal.


At 7:41 AM, Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...

Associate of Lobbyist Tied to DeLay Is Questioned on Island Contracts

Published: April 29, 2005

WASHINGTON, April 28 - The government of a United States territory in the Pacific said Thursday that it had been unable to determine what work was performed for a $1.2 million contract awarded to a close associate of a Washington lobbyist at the center of a growing corruption scandal here.

The no-bid contract to promote "ethics in government" was awarded in 1996 to David Lapin, a rabbi whom the lobbyist, Jack Abramoff, later hired to run a private Jewish school, now defunct, near Washington. The contract was one of several totaling about $9 million given to Mr. Abramoff and his associates that have provoked questions about the lobbyist's activities in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

Those activities included a 1998 trip arranged for Representative Tom DeLay, the House majority leader, who is facing ethics questions about his relationship with Mr. Abramoff. Democrats in Congress have also said that two of Mr. DeLay's former staff members improperly influenced island elections in part to assure that Mr. Abramoff continued to win contracts there.

Mr. Lapin's brother, Daniel, a Seattle rabbi who has long promoted conservative causes in Washington, introduced Mr. DeLay and Mr. Abramoff, the lobbyist said, shortly before Republicans gained control of Congress in 1994.

In audits in late 2001, the Marianas government said that it had overpaid for eight years of lobbying contracts with Mr. Abramoff, that he had been paid without a contract in some cases and that it had been difficult to justify his hiring based on his work.

The investigations of Mr. Abramoff in Congress and by a federal grand jury in Washington have looked into accusations of fraud in his dealings with Indian tribes, but two weeks ago, the ranking Democrat on the Congressional committee that oversees the islands demanded that the investigation be expanded to include his work in the Northern Marianas.

The islands, an American commonwealth with a large garment industry that employs mostly Chinese laborers, hired Mr. Abramoff in 1994 to help its government fend off legislation imposing American standards on wages and working conditions. The contract was awarded by Gov. Froilan Tenorio, under fire from the Clinton administration for what it labeled the islands' exploitive labor practices.

The audit, conducted after Mr. Tenorio left office, found that the islands had paid $9.5 million to lobbyists, most of it, $6.7 million, to Preston Gates & Ellis, the lobbying firm where Mr. Abramoff then worked, and $500,000 to the firm Greenberg Traurig for eight months in 2001 after Mr. Abramoff moved there.

In addition, Mr. Abramoff had lobbying contracts with the textile industry trade group there. Supportive columnists with The Saipan Tribune, owned by the owner of the largest garment business in the commonwealth, have said he is a star in Washington because of his prowess in deflecting Congressional efforts to tighten labor laws.

Mr. Abramoff's biggest year, according to the audit, was 1997, when Preston Gates earned $3.1 million from the commonwealth. Around that time, the commonwealth hired David Lapin. The Lapin brothers are from South Africa and met Mr. Abramoff on one of his trips there. Mr. Abramoff later helped Daniel Lapin found Toward Tradition, a Seattle group that describes itself as working "against anti-religion bigotry," and remains a board member.

In a 2002 interview with The New York Times, Mr. Abramoff said he first met Mr. DeLay through Daniel Lapin, who would meet frequently with members of Congress to press conservative causes.

Pam Brown, the attorney general for the Marianas, said Thursday that the government had been unable to determine what work David Lapin had done.

"We haven't been able to figure out what the deliverables were," Ms. Brown said. "He was tasked with providing some sort of ethical parameters for government work. That's all I know at this point. We're more amazed at the cost."

A woman answering the phone at Strategic Business Ethics in California, where Mr. Lapin is chief executive, said Mr. Lapin could not be reached for comment because of the Passover holidays.

Mr. DeLay, whose foreign travel arranged by lobbyists has drawn criticism in Congress for possible ethics violations, visited the Marianas in 1998 with his wife and daughter and three aides. Upon his return, he declared dead a bill that Democrats had hoped to pass raising wages and controlling immigration in the Marianas.

In 1999, Mr. DeLay's former chief of staff, Edwin Buckham, and his former spokesman, Michael Scanlon, both of whom later worked with Mr. Abramoff in his lobbying firm, visited the islands to persuade two local lawmakers to change their votes for speaker of the islands' House of Representatives. The DeLay associates wanted the two legislators to support the candidate of the garment industry, Ben Fitial, who was close to Mr. Abramoff, and promised that federal contracts to the islands would follow if they did.

Mr. Buckham later represented Enron in its bid to build an energy plant in the Northern Marianas, and when Enron lost to a Japanese concern, Mr. DeLay worked to get the bidding reopened.

"For years, Mr. Abramoff lobbied to protect a Marianas industry that exploited tens of thousands of women workers, many of whom were channeled into the island sex trade," said Representative George Miller, the California Democrat who called for the investigation of Mr. Abramoff's work in the Marianas.

He noted the audits and added that newspapers on the islands had reported this week that Mr. Fitial admitted he had won the speakership because of the work by Mr. DeLay's associates. "Given the evidence in the public reports, it's long past time for Congress to investigate allegations of undue influence and corruption," Mr. Miller said.

At 9:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You sure are busy today, JWB!

Playing Post Pesach Rechilus Catchup???

At 9:03 PM, Anonymous Yehuda said...

This scandal is a chillul Hashem, especially as the principals are frumm. America has been good to us Jews, but the core of rotten unethical Jews in business, pornography,popular entertainment, and now government will make us poison in the eyes of the people abd create anti-semitism. It is our children who will pay for the greed and crookedness of a layer of our people. That they are frumm just adds to the nausea.

At 1:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

we need more on the bros Lapin. are they mainsteam??

At 6:31 AM, Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...

I had the following post a few months back:

Rabbi Daniel Lapin - what was the real story with the Pacific Jewish Center, Venice Beach, California?

At 6:40 AM, Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...

I would also note that Rabbi Daniel Lapin taught at Kerem along with:

1) Rabbi Matis Weinberg

2) Rabbi Aron Tendler (Hollywood one/ Rabbi Mordechai Tendler's brother)

At 7:03 AM, Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...

Strategic Business Ethics, Inc.
April 27, 2005
Hoover`s Company Basic Records

Founded in 1989, Strategic Business Ethics offers management consulting with an emphasis on business strategy and ethics.

Company Type: Private

Fiscal Year Ended December

CEO, David Lapin
President, Desi Rosenfield
Business Development, Beckie Ruhren

Business Services

11755 Wilshire Blvd., Ste. 2220
Los Angeles, CA 90025
Los Angeles
United States

At 7:30 PM, Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...

Papers Show Lobbyist Paid for Congressional Travel

Published: May 4, 2005

WASHINGTON, May 3 - Newly disclosed documents from an American territory in the Pacific show that the powerful Washington lobbyist at the center of federal corruption investigations here paid directly for travel to the islands by several members of Congress, Democrat and Republican, as well as two senior aides to Tom DeLay, the House majority leader, despite House rules that bar such payments.

The lobbyist, Jack Abramoff, submitted bills to his law firm for more than $350,000 in expenses for several trips to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands in 1996 and 1997 on behalf of the congressmen, as well as several others including Edwin Buckham, Mr. DeLay's former chief of staff, and Tony Rudy, his former deputy chief of staff.

In letters and e-mail messages to the Marianas, Mr. Abramoff acknowledged that he had paid for the trips and asked the island government, which had hired him to lobby against proposed labor measures that would have affected the islands, to send him checks.

House travel rules bar lobbyists from paying for Congressional travel, even if the lobbyist is reimbursed by a group or government agency that is allowed to pay for travel.

Mr. DeLay also visited the Marianas in late 1997 on a trip arranged by Mr. Abramoff. The documents, obtained by The New York Times under a Freedom of Information request, do not include information about how Mr. DeLay's expenses were covered. Mr. DeLay, his aides and two Democrats all said they believed that the Marianas government had paid for the travel or that in one case a conservative educational group, the National Security Caucus Foundation, had paid, an action that would have been in accordance with House ethics rules.

The former director of that group, Gregg Hilton, said in an interview on Tuesday that the foundation, now defunct, did not pay and that he believed that Marianas government was paying for the trips. According to the records, Mr. Abramoff paid for Mr. Hilton's own travel to the Marianas.

The group's Web site identified Mr. Abramoff as having been a member of its board in 2003. The site said Mr. Abramoff led a Congressional delegation on a trip to Pakistan in 1997.

Mr. Abramoff, under scrutiny by a federal grand jury in Washington and two Senate committees, also had a role in arranging and paying for a trip to Britain for Mr. DeLay, his wife and members of his staff in May 2000. The trip included stops in London and at the St. Andrews golf course in Scotland. In that case, as in this one, Mr. Abramoff used his personal credit card to pay for the travel and then sought reimbursement from the groups that he was representing.

Ethics lawyers, and his former law firm, say that was a clear violation of House rules.

In a statement, the firm, Preston Gates & Ellis, said: "If Jack Abramoff charged Congressional travel to his personal credit card for subsequent reimbursement - even from an entity that could have paid for the travel to begin with - that would have been contrary to firm policy that firm lobbyists were responsible for seeing that any Congressional travel in connection with a representation should be in accordance with Congressional ethics rules."

The firm said that Mr. Abramoff had been advised of the rules when he started working there but that any violations were not caught at the time because his records were not reviewed.

The investigations into Mr. Abramoff have centered on whether he defrauded Indian tribes he represented. In recent weeks, Democratic House members have urged that the inquiry be expanded to include his activities in the Marianas.

The islands, under scrutiny for sweatshoplike garment factories, hired Mr. Abramoff in 1995 to help them fend off measures aimed at establishing American workplace and wage standards. The trips appear to start in 1995 and continue through at least 2000. In December 1996, Mr. Abramoff sent an e-mail message to a Marianas official urging reimbursement, saying the House Ethics Committee was "watching the trips very closely." He signed off saying, "I leave for Saipan, with the chief of staff for the majority whip, on Wednesday morning my time."

Ten days later, a travel agent for Preston Gates wrote to the same official, saying, "Per instructions from Preston, we have been using Jack Abramoff's credit card for past tickets," and asked that the Marians pay directly for future tickets.

When Mr. DeLay returned home in 1998, he declared the workplace measure dead.

The documents refer to trips taken by several members of Congress but give detailed expense breakdowns for just two Democrats.

One of them, Representative James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, said in an interview on Tuesday that he had been assured that his trip was in full accordance with House travel rules and that the National Security Caucus Foundation had paid for it. Mr. Clyburn released a copy of the Dec. 17, 1996, letter inviting members of Congress on the trip.

"I've never heard of Abramoff, or whatever his name is, until all this stuff hit a few weeks ago," Mr. Clyburn said, noting that the invitation from the caucus was signed by Adm. Thomas H. Moorer, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as the group's representative. "The invitation was signed by a chairman of the Joint Chiefs. What was I supposed to believe?"

Admiral Moorer's letter says trips to the Marianas and Guam, home to American military installations, were among "fact-finding missions" sponsored by the caucus to "develop a new and comprehensive international security strategy for the post-cold-war world." The letter said the Congressional delegations would "be paid for by the nonprofit N.S.C. Foundation, and they will not involve any cost to the U.S. government."

Lanier Avant, a spokesman for Representative Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, said Mr. Thompson had understood that the caucus had paid for the trip.

"The Congressman has never had any association with Jack Abramoff," Mr. Avant said. "He's never met Mr. Abramoff, period. He received an invitation from a nonprofit group to go down and visit the islands. It was a legitimate trip. And once he returned from the trip, he complied with House rules and filed the required ethics forms."

A spokesman for Mr. DeLay, Dan Allen, said the congressman and his aides had been assured that the islands' government was paying for their Marianas trips and that there was therefore no need to complete a travel disclosure form, because the islands are an American territory.

"The congressman traveled to the C.N.M.I. at the invitation of the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas, a territory of the United States," Mr. Allen said. "Under House rules, House employees may accept travel paid for by a governmental entity with no restrictions on staff's ability to accept travel by such a governmental entity, whether in terms of trip duration, accompany individuals or otherwise."

Mr. Allen said he did not know the exact payment details of Mr. DeLay's hotel and airline bills.

A spokesman for Mr. Abramoff, Andrew Blum, declined to answer questions except to issue a statement, saying: "The tradition of lobbyists' traveling with members of Congress to visit various jurisdictions so that they could learn about issues that impact the Congress and government policy is well known. Mr. Abramoff once again is being singled out for actions that are commonplace in Washington, D.C., and are totally proper."

The invitation to the 1997 trip also refers to trips that the security group organized for members of Congress to the Balkans, Guam, India, Mexico Pakistan, and South Korea. Mr. Abramoff and his associates have represented those countries. Despite the ties indicated on the Web site, Mr. Hilton, the group's former director, said Mr. Abramoff had nothing to do with any other travel.

James Brooke contributed reporting from Saipan.

At 7:31 PM, Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...

Washington lobbyist’s worlds
collide with ethics revelations
By Matthew E. Berger

WASHINGTON, May 3 (JTA) — Jack Abramoff made a name for himself in the Washington political world as an insider with strong ties to Republican circles of power.
But within Washington’s Jewish world, Abramoff cut an image as a lone ranger, someone who shunned the organized Jewish community and chose to create his own Jewish institutions to serve his needs. Several of them quickly failed.

That hasn’t kept Abramoff, who is Orthodox, from turning to Judaism to explain allegations that he overcharged Indian tribes for lobbying services and used his ties to House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) and other Republican lawmakers to advance his personal interests.

Abramoff is at the eye of a gathering ethical storm over allegations that a number of congressmen — most prominent among them DeLay — accepted gifts and favors from him.

In a New York Times interview, Abramoff was quoted comparing himself to the biblical character Jacob, saying that his involvement in the rough and tumble of lobbying — with his attendant use of shocking and abusive language, revealed in e-mails leaked to The Washington Post — was similar to the incident in which the biblical patriarch took on the identity of his brother, Esau.

In response to questions from JTA, a spokesman for Abramoff said his client had been misquoted in the Times’ article and never compared himself to any biblical figure.

Abramoff’s “political activities, like everything in his life, were informed by his religious beliefs,” the spokesman told JTA. “While he did not always meet the standard of his faith, he certainly aspired to do so.”

Few in the Jewish community are concerned that the scandal surrounding Abramoff will reflect poorly on the Jewish community and its ties with conservative Republicans. Lawmakers and other power brokers know Abramoff is Jewish but don’t lump him in with the organized Jewish world.

“This is not a Jewish issue predominantly,” one Jewish political insider said. “He doesn’t have his yarmulke on when he’s meeting with people.”

Abramoff did, on his own, advocate for some Jewish issues, including Israel, in private conversations with lawmakers and political players, sources said. Newsweek has reported that the FBI is investigating whether he funneled funds from the Capital Athletic Foundation, a charity he established to support sports programs for urban youth, to West Bank settlers threatened by Palestinian terrorism.

Overall, however, Abramoff was seen as a Republican with pure conservative bona fides who did not specialize in Jewish issues or link his influence to Jewish or Israeli causes.

He cut his teeth as chairman of the College Republican National Committee in the early 1980s, working with such young conservative luminaries as Grover Norquist, now an influential conservative activist, and Ralph Reed, the former director of the Christian Coalition who now is running for lieutenant governor of Georgia.

After a stint in California, Abramoff returned to Washington in 1994, using his connections with the newly installed Republican congressional majority to lobby for a prominent firm.

Sources close to Abramoff said his conservative religious values helped him bond with DeLay and other Christian conservatives. That approach mirrors those of many Orthodox leaders who in recent years have forged ties with Christian and Republican leaders.

“Anyone who knows him knows his Jewish connections are deep and real,” one Abramoff associate said. “These things resonated deeply with a lot of powerful political people on the right wing of the Republican political spectrum.”

Similar values led to sincere kinships, the associate added.

At a time when his influence was growing in Washington, Abramoff shunned offers to get involved with Jewish groups and lasted only five months on the board of directors of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington.

Ron Halber, the JCRC’s executive director, said Abramoff complained about not having time to commit to the group. Halber believes the organization may have been too liberal for Abramoff’s tastes.

“He was certainly known as an espouser of conservative causes,” Halber said.

Instead, Abramoff became renowned as the owner and operator of Stacks and Archives, which were the only two kosher restaurants in the nation’s capitol before they closed last year. The Jewish Community Center runs a kosher cafeteria.

“Stacks became almost like the unofficial lunchroom for Jewish Washington and its colleagues,” said Rabbi Levi Shemtov, Washington director of American Friends of Lubavitch, who said he dined at the deli frequently.

Archives, a fine dining establishment, was above the deli but never stayed open for more than a few weeks at a time. Both restaurants occupied prime real estate on Pennsylvania Avenue, across from the National Archives in a space that once housed Planet Hollywood.

Opening the restaurants fit the Abramoff approach: He saw a personal need he had in Washington — kosher dining — and used his own money to make it happen. Diners said Abramoff routinely noted that he was taking a loss each month on the businesses, but boasted that he was using his wealth to serve the needs of his community and himself.

He did the same thing in 2002 when he opened the Eshkol Academy, a Jewish day school that grew out of the home schooling he provided for his own children and like-minded families in suburban Maryland.

“He felt people had to make too much of an extreme choice” between a thorough religious education and quality secular teaching, and he wanted an integrated program that stressed both, said Rabbi David Lapin, who helped found and run the school.

“We talked for many years about the gaps in the Jewish education system, and when he had the means to do so he wanted to try and do it right,” said Lapin, who met Abramoff when he visited Lapin’s native South Africa.

Abramoff knew he would have to take a loss on the school for several years, but he was overwhelmed by the cost, Lapin said. He added that Abramoff didn’t get help from the Jewish community.

The school closed in May 2004, two weeks before the end of the school year. Thirteen former employees sued Abramoff, demanding nearly $150,000 in back salary.

Lapin’s association with Abramoff links Abramoff’s Jewish world to his political world. The New York Times reported last week that Lapin, chief executive of Strategic Business Ethics in California, received a $1.2 million contract from the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, a U.S. territory in the Pacific and an Abramoff client.

The island’s attorney general, Pal Brown, told the newspaper that the government had been unable to determine what Lapin did under his no-bid contract to promote ethics in government.

The contract reportedly included a trip to the island for DeLay. Abramoff was lobbying in Washington to keep U.S. labor laws from applying in the Marianas, where Chinese workers are employed in the garment industry.

A note on Strategic Business Ethics’ Web site detailed Lapin’s activities on the project, saying SBE restructured the island’s Departments of Labor and Immigration. It goes on to say that the newspaper did not reach Lapin, and suggests Brown said she was misquoted.

A call to Brown’s office was not returned. Abramoff’s spokesman would not comment on his client’s ties to Lapin.

As more is learned of Abramoff, it may become harder to separate the religious man from the political man. Recent profiles noted that he became more religiously observant after seeing “Fiddler on the Roof” when he was 12, and that e-mails filled with expletives and derogatory terms for Native Americans still referenced God with a hyphen instead of the middle letter.

Abramoff says his current environment is reminiscent of a Jewish version of hell.

“In Judaism, it’s one of the definitions of hell,” he told The New York Times Magazine, “that you have to sit and watch the replay of everything you said and did with the people you know.”


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