Thursday, June 23, 2005

The New Republic posts fuller version of Jack Abramoff / Rabbi Daniel Lapin emails about creating bogus awards& credentials for Abramoff & back-dating


At 6:45 AM, Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...

Bold and italics added to email text for emphasis.

You've Got Mail
by Michael Crowley

Only at TNR Online
Post date 06.23.05

"I hate to ask your help with something so silly," Jack Abramoff wrote to his friend Daniel Lapin on September 15, 2000. Abramoff, of course, is the now-disgraced Republican lobbyist who stands accused of defrauding several Indian tribes of millions of dollars and trying to buy off various Republican congressmen. Lapin is a Seattle-based rabbi who is a close friend and spiritual advisor to Abramoff. Now Abramoff, at the time still hustling his way to the top of Washington lobbying, was coming to him for help:

I have been nominated for membership in the Cosmos Club, which is a very distinguished club in Washington, DC, comprised of Nobel Prize winners, etc. Problem for me is that most prospective members have received awards and I have received none. I was wondering if you thought it possible that I could put that I have received an award from Toward Tradition with a sufficiently academic title, perhaps something like Scholar of Talmudic Studies?... Indeed, it would be even better if it were possible that I received these in years past, if you know what I mean. Anyway, I think you see what I am trying to finagle here!

Indeed he did. "Mazel tov, the Cosmos Club is a big deal," Lapin replied. A few days, later the rabbi wrote again:

Let's organize your many prestigous awards so they're ready to 'hang on the wall.'... I just need to know what needs to be produced. Letters? Plaques? Neither?

"Probably just a few clever titles of awards, dates and that's it," Abramoff replied.

Clever indeed. As the latest batch of Abramoff emails released at yesterday's hearing of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee reminds us, the lobbyist's cleverness knew no bounds. The hearing--which was the first since last November on the Abramoff scandals--delivered no new bombshells, nor fresh evidence of wrongdoing by members of Congress. Its real value was in the accompanying release of committee evidence documents containing dozens of new emails from the man Tom DeLay once called "one of my closest and dearest friends." It will likely take weeks to sort through all the tantalizing new material they contain, but here is a brief guide to some of the most interesting revelations from the latest Abramoff emails:

Creative Billing: The focus of yesterday's hearings was on Abramoff's lobbying for the Mississippi-based Choctaw Indians, who became the first of his casino-gaming tribal clients in the mid-'90s. Some of the details the emails provide on the subject are precious.

Take, for instance, Abramoff's attitude towards billing. Emails show that when Abramoff concludes in early 2001 that his staff should be billing more hours to the Choctaw, he instructs one of them to "[a]dd 60 hours for me and pump up Scanlon, Todd and you. Give Amy some hours if you have to" (the names are references to fellow lobbyists at his firm). Later Abramoff asks his colleague, who is still tallying up billable hours, to "tell me how much you need me to cover to get the bill up to around $150,000."

"This is a very bad system that I am very uncomfortable with," the colleague replies.

"Fine," writes Abramoff, without apology.

Free Ride?: Another episode comes in a September 2001 email from one of Abramoff's Preston Gates deputies, Tony Rudy, a former top DeLay staffer, with the subject line: "Is this viable?"

"There are a few Senate staffers I would like to help reward," Rudy writes. "Would the choctaws or coushatta"--another Abramoff tribal client--"donate like 10k to pay for a trip?"

"There is a hunting and fishing resort 3 hours south of texas that smith's people expressed an interest in," Rudy explains. (The two Smiths in the Senate at the time were the since-retired Bob Smith of New Hampshire and Gordon Smith of Oregon; both are Republicans.)

"I don't see how we can sell them on the funding for that," Abramoff replies.

"Thank you trip for the approps we got," says Rudy (abbreviating the term "appropriations").

Abramoff: "Smith's people didn't get us the approps for Choctaw, but good try! :)"

Rudy: "But how would coushatta know? :)"

"Let's discuss next week," Abramoff concludes. The outcome is unknown.

What Did Ralph Reed Know?: Despite being an avowed opponent of gambling on moral grounds, Reed has admitted to taking more than $4 million from Abramoff to run anti-gambling grassroots operations. Reed claims he never realized that money he took originated with casino-owning Indian tribes. But that will be a tough position to maintain in light of these latest emails.

In April 1999, for instance, Reed and Abramoff discuss a planned grassroots anti-gambling blitz by Reed (whose target is unclear). The emails show Reed saying he needs to be paid by Abramoff's law firm, Preston Gates, before he launches his effort. Abramoff pleads that he needs a cash infusion from his Choctaw clients before he can pay Reed.

"I need [the money] today," an impatient Reed writes on April 9. "Ralph," Abramoff replies, "I am not sure that I can get this wire moving fast enough today. Give me your wire info and I'll do what I can. Any chance that a wire from Choctaw directly would be OK?"

Reed's reply, if there was one, is not included in the committee documents. But at that point it should have been nakedly obvious to Reed that his payments were originating with the casino-managing Choctaw and were only making the briefest of detours through Abramoff's hands.

There's more of the same in November 2000, when Reed writes to Abramoff complaining that he is still owed money for his anti-gambling work.

"Thanks Ralph," Abramoff replies. "The firm has held back all payments pending receipt of a check from Choctaw which was held up." Reed thanks Abramoff and raises no objection.

But it's easy to understand why Reed might not have wanted to make a fuss. First, he was making good money. Second, Reed may have felt indebted to his old friend, as suggested by a November 1998 email from Reed to Abramoff: "Hey, now that I'm done with electoral politics, I need to start humping in corporate accounts! I'm counting on you to help me with some contacts."

The Israeli Settler Connection: Of all the new facts to emerge from yesterday's hearing, few are as strange as the details of Abramoff's connection to militant Israeli settlers. Newsweek reported this spring that Abramoff had funneled Indian money through his ostensibly charitable organization, The Capital Athletic Foundation, to pay for paramilitary equipment and training for Israeli settlers in the West Bank. The new batch of emails seem to confirm it. They show long exchanges between Abramoff and a West Bank settler named Schmuel Ben Zvi, a former high school friend of his from Hollywood, in which Abramoff discusses the procurement of military-use equipment for Ben Zvi and his fellow settlers.

At one point a grateful Ben Zvi--who "heatedly denied" to Newsweek in April that he had been involved in procuring military equipment--thanks Abramoff for his help:

I feel like the tank commanders in the Yom Kippur war, who when hearing over the radio that reinforcements were coming, felt so great that they raised their seats higher out of the tank hatch and went forward.

"Thanks brother," Abramoff replies. "If only there were another dozen of you the dirty rats would be finished."

The emails are not entirely clear on this point, but it appears that Abramoff was writing off his payments to Ben Zvi as charitable contributions. After Abramoff's accountant raises concerns, he tries to find a way to justify Ben Zvi's activities as a charitable cause. A September 2002 email from an Allison Bozniak, who appears to be Abramoff's assistant at his law firm, relays Ben Zvi's helpful suggestions.

"He did suggest that he could write some kind of letter with his Sniper Workshop Logo and letter head." And then she adds, brilliantly, "It is an 'educational entity of sorts.'"

Abramoff demurs. "No, don't do that. I don't want a sniper letterhead."

From Russia With Love: There is one last, even more bizarre, twist to the new information about Abramoff's West Bank connection. It comes in the form of an email to Abramoff, which details prices of thermal vision devices, from a Russian man named Vadim. His complete email address has been redacted by the Indian Affairs Committee, but his email domain is still legible: As Abramoff scandal junkies know, Naftasib is a Russian oil and gas company which helped to arrange and underwrite a murky and much-discussed 1997 trip Tom DeLay took to Moscow with Abramoff. According to the Post, DeLay met with Naftasib executives while in Moscow, for reasons that have never been entirely clear.

Why would someone at Naftasib be helping Abramoff procure military equipment? Well, the Post has also reported that Naftasib "has business ties with Russian security institutions." And the email from Abramoff's correspondent, Vadim, includes an email signature identifying him as "Assistant to Mrs. Nevskaya." That is presumably Marina Nevskaya, a Naftasib executive who reportedly served as an instructor at a Russian military intelligence school.

So there you have it. A rich Washington lobbyist apparently schemed to use money from Indian tribes to buy paramilitary equipment from Russian oil executives and send it to Israeli settlers in the West Bank. What could be simpler?

Actually, this sounds just like the sort of thing you'd hear from a schizophrenic homeless man ranting outside the White House. But in reality, it appears to be the story of Jack Abramoff.

Michael Crowley is a senior editor at TNR.


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