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Abramoff, Scanlon and the Influence of Money

Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff, right, leaves court with his attorney, Antonio Pacheco, after being released on bail in August.
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Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff, right, leaves court with his attorney, Antonio Pacheco, after being released on bail in August.

The grand jury investigation of former lobbyist Jack Abramoff has taken many twists and turns in recent months. While investigators are still determining the extent of Abramoff's influence with lawmakers of both parties, an associate of Abramoff's has pled guilty to conspiracy.

Michael Scanlon, who became Abramoff's business partner after being an aide to Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX), admitted to conspiring with an unnamed lobbyist to defraud clients of millions of dollars and to bribe a member of Congress and other officials.

As part of his plea deal, Scanlon agreed to repay $19.6 million to the Indian tribes that were his clients. The tribes paid Abramoff and his firm $80 million in fees. Reporter Philip Shenon has been covering the case for The New York Times.

The main investigation is continuing -- and it has broadened to include Abramoff's ties with congressmen and a White House budget official among others. Court papers filed earlier this month allege that Scanlon and Abramoff sought to offer and provide things of value, including money, meals, trips and entertainment, to public officials in return for agreements to perform official acts.

The latest revelation in the story concerns Senate Indian Affairs Committee Vice Chairman Byron Dorgan. A lawyer for the Louisiana Coushatta Indians has told The Associated Press that in 2002, Abramoff instructed the tribe to send $5,000 to Sen. Byron Dorgan's political group. The suggestion came weeks after the North Dakota Democrat supported an Indian school construction program.

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