Thursday, August 25, 2005

Senatorial Courtesy--Will John McCain Let Republican Perps Walk?

Senatorial Courtesy, 8/26/2005 - The Texas Observer

n September 29, 2004, Arizona Senator John McCain made a promise to six Indian tribes defrauded in an $82-million lobby billing scandal perpetrated by two close associates of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay: “To the aggrieved tribes and Native Americans generally, I say rest assured that this committee’s investigation is far from over. Together we will get to the bottom of this.”

At the time, McCain probably meant what he said. But if he is to be a viable candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008, he may have to slow down the investigation he began a year ago. Because at “the bottom” of the inquiry McCain directs from the chair of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee is a second scandal that extends beyond the $82 million Mike Scanlon and Jack Abramoff took from the six tribes they were working for. Abramoff and Scanlon did more than enrich themselves. They enriched the Republican Party. The two Washington political operatives moved millions out of the accounts of the Indian tribes and into the accounts of Republican campaigns and advocacy groups whose support McCain will need for a presidential run in 2008. The personal contributions they made, such as the $500,000 check Scanlon wrote to the Republican National Governors Association in 2002, were derived from illicit billings of Indian clients.

McCain won’t antagonize Republican governors who know that Scanlon wrote the largest check they received in a critical election year. Nor does he seem inclined to cross Grover Norquist, the president of Americans for Tax Reform and arguably the most influential unelected leader of the Republican takeover of the Congress and White House. McCain has requested ATR’s financial and membership files and Norquist has refused to deliver them. Norquist claims McCain hates him. Perhaps. But Norquist’s unofficial position of power in Washington places him beyond the Senator’s reach. Norquist is not the only powerful Republican who would have to be questioned if McCain were to conduct a proper investigation. The list of subjects the Senator would have to take on includes Bush’s Interior Secretary Gale Norton; Bush’s 2004 Southeastern campaign director Ralph Reed, who once ran the Christian Coalition; the National Republican Governors Association; the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee; and the Republican National Committee. All were recipients of large Indian contributions brokered by Abramoff. Majority Leader Tom DeLay had his hands in the Indians’ pockets and was the marquee name Abramoff used to sell his lobbying services to tribal leaders. Republican Congressman Bob Ney, who faces greater exposure to criminal prosecution than anyone except Abramoff and Scanlon, would be an immediate casualty of a proper investigation.

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