Another Bush Administration Official Indicted Over Abramoff

June 29, 2006

From The Washington Post:

An Interior Department official who has acknowledged receiving meals and tickets to sporting events from former lobbyist Jack Abramoff has been charged with filing a false financial disclosure report.

Roger G. Stillwell, an employee of the department’s Insular Affairs Office, was charged with a single misdemeanor count of making a false filing, according to papers filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court. Federal officials said he is expected to enter a guilty plea at a court appearance set for July 21 before Magistrate Deborah A. Robinson.

Stillwell is an officer on the desk that handles the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, a U.S. territory whose government hired Abramoff as a lobbyist. The Washington Post reported in December that Stillwell was among the Interior officials whom Abramoff’s team tried to cultivate.

Stillwell could not be reached to comment yesterday, and his lawyer, Justin Murphy, did not return a telephone call seeking comment. Stillwell is accused of falsely certifying that he did not receive gifts from a prohibited source in a financial disclosure report filed in October 2004 covering the previous fiscal year.

Stillwell told The Post last year that he accepted dinners at Abramoff’s restaurant, Signatures, and tickets to Washington Redskins games. He justified those actions by saying they occurred while he was a contract employee at Interior, not a federal employee.

He told The Post that he had sent Abramoff copies of e-mails he sent to his boss. Stillwell said he saw “nothing wrong with doing that” because they did not contain confidential information. “I don’t feel it was a conflict of interest,” Stillwell told The Post.

During the 1990s, before Stillwell joined the Interior Department, his communications firm did work for the Marianas government, according to an audit by the island government.

Stillwell, a Democrat, said in the interview with The Post that he worked closely with Abramoff when their representation of the island government overlapped beginning in 1995.

Stillwell is the first Interior official charged in the probe. The case against him is being brought by the Justice Department task force investigating the Abramoff lobbying scandal, which includes criminal investigators from the office of Interior’s inspector general. Abramoff and three lobbying associates have pleaded guilty in the wide-ranging corruption investigation, which focuses in part on their dealings with the Interior Department and with Congress on behalf of their tribal and territorial clients.

Advertisements

Ralph Reed. Man of God? WWJD?

May 31, 2006

From The Washington Post:

In August 1999, political organizer Ralph Reed's firm sent out a mailer to Alabama conservative Christians asking them to call then-Rep. Bob Riley (R-Ala.) and tell him to vote against legislation that would have made the U.S. commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands subject to federal wage and worker safety laws.

Now those seven-year-old words are coming back to haunt Reed, the former executive director of the Christian Coalition and a candidate for the Republican nomination to be Georgia's lieutenant governor.

"The radical left, the Big Labor Union Bosses, and Bill Clinton want to pass a law preventing Chinese from coming to work on the Marianas Islands," the mailer from Reed's firm said. The Chinese workers, it added, "are exposed to the teachings of Jesus Christ" while on the islands, and many "are converted to the Christian faith and return to China with Bibles in hand."

A year earlier, the Department of the Interior — which oversees federal policy toward the U.S. territory — presented a very different picture of life for Chinese workers on the islands. An Interior report found that Chinese women were subject to forced abortions and that women and children were subject to forced prostitution in the local sex-tourism industry.

It also alleged that the garment industry and other businesses set up facilities on the Northern Marianas to produce products labeled "Made in the USA," while importing workers from China and other Asian countries and paying them less than U.S. minimum wage under conditions not subject to federal safety standards.

Lisa Baron, a spokeswoman for Reed's campaign, said Millennium Marketing "was hired as a direct-mail subcontractor to assist in encouraging grass-roots citizens to promote the propagation of the gospel."

"As a defender of the unborn, Ralph was unaware of any allegations regarding inhumane or illegal treatment of workers, and he would strongly object to such practices, if true," she added.

Reed's close friend and political ally, disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, represented the commonwealth as a partner of Greenberg Traurig. The islands' government paid Abramoff $4.04 million from 1998 to 2002. Greenberg Traurig hired Millennium Marketing to print the mailing.

Reed is running for the GOP nomination against state Sen. Casey Cagle. The old mailing was brought to a reporter's attention by former employees of Reed, who said the support on behalf of Northern Marinas leaves their former boss exposed as a hypocrite.

The Mariana mailing adds another hurdle to Reed's campaign, which already has been plagued by the disclosures that Abramoff paid Reed more than $4 million to conduct grass-roots lobbying on behalf of Indian casinos seeking to prevent potential competitors from getting approval to open new facilities.

In N.Y., a Race for Runner-Up

New York Republicans, who have held the governorship of a distinctly Democratic-leaning state for 12 years, already had a poor chance of keeping control of the statehouse in Albany this year. State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, a Democratic gubernatorial candidate, has a huge lead in the polls.

Now it turns out whoever loses the GOP primary will stay in the race — in a position likely to siphon votes from the Republican nominee.

Former state Assembly leader John Faso won the Conservative Party nomination for governor last week. Last month, former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld took the libertarian nomination.

Spokesmen for the two potential GOP nominees said they would run on the third-party line regardless of what happens in the GOP primary.