ABC Busted!

By
May 25, 2006

Quick Update: I won’t make you wait, though it’s buried at the end of the old story below. All of this alleged influence peddling? It didn’t pay off. That’s right, the deal Hastert supposedly was trying to stop went through. Is it a bribe if you don’t get what you want? And why didn’t ABC tell us that?

The Interior Department initially rejected the Jena Band’s request, citing technical reasons. But the tribe persisted and eventually won approval. The casino plan is now tied up in an unrelated legal dispute.

Also, it needs to be pointed out that the new Ross non-story includes these key elements: the Justice Department denial was meant only to deny that Hastert was a formal “target” or “subject” of the investigationThe investigation of Hastert’s relationship with Abramoff is in the early stages, according to these officials, and could eventually conclude that Abramoff’s information was  unfounded.

Consequently, there are no new facts in the Ross story and actually fewer than those published months ago. What was done is that the ties to Democrats were, for some reason, left out of this latest reporting rehash, which does not advance the story from January one single bit.

The Ross / ABC headline grabbing story is a non-story, perhaps fed to him by someone who wanted to take a shot at Hastert. And not even a web search was done to flesh the story out, or discover that Ross was being had. There is no news here whatsoever, other than what could have been known or assumed from reading the Chicago Tribune four months ago. In fact, there is less information – and pertinent facts omitted serve to make it appear worse than it might be.

ABC should reconsider its approach to breaking news of this type if it wishes to maintain its credibility, such as it is. If this is what editorial oversight gets you, I’d argue its worse than anything a good and ethical blogger would publish on their site.

Quite an exclusive, this earth shattering report from ABC Wednesday evening. Oh, this is going to be great! Please read below.

Federal officials say the Congressional bribery investigation now includes Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, based on information from convicted lobbyists who are now cooperating with the government.

Part of the investigation involves a letter Hastert wrote three years ago, urging the Secretary of the Interior to block a casino on an Indian reservation that would have competed with other tribes.

And they’ve been milking it all night, see latest update here.

Law enforcement sources told ABC News that convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff has provided information to the FBI  about Hastert and a number of other members of Congress that have broadened the scope of the investigation. Sources would not divulge details of the Abramoff’s information.

"You guys wrote the story very carefully but they are not reading it very carefully," a senior official said…

ABC’s law enforcement sources said the Justice Department denial was meant only to deny that Hastert was a formal “target” or “subject” of the investigation.

"Whether they like it or not, members of Congress, including Hastert, are under investigation," one federal official said tonight.

The investigation of Hastert’s relationship with Abramoff is in the early stages, according to these officials, and could eventually conclude that Abramoff’s information was  unfounded.

Investigative reporter Brian Ross certainly is quite a sleuth. So, why is it his story contains even less detail than this archived story below from Mercury News via the Chicago Tribune dated … wait for it … January 4th. Way to go, Brian. Hell of a scoop! You were had and allowed it to go out to the world as news when it wasn’t news at all.

Abramoff plea could bring renewed scrutiny of Hastert letter

WASHINGTON – The guilty plea by lobbyist Jack Abramoff could bring renewed scrutiny of a letter sent by House Speaker Dennis Hastert of Illinois to Interior Secretary Gale Norton urging her to block an Indian casino opposed by rival tribes represented by Abramoff just one week after the lobbyist hosted a fundraiser for Hastert’s political action committee.

Many in official Washington, Republicans and Democrats, were scrambling Wednesday to try to distance themselves from Abramoff – Hastert among them – fearing that they could be tainted by even the appearance of an association with the now disgraced lobbyist.

Abramoff pleaded guilty this week to corruption charges and agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors in a broadening investigation of bribery in Washington, which Abramoff admitted included the exchange of campaign contributions and other favors for official assistance to his clients. As part of his plea agreement, Abramoff is expected to help investigators determine whether others, including elected officials, broke any laws.

Indian tribes represented by Abramoff donated more than $20,000 to Hastert around the time of the fundraiser, which was held at Signatures, a Washington restaurant owned by Abramoff. Hastert’s campaign committee did not pay the tab for the June 3, 2003, luncheon fundraiser until last year, following media inquiries about the unpaid check.

Hastert, who wields considerable influence as the top-ranking Republican in the House, was joined in his letter to Norton by three of the most powerful House Republican leaders: former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, then-Majority Whip Roy Blunt and Chief Deputy House Whip Eric Cantor, all of whom also received campaign contributions from Indian tribes represented by Abramoff.

Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., the Democratic leader in the Senate, and Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I., were also among recipients of large contributions from tribes represented by Abramoff. Asked about Abramoff, Reid told the Las Vegas Sun, "I don’t know him. I don’t want to know him. I know nothing about it other than what I read in the newspaper. … This is a Republican scandal."

In all, Hastert received $69,000 in contributions from Abramoff and Indian tribes represented by the lobbyist, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan group that monitors campaign contributions. Hastert announced this week he would donate the money to charity.

The close connection between the fundraiser for Hastert and the letter the speaker sent to the Interior Department was first reported by the Associated Press in November. But the events take on a new significance following Abramoff’s guilty plea.

Hastert press secretary Ron Bonjean denied any link between the fundraiser and Hastert’s intervention against the rival tribe’s efforts to establish a casino.

Bonjean said that Hastert has regularly opposed efforts by Indian tribes to establish casinos outside their traditional reservations, as was the case with the Louisiana casino opposed by Abramoff’s clients. The practice is sometimes called reservation shopping.

"The speaker has had a long history of being against Indian reservation shopping in Illinois," said Bonjean. He cited Hastert’s opposition to a proposed casino in south suburban Lynwood sought by the Ho-Chunk Indian Nation of Wisconsin and his opposition to plans by the Potawatomi Nation to establish a casino in Shabbona.

Bonjean said Hastert waded into the Louisiana casino dispute at the request of Rep. Jim McCrery, R-La., and that the timing of the Republican leaders’ letter was a coincidence. A spokeswoman for McCrery did not return phone calls or an e-mail Wednesday evening.

Hastert’s letter concerned a tribal dispute that has become one of the focal points of the corruption scandal swirling around Abramoff.

In January 2002, then-Louisiana Gov. Mike Foster, a Republican, agreed to allow a plan for a casino sought by the Jena Band of Choctaw Indians, an impoverished group of about 200 people spread through rural north-central Louisiana. The tribe had only won federal recognition in 1995. But Foster argued it was a good deal for the state, which would receive 15.5 percent of the profits.

Two Abramoff clients, however, opposed the casino. The Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana feared a new casino would cut into business for its resort, which reportedly took in $300 million a year. And the Mississippi Band of Choctaws also feared it would reduce traffic to their casino.

Abramoff recruited prominent Christian conservatives James Dobson and Ralph Reed to wage a campaign against the Jena Band’s casino on the grounds it would expand gambling, even though Abramoff’s clients were casinos protecting their business. Dobson and Reed have said they were duped.

At least 33 members of Congress signed letters to Norton opposing the Jena Band casino and received more than $830,000 in contributions from Abramoff and tribes he represented between 2001 and 2004, according to the AP.

McCrery received more than $52,000 in contributions from Abramoff and tribes represented by Abramoff, the Center for Responsive Politics said.

In the June 10, 2003, letter that Hastert and the other GOP House leaders sent to Norton, they urged her to interpret a 1988 law in a way that would be unfavorable to the Jena Band’s plans to start a casino.

The Interior Department initially rejected the Jena Band’s request, citing technical reasons. But the tribe persisted and eventually won approval. The casino plan is now tied up in an unrelated legal dispute.

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Comments:
  1. WHAT’S THE DEAL WITH HASTERT?

    ***scroll for updates, questions for ABC…Dan Riehl says ABC’s story is four months’ old…*** ABC News’s Blotter blog reports: The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dennis Hastert, is under investigation by the FBI, which is seeking to determi…

  2. hobo says:

    In all, Hastert received $69,000 in contributions from Abramoff and Indian tribes represented by the lobbyist, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan group that monitors campaign contributions. Hastert announced this week he would donate the money to charity.
    #########
    Cheap way to try to cover your ass, Mr. Hastert. Hope they burn you at the stake. There is absolutely no excuse for accepting the bribes as you did, only plain old greed, my boy, just plain old greed and you thought you would get away with it. So sad, too bad, now you’re going to be had.

  3. Good Lt says:

    Wow…no trial or legal vetting process needed…I wish all investigations were as easy as hobo makes them out to be.
    Next up…Harry Reid! Correct, hobo? For taking $65,000 of the same tainted money?

  4. Hyscience says:

    ABC News Busted

    Apparently their “breaking news is four month’s old, and leaves out a few very important details

  5. Wizbang says:

    The Hastert “In the Mix” Story

    Earlier tonight ABC News’ The Blotter reported that Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert was under investigation by the feds. I received two e-mails from Krista Cole, a House staffer, in reponse to this article. The first denied The Blotter…

  6. House Speaker Hastert Under Investigation for Bribery?

    ABC News Chief Investigative Correspondent Brian Ross reported on his blog at 6:24 last evening:
    Federal officials say the Congressional bribery investigation now includes Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, based on information from convicted …

  7. ABC News Reports Hastert Ties To Fort Courage

    In breaking news that is shaking the foundations of an already reeling Republican party, ABC News is reporting today that Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert may be involved in yet another scandal involving Native Americans. ABC had reported earlier

  8. ABRAMOFF SINGING, HASTERT DANCING

    Its the old Washington two-step; when under investigation, change the subject.
    This may have been the case yesterday as it has been revealed that House Speaker Dennis Hastert is in the mix of Congressmen being investigated by th…

  9. How Politics Is Played

    A) Democrats want to use culture of corruption as campaign issue.
    B) Prominent Democrats get caught with hands in cookie jar (or money in freezer as case may be).
    C) Democrats begin feeling heat from netroots to do som…

  10. Rick says:

    “Next up…Harry Reid! Correct, hobo? For taking $65,000 of the same tainted money?” Posted by: Good Lt
    No, Lt it will disappear quickly now that we learn dems were involved. The media wont hound them. Same reason noboby remembers Clinton “illegally” listening to phone calls between drug suppliers and dealers. It is an unfortunate fact that too many people in the country think like hobo and have a notion that one party is any different than the other.

  11. don surber says:

    But Truthout said …

  12. Hot Air says:

    Hastert update: Did ABC secretly change its story?

    Plus: the FBI takes revenge on everyone!

  13. Is it a bribe if you don’t get what you want?
    Without getting into ABC, Hastert or anything else, the answer to that question is: yes, it can very much be bribery even if the briber doesn’t get what it wanted from the bribed.
    Again, I am not making a comment about this story and the alleged transaction, but I wouldn’t make the above argument about bribes that didn’t bear fruit.

  14. Republicans Are Funny

    Let me tell you about human nature. If were not interested in something, we might think everyone elses interest in it is funny.
    Thats the way I feel about the Dennis Hastert/William Jefferson blog swarm. Heres the short v…

  15. Dan says:

    but I wouldn’t make the above argument
    Point taken, but I didn’t raise it as an argument, so much as I did a question. Certainly there are layers to this thing. At the same time, as the influence didn’t work, might it not be that we are left with a letter written on behalf of a supporter? And isn’t that akin to what politicians do all the time? If a letter meets the standard of quid pro quo, law makers would be wrong to advocate anything on a supporter’s behalf.
    Obviously the devil is in the details on this one. And so far ABC has told of none of those.

  16. Matt says:

    As much as I don’t want to defend Harry Reid, he is from Nevada, and everyone knows Nevadans don’t want anyone horning in on their legal Gambling Racket. It would be a lot tougher to prove quid pro quo with Harry. Why Hastert even was involved is a stickier pickle.

  17. hobo says:

    I’m surprised I didn’t ask this question long ago: when does a [political] contribution becom3e a bribe?

  18. hobo says:

    Good Lt.
    Thanks for the wake up call; guess I need to pull up the reins a bit. I have become so outraged at all the focus on corruption in the worlds of power and influence that I over-amped. I have every respect for the condition of innocent until proven guilty; guess I’m a little sensitive about people in positions of power and influence getting away with [whatever]. Thanks for not unloading on me.