Sticky Fingers

Abramoff scandal snares one Republican after another

Last lights look dark

If the Republicans in the House steer clear of the Blunt colossus, they most likely will go for Congressman John Boehner of Ohio. He, too, has financial links with Abramoff. The Center for Responsive Politics reports Boehner got $32,500 in campaign contributions from Indian tribes represented by Abramoff. Public interest groups assailed Boehner in the 1990s for handing out tobacco literature to colleagues on the House floor. The Washington Post reported Boehner's Freedom Project, a PAC, got $31,500 from four Abramoff tribal clients.

For three years, Boehner ran the so-called "Thursday Group," a weekly gathering of top lobbyists on the Hill. He has been an ardent backer of the U.S. steel industry.

Another possibility is John Shadegg of Arizona. Along with Blunt and Cantor, Shadegg signed a letter urging Interior Secretary Gale Norton to support Abramoff's tribal clients. He got $2,500 from Abramoff and/or his lobbying partners from 2001 through 2004. The Associated Press had this to say about Shadegg: "The Senate Indian Affairs Committee investigating the dealings of scandal-plagued Republican super lobbyist Jack Abramoff has learned that Shadegg is among the more than 30 congressional Republicans who signed letters on behalf of Abramoff clients just days after Abramoff gave them money or hosted fundraisers for them."

Republicans in Congress will have a hard time sidestepping the lobbying scandal. The full force of Abramoff's plea deal has yet to be felt. Meanwhile, public interest watchdogs are rallying. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), a public interest outfit that tracks Abramoff and other Capitol Hill lobbyists, recently filed a complaint with the U.S. attorney general against Lewis, asking the Public Integrity Section to undertake an investigation of the relations between Lewis and Lowery.

Melanie Sloan, CREW's executive director, says, "Corruption in Congress does not end with Tom DeLay or Jack Abramoff. There is not just one scandal, but a host of unethical activities that need to be investigated."

Additional reporting: Colin Gustafson

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