TPJ seeks disclosure of Abramoff Pioneer contributionsBy SUZANNE GAMBOA / Associated Press
January 6, 2006
A Texas watchdog group on Thursday called on President Bush to disclose the sources of the at least $100,000 in campaign contributions that lobbyist Jack Abramoff collected for Bush's 2004 campaign.
Abramoff was one of Bush's fundraising "Pioneers," a name the campaign gave to fundraisers who collected at least $100,000.
Craig McDonald, director of Texans for Public Justice, said Americans have the right to know who gave the lobbyist money to pass on to Bush's campaign in light of Abramoff's guilty pleas to federal charges in a congressional corruption investigation.
As a pioneer, Abramoff would have solicited donations of $2,000 apiece from individuals and $5,000 from political action committees and sent them to the Bush campaign in bundles. He was credited with any contributions he collected.
"Let's see if they are from Abramoff's clients," McDonald said. "Let's see if they were seeking something. We have a right to know where that money came from in the midst of this scandal."
A White House spokesman referred calls to the Republican National Committee. RNC spokesman Tucker Bounds said the Bush/Cheney campaign has made contributors public. But McDonald said the campaign does not link the donors to people like Abramoff who collected contributions from several donors.
Earlier this week, White House press secretary Scott McClellan said past practice of the campaign has been to return money contributed by people involved in wrongdoing or donate it to a charity.
Bush's campaign is donating $6,000 to the American Heart Association because of donations received from Abramoff, his wife and the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan, one of Abramoff's former clients.
McDonald's group pressured the Bush-Cheney campaign in 2000 to release the names of its "Pioneers" and the campaign did so.
The Austin-based watchdog group has long been critical of the fundraising method, saying it allowed the campaign to circumvent campaign contribution limits, which were then $1,000 per individual. The Bush campaign has denied that contention in the past.
Abramoff pleaded guilty Tuesday to charges of fraud, corruption and tax evasion charges in Washington. He then pleaded guilty in Miami on Wednesday to fraud charges stemming from his purchases of a Florida gambling boat fleet.
The Washington charges stem from an investigation into tens of millions of dollars he and a former partner charged Indian tribes with casinos or gaming interests.
Abramoff has pledged to cooperate with investigators looking into the lavish trips, golf outings, meals and other gifts Abramoff said he provided to public officials "in exchange for a series of official acts."
Several Texas lawmakers have joined the president in returning Abramoff-connected contributions or giving them to charity, although some have chosen to keep the money.
Rep. Sam Johnson, R-Plano, planned to give $2,000 to the USO in Dallas Fort Worth, spokeswoman McCall Cameron said Thursday. The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians and Tiguas of Texas, both Abramoff clients, gave $1,000 each to Johnson in 2002.