Sunday, May 08, 2005


Close Corruption

A national corruption scandal with close-to-home connections.

Seattle right-wing radio host and rabbi Daniel Lapin of upper-crust Mercer Island and his Los Angeles businessman brother David were the subject of Rick Anderson's exposé in The Seattle Weekly. The Seattle Lapin introduced Rep. Tom DeLay to Jack Abramoff some eight or ten years ago and the opportunities abounded.
One of the destinations was the Northern Marianas, a U.S. protectorate west of Hawaii. It is home to a sweatshop garment industry, for which Abramoff and Preston Gates [Ellis law and lobbying firm in Seattle] helped stave off labor reforms threatened by the U.S. Congress. More than 85 legislators and aides were ferried by Preston Gates to the island state in the late 1990s to be wined and dined, many of whom—DeLay in particular—ultimately backed away from a planned crackdown on the garment workers' 84-hour workweeks, squalid living conditions, and $3-an-hour wages.

... David Lapin had a $1.2 million no-bid Northern Marianas government contract that was arranged by Abramoff during his Preston Gates days, to conduct ethics-in-government programs there. But near as anyone in the Marianas can determine today, David Lapin failed to provide any services, The New York Times reported April 28.

... The Marianas commonwealth paid Abramoff and Preston Gates' D.C. lobbying offices, where Abramoff worked from 1994 until 2001, $6.7 million, of which, an auditor later determined, $3.1 million was paid without a lawful contract.

... The Los Angeles Times reported Friday, May 6, that two former DeLay aides, working for Abramoff, dangled U.S. tax dollars to pressure Marianas legislators to switch votes in favor of a new territorial House speaker supported by Abramoff and DeLay. The speaker then pressed for renewal of an expiring Abramoff/Preston Gates consulting contract for the Marianas worth $100,000 a month.

... The Associated Press reports, meanwhile, that in President Bush's first 10 months, Abramoff and his Preston Gates lobbying team logged nearly 200 contacts with the new administration, pressing for friendly hires at federal agencies and protecting the Marianas from hikes in the minimum wage. Abramoff's team met with Attorney General John Ashcroft and policy advisers in Vice President Dick Cheney's office, among others. Records, AP says, show Abramoff also charged the Marianas in 1997 for getting then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush to write a letter expressing support for legislation involving the Marianas.
This story keeps expanding and now it's stinking up the neighborhood. More local offal:
Last year, Newsweek reported, "When fundraising began for Bush's re-election effort, Rabbi Daniel Lapin . . . urged friends and colleagues to steer campaign checks to Bush via Abramoff." President Bush recently reappointed Lapin to the U.S. Commission for the Preservation of America's Heritage Abroad, which helps preserve cemeteries, monuments, and historic buildings in Eastern and Central Europe. Donors to his charity, according to IRS tax filings, comprise the cream of the religious right, such as Lenore Broughton, the Carthage Foundation, and the Scaife Family Foundation. They have helped Lapin raise, on average, about $500,000 a year, based on filings from 1997 through 2003—money he uses to "educate the public through conventions, seminars, public speaking, and class studies on Judeo Christian values," he told the IRS. His religious beliefs include opposition to homosexuality. He speaks at the Eastside church of fellow KTTH talk-show host, the Rev. Ken Hutcherson, who recently waged an anti-gay-rights battle with Microsoft. But Daniel Lapin supports school vouchers, which could aid the cause of school prayer by boosting private institutions. Having splintered off into a minority movement from historically liberal Jews, Lapin has said he intends to make "my priority rolling back the epidemic of secularism that was unleashed on this country."
It's a shame that most of the IRS' investigation efforts are directed at those that earn so little money. The Lapins' accounting of their income might make for interesting questions.

This is exactly the kind of corruption that Gingrich railed against in 1994. Of course, Gingrich also established the roadway for this kind of criminal juggernaut to travel. His history of skirting the law provided the kind of leadership example for those that followed in his footsteps.

Despite the pitifully small amount of ink or pixels from our "liberal media" and the determined right-wing media's efforts to suppress the information, the odious details continue to leak out.


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