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Monday, November 21, 2005

Scariest Words in Washington: Cooperation and Plea

Michael Scanlon pleaded guilty by information today in Federal Court to a charge of conspiracy, according to the NYTimes.
Mr. Scanlon agreed to pay restitution totaling more than $19 million to the tribes, The Associated Press reported from the courtroom, and could face up to five years in prison.

Mr. Scanlon, 35, was accused of conspiring to defraud Indian tribes out of millions of dollars as part of a lobbying and corruption scheme that involved wining and dining of some lawmakers, treating them to lavish trips and contributing to their campaigns.

Until recently, Mr. Scanlon occupied a powerful - and lucrative - position at the intersection of political power and lobbying influence. For several years, he worked as a top aide to Representative Tom DeLay of Texas, the Republican majority leader. He left Mr. DeLay's office in 2000 to become an associate of Jack Abramoff, a Republican lobbyist.
In that position "at the intersection of political power and lobbying influence," Mr. Scanlon had contact with a lot of highly placed politicos. Most of them Republicans feeding at the trough. And you can be sure that he knows where a few skeletens are buried -- and is willing to talk about them -- or he wouldn't be getting a deal.

Scanlon faces 5 years in federal prison, and has agreed to repay $19 million in restitution out of his own pocket. That's a pretty stiff restitution amount -- although probably no more than a drop in the bucket compared to how much he and Abramoff and their political cronies are rumored to have scammed from their clients (more than $80 million, give or take). But still, definitely not a sweet deal -- it's hard time and serious restitution.

The plea was negotiated by Scanlon's attorney, Plato Cacheris, who is an exceptional trial lawyer for white collar crime cases. One of the best practicing these days, frankly. That Scanlon is still facing jail time and a stiff level of restitution says how much the DoJ had on him -- and how much he is having to give them -- to even get the deal he has.

In my mind, this is an enormous victory for the DoJ Public Integrity unit. We'll see as time goes on with this matter how much testimony and cooperation Scanlon will be giving, but I would say that it is broad and that it goes high up the chain, just based on his level of involvement and length of contact in all of this.

And it looks like Scanlon isn't the only one in the mood to cut a deal. (Which is likely one of the big reasons that he is doing so, btw -- as I've said before, the first to deal gets the best offer. The last man standing in a conspiracy gets hammered.)
Representative Bob Ney, an Ohio Republican, who heads the House Appropriations Committee, was alluded to in the indictment (although not by name) as a main beneficiary of largess, in return for helping Mr. Abramoff and Mr. Scanlon with their clients.

Lawyers involved in the case have confirmed that Mr. Ney is the "Representative #1" cited in the indictment. The congressman - who has not been charged - has asserted that he was duped by the two and is cooperating with prosecutors, a spokesman for Mr. Ney says.
Well, would you look at that? Rep. Ney is putting his self-interest ahead of that of Abramoff and Delay. Hmmm...what could that mean? So sad that the head of the Appropriations Committee in the House, a long time Congressman like Ney, could be duped so handily. *cough* Ahem.

I say, it means that Delay and Abramoff had better lay in a good supply of antacids. You recall Mr. Delay and Mr. Abramoff, don't you?
Mr. DeLay has been indicted in Texas on charges involving political fund-raising that are not related to the inquiry in which Mr. Scanlon pleaded guilty today. And Mr. Abramoff has been indicted in Florida on unrelated fraud-and-conspiracy charges involving an attempt to buy a fleet of casino boats.
Power brokers in the Republican party all. What an ethics-filled group they've turned out to be, too. For shame just seems too subtle...think I'll just buy some more popcorn instead and sit back and enjoy the show.

Oh, and Fitz? Still hard at work.

UPDATE: The WaPo has much, much more, including this:
The charge was in a criminal information filed Friday accusing Scanlon of conspiring with Abramoff to defraud Indian tribes and engage in a corrupt scheme that lavished trips, sports tickets and campaign donations on a member of Congress, Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio.

DeLay is among those facing scrutiny for his associations with Abramoff, including a trip to Scotland and use of Abramoff's skybox at a Washington sports arena.

Abramoff's lobbying network stretched far into the halls of Congress. Documents obtained by The Associated Press show nearly three dozen lawmakers helping to block an American Indian casino in Louisiana while collecting large donations from the lobbyist and his tribal clients.
And the WaPo says Scanlon's restitution will be in excess of $19 million, along with cooperation with the ongoing investigation. Fasten your seatbelts, boys and girls, looks like some folks in D.C. may be in for a very bumpy ride.

And did I mention that Fitz is still hard at work? Yeah, I thought I did.