Saturday, January 07, 2006

Choctaws On The Warpath

This Abrahamoff story has everything any scandal-lover longs for. Including pissed off Native Americans.

2006 is shaping up to be a very entertaining year.

Good piece in The Washington Post about the unravelling scandal.
The money the Coushatta Tribe and other tribes with casino interests paid to Abramoff helped him spread favors and gain access in the nation's capital -- the subject of speculation about a widening political dragnet. But even more rankling to many Coushattas is the knowledge that Abramoff had, in released e-mails, referred to some of his Native American clients as "monkeys," "troglodytes" and "morons."

"That hit a nerve," Sickey said, frowning and pausing. "That really hit a nerve."
And it only gets better ... I mean worse:
Abramoff and partner Michael Scanlon promised to ward off the competition by blocking their government approvals, using their political access to prevent the Interior Department from approving a casino for a rival Indian group, the Jena Band of Choctaws, and trying to stifle the approval of other state-controlled licenses.

Abramoff did provide some lobbying. To ward off the Jena Band, for example, Abramoff called on support from senior senators and congressmen, the deputy secretary of the interior, and evangelical leaders James Dobson and Ralph Reed.

But there are a number of other instances where, tribe members say, the services that were provided were unclear and some of the money simply went to the coffers of Abramoff's allies. The guilty plea this week will help them try to recover their money from Abramoff, Scanlon and the law firm Greenberg Traurig, with which Abramoff was working, lawyer Jimmy Faircloth said.

Because Abramoff has admitted to a conspiracy, "the only issue now is the amount of the damages," Faircloth said.

Coushatta and other Native American leaders say they and their casino operations probably have been hurt politically as well, because of Abramoff's close ties to the tribes. There is already considerable political and moral unease over the spread of gambling. Many of the highway billboards promising the excitement of gambling also ask, in smaller type, "Gaming Problem?" and recommend a toll-free number for counseling. A billboard facing Texas-bound travelers leaving the Coushatta resort is simpler: "TIRED OF LOSING?" it asks. "TRY JESUS CHRIST."

Even before the money in the scandal came to fund Abramoff's work in Washington, it belonged to people such as Marie Buckler and Walter Elliott, a retired couple from the Houston area, who arrived at the Coushatta resort this week on a bus with other retirees. Neither seemed terribly troubled about losing the money.

"Is that where our money went?" Buckler asked with a chuckle.