Saturday, January 28, 2006

Even More De-bunking of the Abramoff Myth

Dems Don't Know Jack
A Prospect exclusive: A new analysis of Abramoff tribal money by a nonpartisan firm shows it’s a Republican scandal.

(American Prospect) A new and extensive analysis of campaign donations from all of Jack Abramoff’s tribal clients, done by a nonpartisan research firm, shows that a great majority of contributions made by those clients went to Republicans. The analysis undercuts the claim that Abramoff directed sums to Democrats at anywhere near the same rate.

The analysis, which was commissioned by The American Prospect and completed on Jan. 25, was done by Dwight L. Morris and Associates, a for-profit firm specializing in campaign finance that has done research for many media outlets.

In the weeks since Abramoff confessed to defrauding tribes and enticing public officials with bribes, the question of whether Abramoff directed donations just to Republicans, or to the GOP and Democrats, has been central to efforts by both parties to distance themselves from the unfolding scandal. President Bush recently addressed the question on Fox News, saying: “It seems to me that he [Abramoff] was an equal money dispenser, that he was giving money to people in both political parties.”

Although Abramoff hasn’t personally given to any Democrats, Republicans, including officials with the GOP campaign to hold on to the Senate, have seized on the donations of his tribal clients as proof that the saga is a bipartisan scandal. And the controversy recently spread to the media when the ombudsman for The Washington Post, Deborah Howell, ignited a firestorm by wrongly asserting that Abramoff had given to both. She eventually amended her assessment, writing that Abramoff “directed his client Indian tribes to make campaign contributions to members of Congress from both parties.”

But the Morris and Associates analysis, which was done exclusively for The Prospect, clearly shows that it’s highly misleading to suggest that the tribes's giving to Dems was in any way comparable to their giving to the GOP. The analysis shows that when Abramoff took on his tribal clients, the majority of them dramatically ratcheted up donations to Republicans. Meanwhile, donations to Democrats from the same clients either dropped, remained largely static or, in two cases, rose by a far smaller percentage than the ones to Republicans did. This pattern suggests that whatever money went to Democrats, rather than having been steered by Abramoff, may have largely been money the tribes would have given anyway.

The analysis includes a detailed look at seven of Abramoff’s tribal clients, and a comparison of their giving with that of approximately 170 other tribes. (Abramoff is often said to have had nine tribal clients. But Morris omitted two of the tribes – the Pueblo of Santa Clara, whose donations were virtually nonexistent, and the Tigua Indian Reservation, because it isn’t listed in Federal lobbying files as having a lobbyist and Abramoff worked on contingency. At any rate Santa Clara’s post-Abramoff donations to the GOP were overwhelmingly higher than to Dems, so including them would have added even more to the GOP side of the ledger.)

The analysis shows:

# in total, the donations of Abramoff’s tribal clients to Democrats dropped by nine percent after they hired him, while their donations to Republicans more than doubled, increasing by 135 percent after they signed him up;

# five out of seven of Abramoff’s tribal clients vastly favored Republican candidates over Democratic ones;

# four of the seven began giving substantially more to Republicans than Democrats after he took them on;

# Abramoff’s clients gave well over twice as much to Republicans than Democrats, while tribes not affiliated with Abramoff gave well over twice as much to Democrats than the GOP -- exactly the reverse pattern.

“It’s very hard to see the donations of Abramoff’s clients as a bipartisan greasing of the wheels,” Morris, the firm’s founder and a former investigations editor at the Los Angeles Times, told The Prospect (read the rest here).

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