Saturday, January 21, 2006


On On the Media, Rick Carr interviewed Massie Ritsch of the Center for Responsive Politics. Rough transcript:

M.R.: If you're talking about money which came from Abramoff's own pocket or from his wife, Pamela, then only Republicans received that money according to our research. If you include the Indian tribes who had hired Jack Abramoff as their lobbyist, they gave to Republicans and to Democrats. The overall picture is about 3.7 million dollars, 70% or so went to Republicans and 30% or so went to Democrats.

R.K.: The fact that some Democrats are giving money back does that perhaps increase the likelihood that people in the media and the public at large would see all of this money as tainted?

M.R.: Certainly some democrats who have chosen not to give money back have made that choice for that particular reason, that doing so just acknowledges that there's some sort of blemish on this money. Again, as far as we know, these were perfectly legal contributions. Let's be clear that the money that has been given back - either refunded to the people who gave it or given away to charity for purely political reasons. Because some the heat of the campaign seasons you can beat that opponents are going to be running ads where some sinister voice is going to be connecting them to Jack Abramoff.

R.K: What's your recommendation to a reporter who gets this sort of first wave information - x dollars given to Congressperson y - to look into whether there was a quid pro quo or whether there was more of an appearance of impropriety in this particular case - if a reporter calls and says I don't know a lot about this where should I go next what do you say?

M.R.: The only people who really know the details surrounding a particular gift are the giver and the recipient. And in the Abramoff case we've been telling this to reporters a lot. Listen, we don't know why this money was given at the time that it was, we suggest that you talk to the who were people involved. In some cases they have and we've learned interesting things about the particular timing of gifts - some gifts we were able to eliminate from our list actually because Abramoff wasn't working for the tribe at that point as their lobbyist. But you really have to spend some time digging, you have to go to a variety of sources to try and correlate these things because not everything is reported to the same organization. The federal elections commission doesn't collect everything. Lobbying reports, for example, are filed with house and senate offices. A lot of this stuff is done on paper. It's not going to be a quick hit story. Most likely these were perfectly legitimate contributions. There's a fine line between a legal political contribution and a bribe but it's that line that's going to keep members of congress out of jail or maybe send some too jail.

(thanks to reader b)