Wednesday, September 28, 2005

September 27, 2005

September 27, 2005

(Editor's Note: If you're looking for 1% Solution information or news you can find it at
I set up that dedicated site so that News For Real does not get lost in that campaign... if, that is, it ever becomes a campaign.)

UPDATED: See addition at the end of this article.

Smoking Gun?

A scandal as large as any seen before, possibly larger, threatens to involve the highest reaches of the Bush administration, possibly the President himself. Like the "third-rate" burglary that unraveled the corruption and abuse of power that finished the Nixon administration, this unraveling beings with second-rate larceny by a first-rate lobbyist. A lobbyist whose influence reached deep within Congress, the Justice Department and, ultimately the Oval Office itself..

Let's begin with the latest revelation. Today the New York Times and Los Angeles Times, reported:

WASHINGTON, Sept. 26 - The Justice Department's inspector general and the F.B.I. are looking into the demotion of a veteran federal prosecutor whose reassignment nearly three years ago shut down a criminal investigation of the Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff, current and former department officials report....They said investigators had questioned whether the demotion of the prosecutor, Frederick A. Black, in November 2002 was related to his alert to Justice Department officials days earlier that he was investigating Mr. Abramoff. The lobbyist is a major Republican Party fund-raiser and a close friend of several Congressional leaders.... Mr. Abramoff's internal e-mail messages show that he boasted to clients about what he described as his close ties to John Ashcroft, then the attorney general, and others at the department. (Full Story)

If this had happened during Clinton's tenure you can be sure that "Watermelon-Dan" (Rep. Dan Burton R-IN) would have called congressional hearings PDQ and dragged the Attorney General before his committee to testify under oath whether he or anyone in his office had killed an investigation into a key Democrat lobbyist.

Memo to Democrats: Former Attorney General John Ashcroft is still alive and available to testify. Demand he do so, and under oath.

Besides today's news we already know quite a lot about Jack Abramoff. First, we have learned that it would be almost impossible to be a ranking member of the Bush administration and not know Jack.

And that fact, together with what else we now know about Jack and his dealings, argues strongly in favor of congressional hearings.

For example, we know that Jack Abramoff was key in funding House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's leadership PACs, which in turn was instrumental in engineering a redistricting of through Texas. That in turn play a determining role in the GOP's capture of both houses of Congress. (More Here)

We also know that Abramoff and DeLay were the driving forces preventing US labor, safety or environmental rules from being applied to sweatshops in the US-controlled Mariana Islands. And that even before becoming President, George W. Bush was firmly in the DeLay/Abramoff camp on that issue:

WASHINGTON (AP) — In President Bush's first 10 months, GOP fundraiser Jack Abramoff and his lobbying team logged nearly 200 contacts with the new administration as they pressed for friendly hires at federal agencies and sought to keep the Northern Mariana Islands exempt from the minimum wage and other laws, records show....The records from Abramoff's firm, obtained by The Associated Press from the Marinas under an open records request, chronicle Abramoff's careful cultivation of relations with Bush's political team as far back as 1997.

In that year, Abramoff charged the Marinas for getting then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush to write a letter expressing support for the Pacific territory's school choice proposal, his billing records show.

"I hope you will keep my office informed on the progress of this initiative," Bush wrote in a July 18, 1997, letter praising the islands' school plan and copying in an Abramoff deputy. (USA Today)

We know that DeLay, the darling of the religious right, was unmoved by documented reports from more than one human rights group detailing forced labor and forced abortions ordered by Mariana sweatshop operators to keep their female workers on assembly lines. (More)

There is strong evidence that bribes were paid by some in the Marinas to someone in Washington and that elections in the Marinas were subsequently rigged to elect candidates favored by DeLay and Abramoff.

We know that Enron got a fat power plant project for the islands because someone in Washington pulled the right strings. (And do I need to tell you that Enron screwed the people of those islands blue, after they still have no power plant?) (More)

We know that a lawyer for Tyco International, told Newsweek that evidence has been turned over to Justice alleging Abramoff had lied to the Justice Dept. for Tyco which had hired him to launch a lobbying campaign to stop legislation that would have barred federal contracts to U.S. companies that kept their headquartered in overseas tax havens. Tyco, based in Bermuda, paid Abramoff $1.7 million in 2003 and 2004—plus another $1.5 million to fund a "grass roots" campaign to gin up opposition to the anti-off-shoring legislation.

Here again we see Bush administration finger prints all over the crime scene. The Tyco official who hired Abramoff, Tim Flanigan, is a former White House lawyer nominated by President Bush to be deputy attorney general. (Tyco's lawyers claim Abramoff ripped the company off by charging $1.5 million for "Grassroots Interactive," a group that allegedly did little if any real organizing but instead diverted the money "for other purposes." Grassroots Interactive was controlled by Abramoff. )

Abramoff raised more than $100,000 for Bush's re-election.

Abramoff has been a busy little sociopath and his past has begun to catch up with him. In August he was indicted and arrested for allegedly defrauding lenders in a $145 million deal involving floating casinos in Florida. Hours before Abramoff was indicted on fraud charges in Miami, FBI agents tried to arrest him at his Maryland home. But he'd already flown to Los Angeles. Agents tracked him down on his cell phone and ordered him to surrender to the local FBI office. When Abramoff did, later that day, he was handcuffed, thrown into jail, then released last Friday on a $2.2 million bond.

Abramoff is also under investigation for defrauding Indian tribes he promised to help gain approval for casinos. According to sources close to those investigation Abramoff, with help from GOP anti-tax crusader, Grover Norquist and Christian-right leader Ralph Reed, inflated lobbying fees over-charged the tribes millions of dollars while never delivering the promised services.

And here's something to chew on. Abramoff was a paid lobbyist for Pakistan. That in itself isn't a crime. But considering that a couple of decades ago Abramoff was also a lobbyist and outspoken fan of apartheid South Africa, it's at least interesting. During that time South Africa, if you recall, had worked secretly with Israel to develop nuclear weapons. Considering Pakistan's history of nuclear proliferation, and the amount of money to made by those willing to aid and abet proliferation, the Abramoff/Pakistan relationship is worthy of further investigation. (See SourceWatch)

With all that as preface, we learn today that someone in the highest reaches of the Bush administration may have killed an investigation into Abramoff's activities way back in 2002. The fact that an investigation into such a well-connected Republican lobbyist might have been spiked by top DOJ appointees is bad enough. But the timing is even more suspicious. November 2002 -- mid-term elections were afoot -- elections that gave the GOP narrow majorities in both houses of Congress. (House 205-D/229-R & Senate 48-D/51-R)

It was close, too close. Tom Delay wanted to seal Republican control by even larger margins in 2004, and the best way to do that was to force a redistricting in his home state, Texas. Existing districting favored too many incumbent Democrats. But he knew they would fight redistricting to the death. He would need all the money he could get, and that meant Jack Abramoff -- and the last thing DeLay (or the White House) needed in the Fall of 2002 was an investigation into Abramoff's activities in the Marinas -- or anywhere else for that matter. And so the investigation was stopped. By whom, remains to be investigated.

That left Abramoff free to help DeLay with carving up Texas for the GOP. The vehicle was Texans for a Republican Majority (TRMPAC). Jack Abramoff served for several of DeLay's PACs, and helped set up TRMPAC apparatus. Texas was redistricted and the GOP made the gains DeLay had predicted in 2004 races.

Now a grand jury in Texas has indicted TRMPAC officials accusing the PAC of accepting $120,000 in illegal corporate campaign contributions shortly before and after the 2002 elections that helped Republicans cement their control of the House of Representatives.

I think there's enough here for Congressional hearings, don't you?

Oh wait.. two more things ... Karl Rove's personal secretary was formerly Abramoff's executive secretary? And, before they both ended up in the Bush administration, John Ashcroft was Karl Rove's private attorney?

Nothing worthy of a congressional investigation in any that, huh?

"What this starts to suggest is that Abramoff's ability to corrupt the system was far more pervasive, certainly than we knew at the time," Rep. George Miller

Arrests Made in Case Connected to Abramoff
Three Men Allegedly Killed 'Gus' Boulis, Who Sold A Casino Cruise Line to the Embattled Washington Lobbyist

By James V. Grimaldi and Susan Schmidt
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, September 27, 2005; 2:57 PM

Fort Lauderdale police have arrested three men on murder and conspiracy charges in the 2001 gangland-style killing of a South Florida businessman who sold a casino cruise line to Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff, authorities said today.

Police picked up Anthony Moscatiello, 67, Anthony Ferrari, 48, and James Fiorillo, 28, last night and this morning in connection with the ambush slaying of Konstantinos "Gus" Boulis, who was killed in Fort Lauderdale on Feb. 6, 2001.

Boulis had sold SunCruz Casinos to Abramoff and a partner, Adam Kidan, in 2000 at a time when Abramoff was one of Washington's most powerful lobbyists. Abramoff and Kidan were indicted last month on charges of wire fraud in connection with the purchase of the company. Moscatiello, known to police as a bookkeeper to New York's Gambino crime family, was brought in as consultant by Kidan when he and Abramoff took control of SunCruz. Ferrari is a business associate of Moscatiello.

Abramoff is at the center of a federal investigation into lobbying for Indian tribes and influence-peddling in Washington. Abramoff used contacts with Republican Reps. Tom DeLay (Tex.) and Robert W. Ney (Ohio) and members of their staffs as he worked to land the SunCruz deal, interviews and court records show.

Ney twice placed comments in the Congressional Record at key points while Abramoff and Kidan were wrangling with Boulis over the purchase and control of the company. Ney first sharply criticized Boulis and later praised the new ownership under Kidan. Ney later said he was duped into making the comments by an Abramoff aide.

Also during the negotiations, Abramoff brought a lender he was trying to impress to hobnob with DeLay in Abramoff's FedEx Field skybox at a Redskins-Cowboys game. DeLay has said he did not remember meeting the lender.

Fort Lauderdale homicide detectives say they have been interested in interviewing Abramoff for years, but he has repeatedly begged off, citing scheduling difficulties. Abramoff's lawyer, Neal Sonnett, said after the fraud indictment that his client knows nothing about the murder but would be willing to meet with police. Kidan, who was interviewed by police in 2001, also has denied any knowledge of the murder.

Police have long said they knew who killed Boulis but needed more evidence to bring a case. Late last week, police persuaded the Broward County State Attorney's Office that they had enough evidence to get a grand jury indictment.

Moscatiello was arrested at 8 p.m. yesterday in his Howard Beach home in Queens, N.Y. Ferrari was arrested at 11:15 p.m. in Palm Coast, Fla. Both were being held without bond on charges of first-degree murder, conspiracy and solicitation to commit murder. Fiorillo, who was arrested this morning in Miami Beach, was charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy.

Michael D. Becker, an attorney in Miami who has represented the men in other matters, said he has not had a chance to speak to any of them yet. "The arrest certainly came out of the blue," he said today.

Five years ago, Abramoff, Kidan and former Reagan administration official Ben Waldman of Springfield, purchased SunCruz from Boulis, 51, the millionaire founder of the popular Miami Subs sandwich shop chain. Abramoff and Kidan have been friends since their days together as College Republicans in Washington. Kidan, of New York City, owned the Dial-a-Mattress chain in the District until the franchise went into bankruptcy in the 1990s.

On Aug. 11, Abramoff and Kidan were indicted by a federal grand jury in Fort Lauderdale on five counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy relating to their $147.5 million SunCruz purchase. Prosecutors alleged that Abramoff and Kidan faked a wire transfer of $23 million -- the down payment they had agreed to put into the deal for the fleet of Florida-based day-cruise casino boats.

Boulis remained a minority partner in SunCruz after the deal, but the relationship soured quickly.

In October 2000, in the midst of the infighting with Boulis, Kidan turned to a friend of 15 years, Moscatiello, who began visiting Kidan's condominium and golfing with Kidan and Waldman. Moscatiello in 1983 was indicted on federal heroin-trafficking charges along with Gene Gotti, brother of John Gotti, then the head of the Gambino crime family. Gene Gotti and several others were convicted and sentenced to prison, but charges against Moscatiello were later dropped.

Kidan met Moscatiello in 1990 when he was running New York City's Best Bagels in the Hamptons and Moscatiello was running a catering hall. Moscatiello provided Kidan advice on running the business. Kidan said in a deposition he was unaware of Moscatiello's 1983 indictment or his affiliations with the Gambino family.

In December 2000, the trouble with Boulis boiled over in a fistfight between Kidan and Boulis. Kidan described the fight to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, telling the newspaper that Boulis said, "I'm not going to sue you, I'm going to kill you." Kidan said that SunCruz thereafter barred Boulis from its casino ships. "We fired his friends, we fired his family and he wasn't happy with it," Kidan said. "This guy is violent -- he's sleazy."

That month SunCruz made the first of $145,000 in payments to Moscatiello and his daughter. Three checks for $10,000 each were made to his daughter, Jennifer Moscatiello. A fourth check for $115,000 was made to Gran-Sons, a company the Moscatiellos ran. The payments were for catering, consulting and "site inspections," Kidan said in a civil court deposition in 2001.

There is no evidence that any food or drink were provided or that any consulting documents were prepared, according to court documents. The checks to Jennifer Moscatiello were made at Anthony Moscatiello's instruction, although his daughter provided no services for the money, Kidan said in his deposition.

Ferarri is a principal in Moon Over Miami Beach Inc., which received $95,000 from SunCruz for surveillance services in early 2001.

Abramoff and Kidan were traveling on business abroad at the time of Boulis's murder.

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