Oaxaca, Saturday, April 16, 2005
Here are two items related to the role of Jewish neo-cons in
attempting to influence the U.S. government. A Newsweek article and one from
the Forward, a weekly Jewish newspaper published in New York City.
THE NEWSWEEK ARTICLE
With Friends Like These...
A lunchtime chat with a lobbyist close to Tom DeLay suggests he may be
headed for hotter water.
Jason Reed / Reuters
And in this corner: DeLay remains a hero among the pro-life
By Michael Isikoff
April 18 issue - Jack Abramoff was somber, bitter and feeling betrayed. Once
a Washington superlobbyist, Abramoff is now the target of a Justice
Department criminal probe of allegations that he defrauded American Indian
tribes of tens of millions of dollars in fees. As stories of his alleged
excess dribble out—including the emergence of e-mails showing he derisively
referred to his Native American clients as "monkeys" and "idiots"—some of
Abramoff's old friends have abandoned him and treated him like a pariah.
They claim they knew nothing of his questionable lobbying tactics. So last
week, glumly sitting at his corner table at Signatures, the tony downtown
restaurant he owns that remains his last redoubt, Abramoff lashed out in
"Everybody is lying," Abramoff told a former colleague. There are e-mails
and records that will implicate others, he said. He was noticeably caustic
about House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. For years, nobody on Washington's K
Street corridor was closer to DeLay than Abramoff. They were an unlikely
duo. DeLay, a conservative Christian, and Abramoff, an Orthodox Jew,
traveled the world together and golfed the finest courses. Abramoff raised
hundreds of thousands for DeLay's political causes and hired DeLay's aides,
or kicked them business, when they left his employ. But now DeLay, too, has
problems—in part because of overseas trips allegedly paid for by Abramoff's
clients. In response, DeLay and his aides have said repeatedly they were
unaware of Abramoff's behind-the-scenes financing role. "Those S.O.B.s,"
Abramoff said last week about DeLay and his staffers, according to his
luncheon companion. "DeLay knew everything. He knew all the details."
It is a Washington melodrama that has played out many times before. When
political figures get into trouble and their worlds collapse, they look to
save themselves by fingering others higher in the food chain. Will Abramoff
attempt to bargain with federal prosecutors by offering up DeLay—and does he
really have the goods to do so? Abramoff has at times hinted he wanted to
bargain—possibly by naming members who sought campaign cash for legislative
favors, says a source familiar with the probe. But Abramoff's lawyer, Abbe
Lowell, says, "There have been no negotiations with the Justice Department."
Lowell cryptically acknowledges that Abramoff has been "disappointed" and
"hurt" by the public statements of some former friends, but insists his
client is currently "not upset or angry with Tom DeLay." Still, if
Abramoff's lunch-table claims are true, he could hand DeLay his worst
DeLay has plenty to explain already. Last week, still more questions about
the congressman's ethics emerged when The New York Times reported that his
wife and daughter have collected $500,000 in fees from DeLay's
political-action and campaign committees since 2001. DeLay and his aides
mounted a fierce counterattack, pointing to numerous examples of family
members of Democrats who did the same thing. Potentially more troublesome
was a Washington Post story that chronicled a six-day "fact-finding" trip to
Moscow in August 1997 that was circuitously financed by Naftasib, a Russian
oil company. Among those on the trip—besides DeLay, his wife and four of his
staff members—was Abramoff, who joined the party in Moscow and dined and
golfed with DeLay.
House rules require members to accurately report who pays for their travel.
In this case, DeLay reported the $64,000 trip as being sponsored by the
National Center for Public Policy Research, a conservative think tank whose
board members included Abramoff. The National Center said it did finance the
trip. But its lawyer confirmed to NEWSWEEK that it had received a
substantial contribution from a "white shoe" law firm—which sources
identified as Cadwalader, Wickersham Taft—to cover the cost. Cadwalader had
been retained by Naftasib and a closely related firm, registered in the
Bahamas. The New York law firm in turn hired Abramoff's firm to do the heavy
lifting in Washington. Both firms were paid handsomely for their work,
collecting more than $440,000 in fees in 1997, primarily to set up meetings
for their Russian oil clients with members of Congress and federal agencies.
Aides to DeLay insist he was in the dark about the Russian money behind the
trip. But one conservative think-tank analyst, Michael Waller, was
aggressively trying to warn congressional staffers about the Naftasib
connection. Even after the trip, he continued to press them. The excursion
was "bankrolled by influence peddlers tied to [the then] Prime Minister
Viktor Chernomyrdin," Waller wrote in a bulletin faxed and e-mailed to
congressional staffers shortly after the trip.
DeLay's spokesman, Dan Allen, said Naftasib's business interests were
irrelevant to DeLay. "The main purpose of the trip was to talk about
religious persecution," he said. But DeLay's many political enemies in
Washington aren't likely to buy that explanation. And the one man who may
know best so far isn't talking, except to those he invites to his restaurant
AND THE FORWARD ARTICLE
FORWARD, April 15, 2005
Founded in 1897 -- Published Weekly in New York
Right-wing Jews Rally to Defense of Embattled DeLay
By e.J. KESSLER
April 15, 2005
Even as embattled GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff was reported to have turned on
House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, the Texas Republican's other right-wing
Jewish allies are rallying to his defense.
"DeLay is arguably the best friend Israel has in Congress," said Morton
Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America, which adamantly
opposes the creation of a Palestinian state. "He's not simply a guy who you
go for help. He gets other guys to help. A guy like DeLay will call you [to
ask] what can he do."
Republican activist Jeff Ballabon, head of the conservative Center for
Jewish Values, also came to the Republican leader's defense. "DeLay's
concern for Jewish survival and his active friendship for Israel are deep
and personal," Ballabon said. "They existed long before the Oslo terror war
and long before Jewish organizations or fundraisers ever discovered him.
Those in the Jewish community who have come to appreciate the depth and
magnitude of his friendship ought to stand with him now."
A crack in DeLay's right-wing Jewish support appeared to emerge this week,
when Newsweek published a report citing an unnamed source saying DeLay was
being bad mouthed by Abramoff, a longtime political ally. According to the
report, Abramoff told a confidant that DeLay "knew everything" about who had
financed his ethically questionable trips abroad. An Abramoff spokesman
denied the magazine report.
DeLay, an Evangelical Christian who recently blocked Bush administration
plans to provide direct aid to the Palestinian Authority, has been taking
fire in the press from Democrats and even two Republicans lawmakers over
three trips abroad that allegedly were paid for by lobbyists, which would
have violated House ethics rules.
At least two of the trips, a 1997 visit to Russia and a 2000 trip to England
and Scotland, allegedly were financed by entities with links to Abramoff. A
longtime friend and associate of DeLay, Abramoff raised hundreds of
thousands for Delay's political causes and charities, and employed many
former DeLay staffers in his lobbying operations.
DeLay has denied knowing that any lobbyists funded the trips. He has said
the trips were sponsored by a Washington-based conservative think tank, the
National Center for Public Policy Research. Abramoff, an Orthodox Jew and
vocal supporter of right-wing Israeli causes, served on the center's board.
Jews have figured prominently in DeLay's defense — both as advocates and
whipping boys. In Congress, Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia, an observant Jew
who is the House Republicans' chief deputy majority whip, has been key in
spearheading the GOP pushback on DeLay. The Republican strategy has been to
blame DeLay's problems on the "liberal media" and the Hungarian-born Jewish
billionaire financier George Soros.
A Soros-funded left-leaning group, Campaign for America's Future, has been
running ads drawing attention to DeLay's alleged ethical lapses. Soros
emerged as a lightning rod of GOP criticism when he spent $27 million during
the 2004 campaign on various efforts to defeat President Bush.
"Tom DeLay has been the staunchest defender of Israel in Congress today. He
has been an extremely effective leader on the House floor," Cantor said in a
statement to the Forward. "Congressional Democrats and their billionaire
liberal allies like George Soros can't accept that he beats them at the
ballot box and on the House floor. I think it is becoming apparent to the
American people that these attacks are not about Tom DeLay. They are about
Democrats using any means necessary to regain the majority."
A spokesman for Soros, Michael Vachon, responded: "Blaming Soros is another
desperate attempt on Delay's part to avoid taking responsibility for his
ethical lapses. Evidently, Tom DeLay is better at making accusations than at
taking responsibility for his own actions. For the record, while Soros has
funded the Campaign for America's future in the past, he is not a funder of
their efforts to highlight DeLay abuse of his power and position."
Abramoff is being investigated by the FBI, the IRS, the Senate Indian
Affairs Committee and a federal grand jury over alleged fraud and
overcharges in $66 million in fees he was paid by Indian tribes involved in
casino gambling. His problems have rocked his Maryland Jewish community,
where he was famous for having started a short-lived Jewish day school, the
Eshkol School, and the District of Columbia's only kosher deli, Stacks, also
defunct. The school and an Abramoff-controlled foundation that supported its
activities have figured in the Senate investigation of Abramoff's lobbying.
An avatar of Jewish Republicanism, Abramoff frequently spoke out in favor of
an alliance with evangelicals to support maximal Israeli positions.
This week, Abramoff courted even more controversy. A story in the April 18
edition of Newsweek quotes an upset Abramoff railing at DeLay and his aides
for maintaining that they did not know about Abramoff's role in financing
the Republican lawmaker's trips. "Those SOBs," Newsweek quotes Abramoff as
saying about DeLay and his staffers. "DeLay knew everything. He knew all the
details." Newsweek sourced the remarks to an unnamed companion with whom
Abramoff lunched last week.
Abramoff, however, is denying the story. "Mr. Abramoff strongly denies
making the comments attributed to him in the April 18 issue of Newsweek,"
Abramoff spokesman Andrew Blum wrote in an e-mail. "He is furious that in
the media's latest attempt to create a story where none exists, it now seeks
to pit him against those that he has known and supported for years. Even Mr.
Abramoff's unidentified lunch companion referred to in the Newsweek article
has flatly denied ever stating that Mr. Abramoff said these things. He can
only hope that those who know him best know better than to believe
everything they read."
Newsweek "stands behind its story," said magazine spokesman Ken Weine.