DeLay Memo: Abramoff Conspicuously Absent

There were a lot of names thrown around in Tom DeLay’s e-mail to supporters yesterday: Texas D.A. Ronnie Early, Common Cause’s Mary Boyle, Public Citizen’s Craig Holman, former President Ronald Reagan, Congressman Rahm Emanuel, Congressman Chris Bell, Congressman Nick Smith.

But amazingly, DeLay left out the name of “one of his closest and dearest friends,” Jack Abramoff. That DeLay fails to even mention Abramoff – who stands at the nexus of many of the most serious allegations surrounding the majority leader – is consistent with his refusal to clearly address the charges against him. Abramoff has more than a bit part in the drama, after all. To review:

1997 – Abramoff arranges junket to Saipan, gets DeLay to stand up against sweat shop reform: Abramoff, a lobbyist and former DeLay aide, arranges a lavish overseas trip to the American territory of Saipan for DeLay, his wife, his daughter and several aides. He writes in a memo obtained by ABC News that such trips are “one of the most effective ways to build permanent friends on the Hill.” The Saipan junket is part of Abramoff’s effort “to stop legislation aimed at cracking down on sweatshops and sex shops” on the island. A prominent factory owner on the island says DeLay “promised to stop the reform laws.”

2000 – Abramoff helps finance European vacation, gets DeLay to kill anti-Internet-gambling provision: Abramoff serves as go-between for a deal where eLottery, an online gaming company, helps finance a European vacation for DeLay. Two months later, DeLay helps kill the Internet Gambling Prohibition Act, which “would have made it a federal crime to place certain bets over the Internet and was opposed by eLottery and the Choctaws.”

2001 – 2002 – Abramoff trades on DeLay name for “Operation Open Door”: In 2001, Abramoff works with former DeLay Communications Director Michael Scanlon and former Christian Coalition leader Ralph Reed to help Texas Attorney General John Cornyn shut down the Tigua Indians’ Speaking Rock Casino in Texas. One year later, he cashes in on his credentials as a “pro-Indian-gaming lobbyist” with close ties to DeLay and persuades the same tribe — now desperate for help — to pay him and Scanlon $4.2 million with the understanding they will lobby Washington lawmakers, especially DeLay, for a secret provision to reopen the casino. The scheme is aptly named, “Operation Open Door.”

According to the Texas Observer, the understanding between the Tigua tribe and Jack Abramoff is as follows:

[Abramoff] would hide the language amending the law that prohibited Tigua gambling in a completely unrelated bill moving through the 2002 Congress. No one not closely following the process would pay any attention to the line. Tom DeLay would take care of the floor work once the language was inserted in the bill.

Abramoff and Scanlon secure the backing of Ohio Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH), to whom they funnel campaign contributions as part of the deal, but Congressman Chris Dodd (D-CT) refuses to allow the language into the bill, and the deal falls apart. Nevertheless Abramoff and Scanlon “kept the tribe invested in the process, while continuing to request political contributions and promise victory.” The casino is never reopened.

2004Jack Abramoff is now under investigation by the Justice Department, the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, the IRS, the Department of the Interior, and the FBI.

DeLay continues to claim he knew nothing about Abramoff’s activities, but Abramoff says otherwise. “Everybody is lying,” he told a colleague recently. “DeLay knew everything, he knew all the details.”