On the campaign trail, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) often touts his work fighting corruption, highlighting the Senate Indian Affairs Committee investigation he led into the Jack Abramoff scandal. In May, he bragged:
I led the Abramoff investigation. I saved the American people — excuse me, not only American people, but native Americans, millions — hundreds of millions — millions and millions of dollars.
In particular, the committee put out a 357-page report on its findings. Mentioned on at least 38 pages is former Christian Coalition director Ralph Reed, who assisted Abramoff in overbilling Indian tribal clients out of millions of dollars.
Yet on Monday, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) will be attending a fundraiser in Atlanta, which Reed is helping to organize. Reed “touted himself as a member of McCain’s ‘Victory 2008 Team’ in an e-mail that solicited donations on McCain’s behalf.” McCain has refused calls by ethics watchdog organizations to denounce Reed and cancel the fundraiser.
In a Democratic National Committee conference call today, House Oversight Committee chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) questioned why McCain would want to associate himself with someone who was “tied up in a gambling scandal.” He noted, however, that McCain has never been particularly tough on Reed — he never even called him to testify before the Senate Indian Affairs Committee during its investigation:
I give John McCain credit for having exposed Jack Abramoff, when he held hearings in the Senate Committee on Native Americans. But he never called Ralph Reed. And our committee did a further investigation of the Abramoff contacts with the White House, and we found Ralph Reed an active participant in trying to influence the White House for Abramoff’s clients.
In reality, McCain’s report on the Abramoff scandal was also far weaker than it should have been; it steered clear of any connections between Abramoff and McCain’s conservative Senate colleagues, even though many of them were complicit in the lobbyist’s schemes. Additionally, during McCain’s investigation, Abramoff’s old firm — Greenberg Traurig — hired McCain foreign policy adviser Randy Scheunemann “for advice on handling the Senate investigation.” Scheunemann also advised McCain during the 2000 election.
WAXMAN: I give John McCain credit for having exposed Jack Abramoff, when he held hearings in the Senate Committee on Native Americans. But he never called Ralph Reed. And our committee did a further investigation of the Abramoff contacts with the White House, and we found Ralph Reed an active participant in trying to influence the White House for Abramoff’s clients.
And he wasn’t doing these things as a good friend of Jack Abramoff alone. He was doing it to make money for himself. These guys, Abramoff and Reed and Grover Norquist, were all buddies back to the right-wing College Republican days. When Ralph Reed decided to go into this public relations business, he sent an e-mail to his good buddy Jack Abramoff, saying, “I need to start humping in corporate accounts. I’m counting on you to help me with some contacts.”
Which of course, Abramoff did, primarily with lucrative contracts involving Indian casinos, after which Reed and Abramoff left voluminous records. These actions of a corrupt lobbyist and a so-called pious former head of the Christian Coalition, tied up in a gambling scandal — that’s not the kind of people that John McCain ought to turn to, to raise money for his campaign efforts.
Lindsay Beyerstein was on the call today and has more notes here.