Congressmen have planned a press conference Thursday, where they intend to call for the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate two scandals relating to lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Ranking members of the House Judiciary and Education and Workforce Committees, John Conyers, Jr. and George Miller, are specifically requesting this prosecutor handle inquiries into suspected acts of "political manipulation" relating to Abramoff's work for Guam and the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI).
The FBI and the Justice Department already have investigations underway into the demotion of Guam's Acting US Attorney, Frederick Black, in November 2002. The demotion came just days after Black revealed to the Justice Department that he had begun an investigation of Abramoff, who had a lobbying practice in Guam. Black had held the post 12 years prior. Though such an investigation was widely believed to be in progress, it wasn't until late September of this year that the New York Times was finally able to verify that rumor as fact.
Abramoff's work for business interests in the CNMI has also fallen under scrutiny in the past, as some have claimed that labor laws the lobbyist worked for enabled sweatshop conditions, and were even linked to human trafficking. His firms have also successfully lobbied for at least $2 million in federal aid to U.S. Commonwealth.
Most recently, his relationship with doubly-indicted House Speaker Tom DeLay has been implicated in a "funds swap" which prosecutors claim amounts to money laundering.
Abramoff was widely believed to use his close relationship with Bush Administration officials to enhance his value as a lobbyist to various interests. Then-Attorney General John Ashcroft claimed never to have had contact with Abramoff. However, in a 2000 email exchange, Abramoff and Ashcroft staff members explored possible dates that Ashcroft, then a Senator, could use Abramoff's MCI Center skybox.
In 2001, as Bush was sworn in to the office of President, Abramoff wrote CNMI officials: "Our standing with the new administration promises to be solid as several friends of the [Marianas] will soon be taking high-ranking positions in the Administration." In that year, Abramoff's organization, "logged nearly 200 contacts with the new administration." Two members of Abramoff's staff were even given posts by Bush, (one being the recently-indicted David Safavian).
The conference is scheduled for Thursday, October 6, 2005 at 12:00 noon, in the House Radio/TV Gallery.
Originally published on Wednesday October 5, 2005.