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Former DeLay aide paid thinktank to advance Washington lobbying efforts

Published: Wednesday April 12, 2006

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Magazine Publishers of America

In May 2000, Amy Ridenour published a National Policy Analysis entitled “Proposed 15% postal rate increase would hurt everyone.” The article decried the effect such a “draconian” increase would have on the magazine publishing industry. According to Ridenour’s footnotes, some of the information she used was gathered from an interview with the Magazine Publishers of America.

The Magazine Publishers of America was a client of Abramoff’s. The association paid Abramoff’s firm, Preston Gates, $240,000 in 2000. Abramoff was also a member of NCPPR’s board of directors at the time.

In June 2000, NCPPR published another article that referred to the rate increase, this time written by David Ridenour, Amy’s husband and vice president of the thinktank. David Ridenour’s article didn’t mention the Magazine Publishers Association specifically, but was entitled “Split up the Postal Service, not Microsoft.”

In his plea agreement, Abramoff admitted that he and “others” provided “things of value” to Tony Rudy. Abramoff said that gifts to Rudy were made with the intention of “stopping legislation regarding gambling and opposing postal rate increases.”

The “things of value” included the disbursement of “ten equal monthly payments totaling $50,000 through a non-profit entity” to Tony’s wife, Lisa. In January, the Washington Post reported that half of the intended bribe was paid for by the Magazine Publishers of America, who had hired Abramoff’s firm in 2000 for a “$20 million campaign against the postal rate increase.”

Channel One

The Magazine Publishers of America wasn’t the only group to benefit from Ridenour’s pen.

In December 1998, Abramoff’s lobbying team signed Channel One, a for-profit entity which delivers educational programming to schoolchildren alongside commercials. Channel One paid Preston Gates over a million dollars for their efforts.

The following May, Ridenour defended Channel One’s use of commercials after Ralph Nader’s Commercial Alert urged Congress to investigate the practice. Ridenour said Nader’s charge was spurious.

“The schools are voluntary participants in the arrangement, and they can cancel the service at any time,” she wrote.

Pitney Bowes

Ridenour also lobbied for Pitney Bowes, another Abramoff client. From 1998 to 2000, Pitney Bowes paid Abramoff and his associates over a million dollars to lobby Congress.

“Technology is changing how we communicate, and forever changing the U.S. Postal Service,” Amy Ridenour wrote in December 1998.

“For instance,” she continued, “Pitney-Bowes, the Stamford, Connecticut-based manufacturer of postage meters and other office equipment, has received post office approval to beta test "Click Stamp" - new technology that lets the 16% of letters that are generated by personal computer have the postage affixed through the PC itself, literally as the envelope is bring printed.”

In February 2000, Ridenour even went so far as to publicly attack Pitney Bowes’ competitors. She complained that “government intervention causes harm to consumers” and that “suspicions have arisen that the government is playing favorites among the companies vying to bring this technology to the market.”

Ridenour also wrote about Pitney Bowes in March 1999, when she heralded the company for its contributions to African-Americans in a Black History Month retrospective.

Previous pay-for-play allegations

Several years back, NCPPR also came under fire for “Envirotruth,” a website they created attacking progressive environmental groups, including Greenpeace and the Sierra Club. Exxon Mobil ponied up $55,000 to the group that year.