D.C. Circuit Affirms Conviction of Jack Abramoff Associate Kevin Ring

Here is the opinion.

An excerpt:

In 2004, a Department of Justice investigation into Jack Abramoff’s lobbying team unearthed evidence of corruption so extensive that it ultimately implicated more than twenty public officials, staffers, and lobbyists. Appellant Kevin Ring, once a prominent Washington lobbyist, was one of them. Exposing the dark underbelly of a profession that has long played an important role in American politics, this case probes the boundary between legal lobbying and criminal conduct. Ring was convicted of honest-services fraud, paying an illegal gratuity, and conspiracy relating to his provision of meals, tickets, and other gifts to public officials. On appeal, Ring argues that the district court’s instructions on the honest-services counts misstated the law, that the jury lacked sufficient evidence to find that an “official act” underlay the illegal-gratuity charge, and that the district court ran afoul of Federal Rule of Evidence 403 and the First Amendment when it admitted evidence of his lawful campaign contributions. Although each of these arguments is weighty, we ultimately affirm Ring’s conviction.

Harvard Law Review Book Review by Richard Hasen of Jack Abramoff Book

Here.

Excerpts:

One of his greatest faults, he explains in a bit of false modesty, was that he was giving away too much money to charity while he was raking in funds from competing Native American tribes and taking money on the side for his  consulting work with business partner Mike Scanlon in an arrangement he did not disclose to his clients (pp. 166, 193).

And:

At many points in the book, Abramoff describes himself in the best possible light. He downplays his business prowess in explaining his questionable SunCruz dealings with Adam Kidan (p. 138). He further says that it “never occurred to us” that his use of a nonprofit organization to launder funds from Native American tribes to himself and Scanlon was illegal (p. 190). He even hedges on the main charge of self-dealing with the tribes:

I neglected to tell my clients how much I was profiting from these grassroots efforts. I reasoned that the tribes and clients were happy with their victories, that our efforts were priced in accordance with their value and that they were paying what they agreed to pay to stop threats they identified to us, after proper fee negotiations. Plus, I wasn’t even keeping the money I made anyway. I was giving away upwards of 80 percent ofmy income for good causes and to help people. What could possibly be wrong with any of this? (p. 193)

 

HuffPo: Tribes Confront Abramoff

Here.

An excerpt:

Another tribe targeted by Abramoff and Scanlon was the Saginaw Chippewa of Michigan. When the Chippewa tribal council was reluctant to offer a big lobbying contract to the two men in 2001, they poured money into tribal elections to elect a slate of tribal leaders who would approve a $150,000-per-month deal. (The previous lobbyist for the tribe had made $10,000 per month.) The new council would also approve a bloated contract with Scanlon’s consulting firm, which again split the profits with Abramoff.

Monica Lubiarz-Quigley, a lawyer who once represented the Chippewas, said she was pushed out of her job after she raised questions about the high-priced contracts that tribal leaders were signing. She views the reemergence of Abramoff as a voice of reform with skepticism.

“It’s business as usual in Washington,” Lubiarz-Quigley said. “Certainly the tribes and what happened to the tribes seems to be like an ‘Oh, well,’ and it doesn’t surprise me. … That’s how the insiders in Washington see it. They’re not terribly concerned with what happened to the tribes. And that’s how they got away with it in the first place.”

Disbarment of Former DOJ Official Involved in Abramoff Scandal

An excerpt from BLT:

The D.C. Court of Appeals today disbarred a former U.S. Justice Department lawyer who pleaded guilty in Washington federal district court to a conflict of interest violation stemming from the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal.

Robert Coughlin II, who served as deputy chief of staff in the Criminal Division, consented to disbarment from the District of Columbia bar, the appeals court said in an order (PDF) published today.

Coughlin had been under interim suspension since June 2008. He pleaded guilty in April 2008 in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to one count of conflict of interest. Coughlin was not immediately reached for comment this morning.

Prosecutors said Coughlin acknowledged receiving gifts from former Greenberg Traurig lobbyist Kevin Ring, who was also charged in the Abramoff investigation. Ring and Coughlin were close friends, socializing regularly.

Coughlin helped Ring get a $16.3 million grant for the Chocktaw Tribe to build a jail. Coughlin received thousands of dollars in concert and sporting event tickets and restaurant trips.