Joe DiGenova, on the case.
Friday's Times has an article looking at the nature of the bribery charges Michael Scanlon pled guilty to and noting that some of the bribes were not that much different from what happens every day in Washington when campaign contributions are given in (de facto or tacit) exchange for support on various issues.
The author Carl Hulse then quotes Joe DiGenova saying, "The department has rarely charged campaign contribution cases. It would be a surprise that a contribution that has been lawfully reported" would lead to a criminal charge."
He identifies DiGenova as a "a defense lawyer and former federal prosecutor."
Not sufficient. A lot more information is required here. Joe DiGenova (as well as his wife and law partner Victoria Toensing) is a part of the DC Republican establishment who is routinely put forward when legal opinions are needed which exculpate Republicans or inculpate Democrats.
There's no other way to put it. Look at their public statements in the various Clinton 'scandals', the Fitzgerald investigation and now this case. In their voluminous public pronouncements they are both, in the clearest sense of the word, advocates. And their 'client' is the Republican party establishment in Washington, DC. That's fine, as far as it goes. But they should be identified as such, albeit perhaps in gentler terms, when they provide quotes in papers like the Times.
And to the underlying issue, is this use of the bribery statute novel?
And is it unfair?
The issue takes on a clearer partisan saliency because of this graf down in the piece ...
Representative Bob Ney, an Ohio Republican who has acknowledged being Representative No. 1, dismisses any suggestion that he was persuaded to do Mr. Scanlon's bidding because of campaign aid or perks like meals, entertainment or overseas travel.
"Whenever Representative Ney took official action," a statement from his office said, "actions similar to those taken by elected representatives every day as part of the normal, appropriate government process, he did so based on his best understanding of what was right and not based on any improper influence."
But the scrutiny of Mr. Ney has caught the attention of anxious lawmakers who have lobbying relationships of their own. It has also spurred advocacy groups. The campaign finance watchdog Democracy 21, for instance, is calling for inquiries by the House and Senate ethics committees into whether three dozen other members of Congress received contributions in exchange for intervening on behalf of a client of Mr. Abramoff.
The Associated Press reported this month that various lawmakers of both parties had asked the Interior Department to reject a casino application from a tribe that was a rival to one of Mr. Abramoff's clients. The lawmakers later received campaign aid from the tribe and Mr. Abramoff. Among the beneficiaries was the Senate Democratic leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, who received a $5,000 contribution to his political action committee shortly after sending a letter to the department in 2002.
Jim Manley, a spokesman for Mr. Reid, said Mr. Abramoff and the donation had had nothing to do with the position of the senator, who Mr. Manley noted was an author of Indian gaming laws and an opponent of new Indian casinos. "There was absolutely no connection between the letter and the contributions," he said.
So is Harry Reid singed by this too?
Maybe, though I doubt in any significant way. I've looked at this whole story pretty closely. And while Abramoff's racket was overwhelmingly with Republicans, some Democrats were in the mix too, usually on the margins and never very tightly. But some are there, particularly in some of the states where the Indian gambling issues were located.
In the case of Ney and Reid, the comparison is ludicrous if you look at the case at all seriously.
Bob Ney. He took him on trips, gave him endless free meals on his tab, gave him contributions galore. And in exchange Ney pulled strings for Jack's clients, tried to get bills passed, helped muscle Gus Boulis to sell his Casino boat line to Abramoff and all sorts of other things. Boulis, you'll remember, is the guy who later got whacked after the deal went sour. And the money paid to the men who are now under indictment for Boulis's murder came out of Abramoff's company.
So, let's just say Abramoff and Ney were tight.
DiGenova notwithstanding, the lawyers at the Public Integrity Section at DOJ (just now coming under the gun from DiGenova and his pals) are doing a pretty decent job finding cases where even the normal rules of the road in Washington were trashed so egregiously and overwhelmingly as to cross over into criminal conduct.
But let's return again to this issue of whether some Democrats might get singed by the Abramoff bonfire. Frankly, so be it. Republicans are about to reap the whirlwind because the operation that Jack Abramoff and Co. were running in Washington went way beyond what the already corrupted and corrupting rules of the road in Washington allow or anyone in the town has witnessed at any time in recent history. And as I've written before, pay offs to dirty reps. like Bob Ney were only one relatively small part
of the racket.
But if Democrats are going to run on
reform, they need to be for
reform. And if they're going to fan the flames of this bonfire they'll need to let it burn its course.