Abramoff Whistleblower Wants Stiffer Sentence for Scanlon Than Feds Requested

Native American lobbyist Tom Rodgers, the main whistleblower in the Jack Abramoff scandal, isn’t satisfied with the government’s request for two years in jail for Michael Scanlon.

Scanlon, a central figure in the Abramoff lobbying scandal, faces sentencing Friday, and Rodgers wants the judge to hand down at least the same amount of prison time Abramoff received.Abramoff, the former high-flying GOP lobbyist, was ordered to serve a six-year sentence but was released for good behavior after three and a half years last June, first to a halfway house and then to home confinement.

Scanlon, a one-time aide to former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), was Abramoff’s right-hand man and played a key role in the wide-ranging lobbying scandal, which defrauded several Native American tribes of tens of millions of dollars.

“Is two years justice?” Rodgers, a member of the Blackfeet Nation who represents several tribal interests in Washington, asked in an interview with TPM. “Justice for Native Americans who Michael Scanlon referred to as subhuman while he stole their dreams?…A reduced sentence for being the Judas even among his co-conspirators?”

“I believe in forgiveness for that will enrich one’s soul, but I cannot forget the pain of his words and deeds,” he continued.

Rodgers was referring to e-mails between Scanlon and Abramoff demonstrating a contemptuous attitude toward their tribal clients. In many of them, the pair referred to Native Americans as “morons,” “troglodytes,” and “monkeys.”

To help right the wrongs, Rodgers would like to see Scanlon serve at least part of his sentence in service projects for Native American children and elderly tribal leaders.

“In healing them, perhaps he would heal himself,” Rodgers said.

Other aggrieved tribal members, including the Louisiana Coushatta’s David Sickey, plan to be on hand Friday to argue for a more severe sentence.

Until early last year when The Hill ran a profile of Rodgers revealing his role in bringing down Abramoff through strategic document leaks to key members of the media, he had kept largely silent. Since that time, he has played a leading role in the Abramoff documentary “Casino Jack and the United States of Money,” attended its debut at the Sundance Film Festival and received honorary degrees and ethics awards from several universities.

Scanlon’s attorneys are citing another “Casino Jack” film — a Hollywood feature starring Kevin Spacey as one of several reasons why Scanlon should serve less than two years. The actor’s portrayal of him has already soiled his reputation, they argue in their own legal filing. They also said Scanlon “believed he was literally risking his life” by cooperating with the feds.

Abramoff and Scanlon orchestrated an elaborate kickback scheme in which tribes would pay Scanlon’s public relations firm extraordinary “consulting” fees and Scanlon would kickback a percentage to Abramoff. The practice allowed he and Abramoff to avoid lobbying disclosure rules and sidestepped fees that would have otherwise gone to Greenberg Traurig, Abramoff’s lobbying firm before he was fired after news of the scandal broke.

Scanlon has been cooperating with Justice Department prosecutors to turn state’s evidence against his former friends and colleagues many of whom became defendants in the wide-ranging corruption case.

“The government greatly credits Scanlon for being the first one to cooperate with the government, and, consequently, considers Scanlon’s cooperation as contributing to the success of all of the prosecutions,” DOJ prosecutors said.

The government also requested that the court “set a hearing to determine to whom and the proper amounts of restitution to be paid by Mr. Scanlon.”

In his 2005 plea deal, Scanlon was required to pay nearly $19.7 million in restitution to Native American tribes. Scanlon also testified in DeLay’s state corruption trial last month.

Ethics watchdog Meredith McGehee, the policy director of the Campaign Legal Center, was surprised by the two-year recommendation because most defendants who cooperate as extensively as Scanlon did, receive little or no jail time. But the two-year suggestion is a telltale sign of Scanlon’s integral role in the corruption schemes.