In Abramoff Scandal, Wives Play Key Role

A continuing theme in the Jack Abramoff investigation, and one that seems to interest investigators very much, has been the use of wives to channel money to key players. So as a kind of public service, here’s a rundown of which wives were on the take.

Rep. Tom DeLay‘s (R-TX) former chief of staff, Ed Buckham, seems to have been something of a trailblazer with this scheme. As early as 1997, his wife Wendy made $43,000 in “commissions” on contributions to Buckham’s sham non-profit the U.S. Family Network. The contributions came from Jack Abramoff’s clients – all very eager to win DeLay’s favor. I’ll let you judge how hard she had to work to win these “commissions.”To funnel money to DeLay, the now-defunct Abramoff-tied Alexander Strategy Group put his wife DeLay’s wife Christine on the payroll — but never gave her a desk. The timing of her employment (1998-2002) indicates she may have been used as a cutout to move money from Abramoff’s clients (casino companies, Russian oil interests, sweatshop owners) through the US Family Network, to ASG, and finally to DeLay. (Yes, we’re down the rabbit hole again.)

To move money to Rep. John Doolittle (R-CA), ASG hired Doolittle’s wife, Julie, to be an accountant. (Doolittle sits on two powerful committees.) Through his lobby firm, Abramoff hired Julie to raise money for a charity he founded. And Doolittle funneled off a portion of many large campaign contributions by paying Julie a 15 percent “commission” on each one she allegedly landed. Julie also got money from Abramoff.

And to move money to Tony Rudy, Buckham’s deputy on DeLay’s staff, two $25,000 checks from Abramoff clients were laundered through a conservative charity to Tony’s wife Lisa, nominally an employee of the organization. Rudy has admitted to working on behalf of the two Abramoff clients in exchange for the 50 grand.

(Interestingly, the one wife we haven’t heard much about in this context is Pamela Abramoff. She did, however, make contributions on Jack’s behalf and participate in some business dealings with his associates.)

It’s a side of marriage we haven’t known much about until they showed us. To have, to hold, and to act as a pass-through. We’re going to be looking closely into the finances of other politicians to see what their wives are paid for and why.