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“I’ve rechecked all of my campaign finance records and have confirmed again that I’ve never accepted any contributions from Jack Abramoff, the Greenberg Traurig firm, or gambling entities,” Vitter said in the statement. Abramoff worked at Greenberg Traurig until March 2004, when it was publicly reported that he and Scanlon raked in more than $45 million from a half-dozen Indian tribes over three years. That figure has since risen to more than $80 million as additional information was uncovered. Federal and Congressional investigators are now looking into the pair’s business activities.
In his statement, Vitter dismissed any suggestion that he had a close relationship with Abramoff, or had acted at Abramoff’s request when he sought to block the Jena Choctaws’ casino plans. “I never met with Jack Abramoff on any Indian gambling issue. Never,” Vitter said. “Furthermore, to my knowledge, I have only met him once briefly in passing, and to this day I couldn’t pick him out of a crowd.”
Vitter’s campaign to block the Jena Choctaw’s casino extended from early 2002 into late 2003, and consisted of numerous letters to Interior Secretary Gale Norton in opposition to the tribe’s proposal, as well as repeated public statements on the casino proposal. Vitter also tried to insert language in the fiscal 2003 Interior spending bill but was rebuffed.
“Serving on the House Appropriations committee, I thought a good vehicle to accomplish this would be to insert language into an appropriations bill,” said Vitter, who was elected to the Senate last November after years in the House. “My original initiative in FY 03 was unsuccessful. I made another attempt in the FY04 Interior Conference report, and was successful.”
Vitter acknowledged working with lawyers at Greenberg Traurig in late 2003 to help draft his legislative language for the Interior bill, although his aides adamantly insisted that he did not know that Abramoff or the Coushattas had any connection to CAGE. Abramoff and Greenberg Traurig were paid $5.7 million to lobby for the Coushattas between 2001 and 2003, according to lobbying disclosure reports.