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Roll Call

Indian Affairs to Unveil Abramoff Report

After a two-year investigation into ex-lobbyist Jack Abramoff, the Senate Indian Affairs Committee will unveil its final report today on what federal investigators have labeled a $40 million-plus swindling of a handful of tribes by Abramoff and his associates.

Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the panel chairman who initiated the investigation in 2004, and Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), the ranking member, were tight-lipped Wednesday on whether the report would unveil any new details about Abramoff and his seven-year-long bribery scheme.

The report, which was made available by McCain and Dorgan to other panel members this week, is expected to be a thematic retelling of how Abramoff coaxed the tribes into paying tens of millions of dollars to his public relations associate, Michael Scanlon, who then funneled half of all profits back to Abramoff.

A critical question for the committee was whether to publish any or all of the materials that they never released to the public at the five hearings held on the investigation in 2004 and 2005. This pool includes upward of 100 pages of unreleased documents and e-mails that Indian Affairs has forwarded to the Senate Finance Committee as part of its ongoing probe into criminal activities by nonprofits, which was one avenue Abramoff used to evade taxes.

Those unreleased materials also are expected to contain damaging details about Abramoff’s interactions with other key players in the conservative movement who have so far remained clear of the federal criminal investigation, including Ralph Reed, the former Christian Coalition director who’s now running for Georgia lieutenant governor, and anti-tax activist Grover Norquist.

“Wait till the report comes out,” McCain said, when asked about its details.

While the criminal investigation operated largely under the secrecy of a federal grand jury, McCain’s investigation provided the driving drama of the scandal, keeping it alive in the press and inspiring more stories.

Scanlon pleaded guilty to defrauding the tribes, among other crimes, last November, with Abramoff’s plea following in January. Two other former Capitol Hill aides who worked for Abramoff have since pleaded guilty, and former government procurement officer David Safavian was found guilty by a jury this week for his role in trying to steer federal property to Abramoff for his personal use.

McCain said he didn’t consult with the Justice Department regarding any of the final details on the probe.

“We’ve got to keep a careful separation [between] ourselves and the DOJ,” he said.

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