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Abramoff Charities Scrutinized

“It won’t be separate from where we go on all of them,” he said, adding, “I don’t know if we’ll have hearings. I don’t know.”

If they do hold hearings, Grassley and Baucus will have a chance to draw even more attention to how Abramoff moved money around to finance his alleged bribes to Members. His Jan. 3 plea agreement specifically cited the August 2002 trip to Scotland with Ney, conservative activist Ralph Reed and former government procurement officer David Safavian, which cost $161,000 according to documents released by Indian Affairs. The tab was officially paid for by the Capital Athletic Foundation, a nonprofit run by Abramoff, but the funding was provided by a handful of his lobbying clients in payments sent to the foundation.

Abramoff ran at least two more trips to Scotland, one with DeLay in 2000 and another with Rep. Tom Feeney (R-Fla.) in 2003, which also involved playing golf at the legendary St. Andrews.

Aides to Finance declined to comment on what the new documents under review will reveal, as did the firms themselves.

“The firm will cooperate fully with the Finance Committee, as it has with every other investigation,” Preston Gates Ellis said in a statement provided by a public relations specialist.

While Indian Affairs and Finance have conducted their own Abramoff-related investigations, the Senate Ethics Committee has publicly stated that it will not weigh in on any matters connected to the criminal probe until Justice has completed its work.

Ethics Chairman George Voinovich (R-Ohio), who issued a letter several weeks ago explaining his panel’s decision to keep its hand out of the matter, said last week that the inaction by his committee was prompted by Justice.

“We were requested by the Justice Department to stay out of it,” Voinovich said, adding that the agency “felt it would be counter-productive” for Ethics to get involved.

“If somebody’s going to be indicted, we don’t go sticking our oar in that water,” he said. Voinovich added that he had no knowledge of whether anyone in the Senate might face an indictment.

In addition, Voinovich said that his panel was following what he called the “Torricelli precedent,” citing the way Ethics handled its investigation of then-Sen. Robert Torricelli (D-N.J.) in 2002. In that case, the panel waited until Justice concluded its probe — no indictments were ever brought — and forwarded its files to Ethics.

In late July 2002, Ethics “severely admonished” the Senator for accepting thousands of dollars worth of inappropriate gifts from a donor, dealing him a fatal blow to his re-election effort that year and causing him to give up his campaign.

Voinovich said that the Torricelli probe moved expeditiously because the committee did not have to do its own research, a benefit that he expects to have again once Justice is done with its Abramoff investigation and Ethics conducts its own inquiry.

“We had the benefit of having all that information,” he said of the Torricelli investigation. “I have every reason to believe, once they’re done with this investigation, they will take all their files and bring them over to us.”

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