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Former Abramoff-Linked Lobbyist Helps Santorum in South Carolina

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo
A former K Street operative who pleaded guilty to “honest services” fraud in 2008 is now a vocal supporter of former Sen. Rick Santorum (above) in South Carolina.

Hirni also has deep ties to the Washington political establishment. After stints on the Hill for Republican lawmakers including Sen. Jeff Sessions (Ala.) and former Sens. Bill Frist (Tenn.) and Tim Hutchinson (Ark.), Hirni joined prominent K Street firms that included Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal, Cassidy & Associates and Greenberg Traurig, where he worked with Abramoff. He spent more than a year as an internal Congressional liaison to Walmart before pleading guilty in December 2008 to one count of “honest services” fraud for providing gifts to Congressional staffers. He was sentenced to one day in jail and two years of supervised release.

Also in South Carolina, a pro-Santorum super PAC called the Red, White and Blue Fund has announced plans to spend $190,000 on pro-Santorum TV ads starting this weekend. PAC adviser Stuart Roy said the group has been inundated with calls and emails since Santorum’s near-win at the Iowa caucuses.

“We’ve been in high gear in terms of additional fund raising,” said Roy, a public affairs consultant whose previous posts include communications director for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. The PAC spent more than $500,000 on pro-Santorum ads in Iowa, Roy said. Its chief organizer is Iowa political consultant Nicholas Ryan, who previously worked on Santorum’s presidential campaign.

Eliza Newlin Carney contributed to this report.

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