Taxpayers Group IDs Projects in Earmark Scandal

Posted June 3, 2008 at 2:31pm

Clients of a Jack Abramoff associate received more than $16 million in earmarks in the fiscal 2004 transportation spending bill, according to an analysis released Tuesday by Taxpayers for Common Sense. The analysis was released one day after the former chief of staff to then-Appropriations cardinal Ernest Istook (R-Okla.) pleaded guilty in federal court to one count of conspiracy to defraud the House of Representatives.

In a plea agreement submitted Monday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, former Congressional staffer John Albaugh acknowledged his guilt and admitted to arranging numerous earmarks for clients of “Lobbyist C,” who is not identified but is believed to be Kevin Ring, formerly a lobbyist at the D.C.-based firm Greenberg Traurig.

Although the plea agreement details instances in which Albaugh, Istook and Ring “discussed” procuring federal funds, the projects are not identified in the document.

But according to Taxpayers for Common Sense, six of Ring’s clients received earmarks, at a combined value of more than $16 million, in the fiscal 2004 Transportation and Treasury spending bill which was passed as part of an omnibus package.

“This case demonstrates the nature of corruption in the earmarking process,” said Taxpayers for Common Sense President Ryan Alexander in a statement. “We cannot continue with a broken system where we only discover corruption though criminal investigation.”

The earmarks identified by Taxpayers for Common Sense include funds for the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, Colorado Railcar Manufacturing, Elk Grove, Calif., and Lincoln, Calif. — a city in the district of Rep. John Doolittle (R), whom Ring once worked for as a House aide — the Saginaw Chippewa Tribe and Carter County, Mont.

Among those recipients, five of the six listed no representation other than Greenberg Traurig. The sixth, the Choctaw Indians, Mississippi Band, contracted with multiple lobbyists, but according to reports, hired only Greenberg Traurig to pursue appropriations for the tribe.

Albaugh, 41, had worked for Istook since he was first elected in 1993, becoming his chief of staff in 1998 and remaining so until Istook left office in January 2007.

In a statement Monday, Istook said FBI officials have told him he is not under investigation.

Albaugh will be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Ellen Huvelle on Sept. 17. He faces 18 to 24 months in prison, according to federal sentencing guidelines, but the government could ask for less depending on the extent of his cooperation.

Abramoff, who pleaded guilty on Jan. 4, 2006, to separate charges of tax evasion, fraud and conspiracy to bribe public officials, has not been sentenced on those charges because he continues to cooperate with federal investigators.

He is serving a five-and-a-half-year sentence at a minimum-security prison in Cumberland, Md., for his role in a separate fraud case involving Florida-based SunCruz Casino.