Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Jack Abramoff's Ties Ran Deep at the DOJ

By Joe Palazzolo and Pedro Ruz Gutierrez, Legal Times

Kevin Ring was exuberant. It was Feb. 4, 2002, and Ring, a young member of Jack Abramoff's lobbying team at Greenberg Traurig, was laying plans to attend a Dave Matthews Band concert at the MCI Center. It was to be a celebration.

"I have the suite filling up with DOJ staffers that just got our clients $16 million," he gushed in an e-mail to his colleague, Padgett Wilson. "Come to the show, baby."

"Are there any tickets left?" asked Wilson, now director of governmental affairs for Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue (R). He then submitted: "And as for those DOJ staffers, those guys should get anything they want for the rest of the time they are in office - opening day tickets, Skins v. Giants, oriental massages, hookers, whatever."

Last week, one of those staffers, Robert Coughlin II, 36, pleaded guilty to criminal conflict of interest, becoming the first Justice Department official charged in the 4-year-old influence-peddling investigation.

But court documents filed in Coughlin's case and e-mails released through congressional investigations are explicit about Team Abramoff's line into the Justice Department: Coughlin was but one of many "friendlies," as they are identified in Coughlin's statement of offense.

A source familiar with the Abramoff probe says the Justice Department is continuing to investigate other former Justice officials. Coughlin and at least two other unnamed Justice officials helped secure a $16.3 million grant for Ring's client, the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, court documents say. A deputy assistant attorney general had previously approved $9 million for the tribe. One unanswered question is which official at the department overruled that decision, giving the tribe the full amount............

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