Video: Services Rendered?

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updated 1/4/2006 1:30:21 PM ET 2006-01-04T18:30:21

What does Jack Abramoff's guilty plea on Tuesday mean for the Indian tribes that he swindled?

On Tuesday evening, Jimmy Faircloth, who represents the Coushatta tribe in Louisiana -- a group that paid Abramoff and Michael Scanlon, his partner, approximately $31 million in lobbying fees -- joined MSNBC's Chris Matthews to share his perspective.

To read an excerpt from their conversation, continue to the text below. To watch the video, click on the "Launch" button to the right.

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Mr. Faircloth, thank you.  What does your tribe think of the fact that it bilked out of these millions of dollars by a guy who gave them nothing?

JIMMY FAIRCLOTH, LOUISIANA COUSHATTA TRIBE ATTORNEY:  Well, they are outraged.  Whether he gave them nothing, I'm not certain of that.  I think that was probably overstated.

MATTHEWS:  Well, that's what the indictment says.  The indictment says that Mr. Abramoff never delivered services for all that money he got.

FAIRCLOTH:  But there are two aspects to what was delivered.  In one respect, Abramoff's firm was hired.  And then the Scanlon connection was through capital campaign strategy.  And that's the focus of the indictment.  The indictment doesn't mention the $125,000 a month that was paid to Greenberg Traurig for the lobbying services.  So it's actually two components to what was purchased.

MATTHEWS:  Well, what does your tribe think about the indictment today, the fact that he pled today to something like nine or 10 years in prison, perhaps a lot more?

FAIRCLOTH:  Well, they're very satisfied with the fact that he will go to the prison, but the indictment does not cover the full aspect of the fraud with regard to the money.  There is still a great deal of money that was not accounted for in the indictment, or in Scanlon's indictment, for that matter.

MATTHEWS:  $25 million, are they going to get $25 million back from this guy?  What are they going to get back, your tribe, if this works out your way?

FAIRCLOTH:  Well, it's our position that all of the funds that were paid to Capital Campaign Strategy, that is Michael Scanlon's organization, were fruits of a fraud.  And so, it's our position that all of those funds, which is approximately $31 million, should be returned to the tribe.

MATTHEWS:  And how is that going to happen?  He is exposed now to litigation by your tribe.  Is he required by this plea bargain to pay any amounts of money?

FAIRCLOTH:  No, not the plea bargain.  There will be a restitution order, I assume, when the sentencing hearing is conducted.  I have not seen the parameters of that, as there was in the Michael Scanlon plea agreement.  But I assume there will be a restitution order.

MATTHEWS:  What did they tell your client that they were doing with all this money that they euchred from them, from the tribe?

FAIRCLOTH:  It's really an amazing series of e-mails and reports where they would overstate and embellish economic gaming threats and they would overstate and embellish-it was name-dropping to the highest level.  And they would gin these reports out almost weekly, announcing their successes, most of which were fabricated, and they would fabricate and embellish and exaggerate competitive threats.  So it was just an enormous scam.

MATTHEWS:  So they scared your clients they were going to hit hard by the government if they didn't play ball, didn't pay the money.  Did they say that-did Abramoff or Scanlon say they could deliver Tom DeLay?

FAIRCLOTH:  No, I don't recall there being a mention of Mr. DeLay being delivered.  They did direct that the tribe, along with many other tribes, make direct donations to a number of leaders, federal officials, but I don't think that they actually used the words, they could deliver anybody. 

MATTHEWS:  Well why did they make-what was the case they made for paying DeLay money?

FAIRCLOTH:  Along with everyone else, to establish a presence.  I think there is a term in one of the e-mails where they say to create a giving presence or a presence-a supporting presence in Washington.  And the tribe believed that Abramoff knew the secret handshake, he knew the way to get influence in Washington.  And the tribe followed him down that path.

MATTHEWS:  Mr. Faircloth, do you know anything more about this case that's going to embarrass public officials?

FAIRCLOTH:  What a broad question.  Yeah, I probably do.  How much more I'd be willing to disclose I'm not sure, but to answer your question honestly, probably so.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think it's going to hurt Tom DeLay?

FAIRCLOTH:  Not really from what I've seen.  It's hard to say.  I mean, his name, along with many other names, were included in the giving list that was sent to the tribe for them to make contributions-for the tribe to make contributions.  But I am not aware of any paper that directly links Mr. DeLay to any specific conduct. 

Watch 'Hardball' each night at 5 and 7 p.m. ET on MSNBC. 

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