Video: Abramoff's money trail

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updated 1/11/2006 4:02:30 PM ET 2006-01-11T21:02:30

As influence peddler Jack Abramoff gets ready to be the government‘s star witness in its probe into congressional corruption, a sleazy lobbying firm dies a deserved death.  Which members will they take down with them?  HARDBALL correspondent David Shuster has the whole tough story. 

Nestled in the high-rent neighborhood of Georgetown, the Republican Alexander Strategy Group last year was a top 25 Washington influence peddler that raked in more than eight million dollars.

The group lobbied for companies and organizations, including manufacturers in the pharmaceutical industry, but the firm closely linked to Jack Abramoff and owned by Congressman Tom DeLay‘s former chief of staff is now closed for business. 

While the firm Web site still boasts, “Our experience and relationships are just the start,” it is actually the end because the firm is as dead as Julius Caesar. 

Owner Ed Buckham told The Washington Post, quote, “Reports in the press have made it difficult to continue as a lobbying political entity.”  It was this firm that hired the wife of Republican lawmaker John Doolittle.  No influence there.  The Congressman is one of a dozen believed to be under investigation. 

And disclosure forms show the firm also paid Christine DeLay, wife of Tom DeLay $3,000 a month to collect information on charities. 

In Sugarland, Texas, where this weekend Tom DeLay announced he is not going to run again for House majority leader but will still seek reelection to Congress, the first shots in the 2006 midterms are now being fired. 

A Democratic activist group is now running this television ad.  ANNOUNCER:  Forty-eight trips to golf resorts, 100 flights aboard company jets, 200 nights at world class resorts and hotels.  One million dollars from Russian tycoons to allegedly influence his vote.  One million dollars from Russian tycoons?  What else will we uncover about Tom DeLay? 

Adding to DeLay‘s problems, the once all powerful Republican majority leader now has three primary challengers facing him on March 7.  In Ohio, there are rumblings of a primary challenge to Republican Bob Ney. 

Federal prosecutors have notified Ney he will likely be indicted and the same Democratic group Video: Corrupt Center that targeted DeLay has erected this highway billboard and is now hammering Ney with this radio ad.  ANNOUNCER:  A lavish trip to Scotland to play golf on world famous courses, free tickets to sporting events, meals at upscale restaurants, tens of thousands of dollars.  Sounds like a game show jackpot, doesn‘t it?  Unfortunately, it‘s what Ohio Congressman Bob Ney got for indicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff. 

Today‘s Washington Post-ABC News poll found that 58 percent of Americans believe the Abramoff case is evidence of widespread corruption in Washington, compared to just 34 percent who say it is limited to a few individuals.  And while 52 percent see members of Congress as about as honest as the average American, 44 percent say lawmakers are more dishonest. 

It‘s why California Congressman David Dreier may now be the most valuable lawmaker Republicans have at the moment because Dreier, chairman of the powerful Rules Committee has been asked to draft legislation for lobbying reform. 

For Jack Abramoff, the intense media spotlight has not been a ride in the park.  And here‘s one for the trivial pursuit scandal edition.  Remember Monica Lewinsky, the Clinton intern whose scandal led to a presidential impeachment? 

She and Jack Abramoff attended the same elementary and high school in Beverly Hills, California.  And regarding Abramoff‘s education, the L.A.  Times adds this twist.  The paper reports that in middle school, Abramoff ran for student council president and was, quote, “Disqualified for exceeding the spending limits.  The principal penalized Abramoff for holding a party stating it amounted to a campaign expenditure that pushed him over the limit.” 

Yes, as a sixth grader, the young Jack Abramoff was already showing signs of what his adult life would become.  What do they teach in Southern California? 

The bigger question though is which influence peddler or group will be the next to fall in the Abramoff corruption scandal? 

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

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