Video: Lobbyists investigated

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updated 6/22/2005 7:25:39 PM ET 2005-06-22T23:25:39

Capitol Hill got a troubling glimpse Wednesday of how Washington sometimes works. Investigators with the Senate Indian Affairs Committee outlined how Jack Abramoff — a high-powered lobbyist whom House Majority Leader Tom DeLay once called "one of my closest and dearest friends" — and Mike Scanlon, a former DeLay aide, allegedly defrauded an Indian tribe of millions of dollars and concocted schemes to conceal what they were doing.

Abramoff and Scanlon are accused of defrauding the Mississippi Choctaw Indians, who had hired them to protect the tribe's casino gambling interests.

"I think I am becoming incapable of being too surprised," said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., at Wednesday's hearing. "But it just makes me sad and sick."

Investigatorsclaim that much of the $16 million paid by the Choctaws was diverted for other purposes, including:

  • a Jewish school Abramoff founded;
  • an Abramoff friend who conducted sniper training for the Israeli military;
  • Abramoff's personal loan and expenses.

"It's an extraordinary story of betrayal," says Nell Rogers, a planner with the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians.

Testimony and documents indicate Abramoff and Scanlon padded legal bills and invented non-existent groups. Their e-mails regularly referred to "Gimme 5," what investigators say was a scheme to funnel money to themselves.

"It means, 'I'm taking a cut of this,'" said Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., at the hearing.

Documents show that some of the tribe's money went to Scanlon's group, the American International Center, billed on its Web site as a think tank under "the high-powered directorship of David Grosh," a former lifeguard and sometime bartender.

Wednesday, Grosh recalled Scanlon’s asking him if he wanted to head an international corporation.

"I asked him what I had to do, and, you know, he said, 'nothing,'" said Gosh. "So that sounded pretty good to me."

Investigators say some of the Choctaw money went to a non-profit group and ultimately helped fund a trip to London and Scotland by Abramoff and DeLay, which included golf at legendary St. Andrews.

The head of the non-profit group thought the tripwas to meet British parliamentarians.

"The trip seems to be very different from what I expected," said Amy Ridenour of the National Center for Public Policy Research.

Many of Wednesday's witnesses have been questioned by the FBI. A spokesman for Abramoff says the Indian tribes benefited greatly by his work.  

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