Yet again, I have to turn to Democracy Now! for a full representation of the facts of the Abramoff case. I scanned ABC’s The Note and NBC’s First Read, looking for word on the repercussions to Native American tribes and for Abramoff’s siphoning of tribal monies to train Israeli colonists’ sniper teams. Only Amy Goodman has the goods:
Yesterday Abramoff admitted to defrauding four Indian tribe clients out of millions of dollars. Those tribes include the Louisiana Coushatta, the Mississippi Choctaws, the Saginaw Chippewas of Michigan and the Tigua of Ysleta del Sur Pueblo in Texas. …
In all, Abramoff and Scanlon received more than $66 million in fees. Some of this money was secretly diverted to a variety of Abramoff’s personal projects including an Orthodox Jewish academy and an Israeli sniper school. Some money also went to pay off a personal debt. …
In 2002, Abramoff and Scanlon quietly worked with conservative religious activist Ralph Reed to persuade the state of Texas to shut down the Tigua tribe’s Standing Rock casino on the grounds that the casino violated Texas’ limited gambling laws. Abramoff then went to the Tiguas and promised to use his influence to reopen the casino, charging the tribe $4.2 million. …
Meanwhile, Abramoff and Scanlon collected millions of dollars from a Louisiana tribe to oppose all gaming in the Texas Legislature. During the 2004 Senate Indian Affair Committee hearings, emails were made public in which Abramoff referred to tribal members as “trogdolytes” and “morons”. In one email released by the Senate committee, Abramoff wrote to Scanlon, “I have to meet with the monkeys from the Choctaw tribal counsel.” …(DN!)
The Note gives the tribes a glance:
Abramoff: the politics:
The Washington Post’s Jonathan Weisman has former House Speaker Newt Gingrich calling on House Republicans to elect a permanent replacement for Congressman Tom DeLay (R-TX) as House Majority Leader while current House Speaker Dennis Hastert announced that he will donate to charity the tens of thousands of dollars that he has received from Abramoff’s Indian tribe clients. LINK
(Why is Hastert giving the money to charity? Why is he not returning it to the tribes?)
First Read references the tribes once:
“Over the past six years, Abramoff and Indian tribes he represented gave more than $4.4 million in political contributions to more than 240 lawmakers, nearly two-thirds to Republicans,” says USA Today.
Today, Amy Goodman interviews:
- Ben Nighthorse Campbell, former Senator of Colorado and former chair of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee (“Native American Tribes Attempt to Recover After Being Defrauded of Tens of Millions by Abramoff”)
- Arturo Senclair, tribal governor of the Tiguas of Ysleta del Sur Pueblo in Texas
- Peter Stone, a staff reporter for the National Journal, and
- ABC News’ Brian Ross who exposed in 1998 the horrific labor conditions in the U.S. territory of Saipan
In the mid-1990s Abramoff was on the payroll of Saipan officials aiming to stop legislation that would crack down on sweat shop conditions [including forced abortions and indentured servitude], which run rampant on the island. In 1997, Abramoff arranged a lavish trip to the island of Saipan for Delay.
Ms. Goodman also gets into the politics of the story as well, interviewing Judd Legum, director of research at the Center for American Progress.
And it’s not like these reports about the tribes are off-beat stories. Searching Google News, the only recent news stories about the funding of Israeli settler sniper teams appeared in publications like the Bay Area’s IndyMedia. However, this was originally reported by “Newsweek’s Mike Isikoff [who] reported last May that Abramoff diverted $140,000 from a charity ostensibly to benefit inner-city youths to militant Israeli colonists who had usurped land in the Palestinian West Bank …” From Isikoff’s May 2005 story:
The pitch worked especially well among a group of Indian tribes who, having opened up lucrative gaming casinos, had hired Abramoff to protect their interests in Washington. In 2002 alone, records show, three Indian tribes donated nearly $1.1 million to the Capital Athletic Foundation. But now, NEWSWEEK has learned, investigators probing Abramoff’s finances have found some of the money meant for inner-city kids went instead to fight the Palestinian intifada. More than $140,000 of foundation funds were actually sent to the Israeli West Bank where they were used by a Jewish settler to mobilize against the Palestinian uprising. Among the expenditures: purchases of camouflage suits, sniper scopes, night-vision binoculars, a thermal imager and other material described in foundation records as “security” equipment. The FBI, sources tell NEWSWEEK, is now examining these payments as part of a larger investigation to determine if Abramoff defrauded his Indian tribe clients. The tribal donors are outraged. “This is almost like outer-limits bizarre,” says Henry Buffalo, a lawyer for the Saginaw Chippewa Indians who contributed $25,000 to the Capital Athletic Foundation at Abramoff’s urging … (Read all)
Am I brushing this with too wide a stroke to allege that Abramoff is a racist who exploited the Native Americans to fund his rightwing politics? Am I right to denounce the MSM for not emphasizing the exploitation of tribes enough, rather usually casting them as hapless, inexperienced “new money” who got taken?