Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Reid: "I think it was all one, the way I look at it."

Hypocrisy, thy name is Reid -- Harry M., to be specific.

Mr. Reid, the Minority Leader of the United States Senate, has been wailing for months now about the so-called Republican "culture of corruption." Despite evidence that he, too, regularly met with associates of the convicted felon lobbyist Jack Abramoff, and despite evidence that he, too, regularly took official actions that benefited Abramoff's clients, and despite evidence that he, too, was himself the beneficiary of fund-raising efforts on his behalf by Abramoff and his associates (including a fundraising event held at Abramoff's offices), Mr. Reid has continued to moralize against the Republicans, insisting that there is no connection between the favors he received from Abramoff et. al. and the official actions he undertook on behalf of Abramoff's clients.

Absent a smoking cancelled check, there is little that can be done, other than to raise an eyebrow in Mr. Reid's general direction.

But John Solomon's new piece for the Associated Press -- Reid accepted free boxing tickets while a related bill was pending -- may have just provided the smoking gun, in the form of a remarkable admission by Mr. Reid:

Reid had separate meetings in June 2003 in his Senate offices with two Abramoff tribal clients and Edward Ayoob, a former staff member who went to work with Abramoff.

The meetings occurred over a five-day span in which Ayoob also threw a fundraiser for Reid at the firm where Ayoob and Abramoff worked that netted numerous donations from Abramoff's partners, firm and clients.

Reid said he viewed the two official meetings and the fundraiser as a single event. "I think it all was one, the way I look at it," he said.

One of the tribes, the Saginaw Chippewa of Michigan, donated $9,000 to Reid at the fundraiser and the next morning tribal officials met briefly with Reid and Ayoob at Reid's office to discuss federal programs. Reid and the tribal chairman posed for a picture.

Five days earlier, Reid met with Ayoob and representatives of the Sac & Fox tribe of Iowa for about 15 minutes to discuss at least two legislative requests. Reid's office said the senator never acted on those requests.

So, to make the timeline clear:
  • Day One: Mr. Reid meets with a group representing an Indian tribe from Iowa. They seek legislative action. The group is led by Edward Ayoob, a former Reid staffer who had became a lobbyist for Team Abramoff.
  • Day Two: Mr. Reid busies himself with matters not related to taking cash from Indians in exchange for official action.
  • Day Three: Mr. Reid continues to busy himself with matters not related to taking cash from Indians in exchange for official action.
  • Day Four: Mr. Ayoob throws a fundraising reception for Mr. Reid at the offices Mr. Ayoob shares with Jack Abramoff. The fundraiser nets $26,000 for Mr. Reid's campaign fund, of which $9,000 is donated by the Saginaw Chippewa of Michigan, another Ayoob/Abramoff client.
  • Day Five: Mr. Reid meets in his office with a group representing the Sagina Chippewa tribe of Michigan. Naturally, they're all pretty chummy -- after all, it was just the night before, at Mr. Abramoff's offices, that Mr. Reid saw them at his fundraiser. Again, the group is led by his former staffer, Mr. Ayoob. The group discusses federal programs, and Mr. Reid poses for a photo with the tribal chief.
And Mr. Reid's Money Quote, when asked by a reporter for the Associated Press, is to say, "I think it all was one, the way I look at it."

This Money Quote is the key to the story -- for while the chain of events has long been known, Mr. Reid's rhetorical flourish has not.

Since when does a Member of Congress view official meetings in his office to discuss legislative action and his attendance at a fundraising reception hosted by a lobbyist (at which he accepted thousands of dollars in campaign cash from people seeking his official assistance) as "one?"


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