In the wake of Jack Abramoff's guilty plea Tuesday to conspiracy, tax evasion and fraud charges, a spokesman for House Speaker Dennis Hastert says the Illinois Congressman will return $69,000 in funds contributed by Abramoff. But instead of returning it to the indicted lobbyist, Hastert will donate the money to an as-yet-named charity, it was reported Tuesday on MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews.
Now that it's abundantly clear that Abramoff is set to likely rat out his cohorts, many in Washington, like Hastert, have begun the cleansing process and have either returned donations or plan to. These include Sen. Conrad Burns (Mont) and Rep. Bob Ney (OH). Many, like Ney, are claiming to have had no knowledge of Abramoff's illegal activities and say they were merely "duped." Lord knows we all know how naive those poor old politicians can be.
The investigation into Abramoff's corruption is believed to involve as many as 20 members of Congress and aides, as well as possibly several administration officials. Remarkably, approximately 220 lawmakers received at least $1.7 million in political contributions from Abramoff, his associates and nine tribal clients between 2001 and 2004, according to a review of Federal Election Commission and Internal Revenue Service records. Of those, 201 are still in Congress.
"When this is all over, this will be bigger than any (government scandal) in the last 50 years, both in the amount of people involved and the breadth to it," Stan Brand, a former U.S. House counsel who specializes in representing public officials accused of wrongdoing, told Bloomberg.com. "It will include high-ranking members of Congress and executive branch officials."