REPUBLICANS EMBRACE CHARITY-- BIG TIME! ABRAMOFF, FRIST, CUNNINGHAM, DELAY...
I remember how revolted I was-- and outraged-- when I read about how the Republican Party Machine of Ohio Governor Bob Taft had systematically looted the Ohio Workmen's Compensation Fund. And not just looted it to the tune of at least $50 million but actually used the money to steal the 2004 Ohio presidential election for BushCheney. The Ohio Republican political machine used the compensation fund for working men and women to perpetuate their one party rule, to enrich themselves and their friends and to undermine democracy.
And not much has come of it. One of the masterminds of the whole scam, Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell, uses Diebold's electronic voting systems to determine every race in Ohio. So, although, for example, Governor Bob Taft is the least popular elected official anywhere in the U.S. in the history of polling (currently with an 11% approval rating, up somewhat from 6.5%) when it came to viting on electoral reforms, which independent polls showed had overwhelming support... well, by the time Blackwell was finished counting the votes, guess what-- NO REFORMS. He's running for governor now-- and still counting the votes, like he did for Bush and for Mean Jean Schmidt.
Well, stealing for the Workmen's Compensation Fund you have a fiduciary responsibility to safeguard is pretty low. But then I started noticing that Republican Party officials were systematically setting up charities and charity-like front operations to launder and steal money all over the country. Former Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham, who is on his way to prison after admitting to making off with millions of dollars in bribes laundered his loot through his Top Gun Enterprises, a dubious company he owned selling patriotic memorabilia. But that's nothing compared to the activities of more fleet-footed Republicrooks like "Dollar Bill" Frist and Jack Abramoff.
Frist had some bogus "charity" that he strong-armed people with business before Congress to donate to and then, according to the Associated Press "paid over 10% of the funds raised to two companies with strong politial ties among other questionable activities." Most of the money was "donated" by just 18 people eager to bribe the Senate Majority Leader (each giving between $100,000 and $250,000 to Frist's World of Hope). Nearly half a million dollars was also paid in "consulting fees" to some of Frist's political cronies. Frist coldly claimed he was raising this money, much of which wound up in the pockets of his suporters, to fight AIDS. According to investigators "the donors included several corporations with frequent business before Congress, such as insurer Blue Cross/Blue Shield, manufacturer 3M, drug maker Eli Lilly and the Goldman Sachs investment firm." Many people consider Frist to be the lowest varmit in the Senate. Kent Cooper, formerly of the Federal Election Commissionf, said the big donors' motives are suspect. "These tax deductible gifts were earmarked through Senator Frist," Cooper said. "They were raised in the political arena at the 2004 Republican Convention and the natural question is were they given to the Senate majority leader to gain favor or were they given for true charitable purposes?" He also pointed out that the consulting fees were "excessively high" and the fact that they were "paid to primarily political consultants also raises questions about the long-range strategic benefits for the 2008 presidential race."
Now, where there is a profitable scam going on, you could always count on GOP crime boss Tom DeLay to have his snout in the mix and, of course, no one was better at extorting money and using it to corrupt the political system than GOP lobbyist/Bush close personal associate Jack Abramoff. And, sure enough. Friday's L.A. Times ran a story called "Abramoff's Charity Began At Home" which explains how Abramoff now "admits he used nonprofits to evade taxes, pad his pockets and bribe officials."
According to the TIMES story "There was the time he laundered money through a religious group's accounts to try to bribe a congressional aide. He diverted funds from a youth athletic foundation to bankroll a golf junket for a congressman and to bolster the bank account of his Washington restaurant. He used two other nonprofits to line his own pockets with millions of dollars defrauded from clients. Charities are supposed to advance the public interest, which is why they aren't taxed. But Abramoff, by his own admission, used them to evade taxes, enrich himself and bribe public officials, according to a plea agreement he signed with federal prosecutors in January." (Before you hear Hannity-Limbaugh-O'Liely bleating in unison how this is a bi-partisan scandal, keep in mind that every single cent that Abramoff ever gave to politicians [100%]-- by his own admission-- went to Tom DeLay, Conrad Burns, Bob Ney and as many as 60 other Republicans; no Democrats. Not even one, no matter how much the Amen choir wants to bleat their fat asses off to the contrary.
The amount that Abramoff was able to scam from charities may never be fully known but best estimates are certainly over $50 million. "One of the most disturbing elements of this whole sordid story is the blatant misuse of charities in a scheme to peddle political influence," said Mark Everson, the commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service. Bush is currently making believe he doesn't remember ever meeting or hearing about Abramoff, although he appointed him to a temporary job in the Deptartment of the Interior, a job he used to launch a systematic campaign to defraud the American Indian tribes (whose welfare is entrusted to the Interior Depratment) of hundreds of millions of dollars that he and DeLay used to maintain control over the Republican caucus in the Congress.
3 PM UPDATE: NOE FINALLY CHARGED IN OHIO REPUBLICAN COIN SCANDAL
And speaking of our old friend Tom Noe-- well, not mine or yours, but Mike DeWine's and Bob Taft's, and Bob Ney's and George W. Bush's and Arnold Schwarzenneger's and Jim Petro's and George Voinovich's and, of course, Ken Blackwell's... and just about every other corrupt creepy crawly thing that makes up the Republican Party of Ohio-- it appears like this is one Republicrook looking at 175 years in prison.
WEDNESDAY MORNING UPDATE: MORE SUBPOENAS IN ABRAMOFF/DELAY CHARITY RIPOFF
Yesterday Federal investigators issued more subpoenas for documents involved with the U.S. Family Network, a DeLay/Abramoff non-profit that was part of the Republican scam to rake in millions of illegal dollars.