Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Does Scanlon's Sentencing Mean the Abramoff Era Really Is Over?

Michael Scanlon

Michael Scanlon, a central figure in the Jack Abramoff scandal, has been sentenced to 20 months in federal prison and ordered to pay $20.2 million to five Native American tribes that he defrauded. One news organization hailed the story as a sign that the "Abramoff era" is over.

Is that the case? Not in our view. In fact, we can think of two major public officials--Tom DeLay of Texas and Bob Riley of Alabama--who had clear ties to the Abramoff affair and have received no serious scrutiny from the federal level. As long as key figures have not been held accountable, the Abramoff era hardly can be declared over.

In news reports about the sentencing, Scanlon usually was described as a one-time aide to former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX). But Scanlon also served as press secretary to former Alabama Bob Riley--when Riley was a Congressman.

U.S. District Judge Ellen Huvelle noted Scanlon's role in helping the government unravel the Abramoff scandal. But how much did Scanlon really help? DeLay recently was convicted on Abramoff-related charges, but that case was brought in Texas state court; the U.S. Department of Justice had nothing to do with it.

An e-mail between Scanlon and Abramoff, obtained during a U.S. Senate investigation, showed conclusively that Bob Riley benefited from the duo's schemes in his 2002 run for governor--which he won over Democrat Don Siegelman, with the help of almost certain election theft. But Riley has received a free pass. (See the Scanlon/Abramoff e-mail below.)

Consider this: Michael Scanlon has been ordered to pay millions of dollars in restitution for defrauding Native American tribes. John McCain's U.S. Senate committee reported that the Mississippi Choctaws spent $13 million on Riley's gubernatorial campaign in Alabama. The e-mail below has Abramoff referring to "what you did in Alabama." What Scanlon did was use laundered money to get Bob Riley elected. So why is Riley being let off the hook? Why isn't Bob Riley being ordered to pay restitution to the Choctaws?
Why isn't Bob Riley heading to prison?

In a piece of stunningly weak reporting, Time magazine wrote a story last week titled "Michael Scanlon Sentenced as Abramoff Era Ends."

The Abramoff era, however, hardly has ended. According to multiple press reports, both Scanlon and Abramoff were cooperating with federal prosecutors, hinting that more cases would be brought. Well, where are they?

Tom DeLay was in the middle of the scam, and the feds have done nothing with him. Bob Riley was in the middle of the scam, and the feds have done nothing with him. Heck, Riley's even making noises about a run for president. The thought of a fraudster like Riley being anywhere near the White House should send shivers down the spine of anyone who cares at all about democracy.

Did Scanlon and Abramoff really cooperate? Or did the feds gather plenty of damning information on a number of public officials and then decide to do nothing with it? If that is what happened, why did the feds go that course, and who made the decision?

Is this another example of the Obama administration's pathetic "look forward, not backwards" philosophy in action? Does Barack Obama, supposedly a constitutional scholar, recall that he took an oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution?

For Americans who care about justice, it's a welcome sight to see Michael Scanlon held somewhat accountable for his grotesque crimes. But what about the bigger fish with whom he was closely aligned? What about Tom DeLay and Bob Riley?

Abramoff e Mail Bob Riley

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