Not that it's surprising, but its amazing how deep the rabbit hole goes. It is literally like no Republican has clean hands right now...
(AP) -- Five nonprofit groups, including one of President Bush's biggest supporters, may have broken tax laws
and put their tax-exempt status at risk by helping convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff, a Senate Finance Committee report concludes.
The 600-page report issued Thursday was prepared by the committee's Democratic staff. Majority Republicans, however, had agreed to its release and joined with Democrats in issuing subpoenas for documents and e-mails cited in the report.
Among the groups named as possibly taking money from Abramoff clients and funneling it into his lobbying efforts on their behalf were Americans for Tax Reform, Citizens Against Government Waste and the Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy. (Read the Senate Finance Committee's report
Tax-exempt groups are barred by law from being paid to lobby or do public relations.
Americans for Tax Reform is headed by Grover Norquist, a key ally of Bush and a longtime associate of Karl Rove, the president's chief political adviser.
The report said Norquist's group accepted $1.5 million from the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, one of Abramoff's clients. More than two-thirds of that money was then passed to Christian Coalition founder Ralph Reed as part of Abramoff's lobbying efforts to block a rival tribe's proposed casino in Alabama.
Nell Rogers, a planner for the Choctaws, told the Senate Indian Affairs Committee that the arrangement was never intended as a contribution to support ATR's general anti-tax work. She quoted Abramoff as saying Norquist's group had instead agreed to be a conduit for getting money to Reed, provided that ATR got a fee.
Sen. Max Baucus of Montana, the Senate Finance Committee's senior Democrat, said his staff turned up evidence showing the groups "may have improved a lobbyist's power and profits" by unlawfully exploiting their tax-exempt status, possibly even lobbying the White House.
Abramoff pleaded guilty in January to tax evasion and wire fraud. While awaiting sentencing, he is cooperating in a federal bribery investigation that has resulted in convictions against a congressman and the administration's top procurement officer.
Norquist's group and a second organization cited in the report denied any wrongdoing. They also questioned the timing of the report's release so close to November 7 elections in which Republicans are trying to retain their control of Congress.
"This is political nonsense put out by the Democrats in an inappropriate attempt to influence the election," said John Kartch, communications director for Americans for Tax Reform.
David Williams, a vice president of Citizens Against Government Waste, said it was "kind of suspicious that three weeks before an election, this comes out." The group named Baucus its monthly "porker" in October 2004 for adding drought relief to a domestic security bill.
"There is no 'there' there," Williams said of the report. "We are very careful about the issues that we pursue."
The report said Citizens Against Government Waste said some donations to it ended up being used to help Abramoff clients with public relations.
"Nonprofits should not function as de facto lobbying firms. Lobbying for a fee, public relations, and disguising sources of money are not charitable or social welfare activities," Baucus said.
He said it is up to the Justice Department and Internal Revenue Service, part of the grand jury probes into Abramoff's dealings, to decide whether the groups broke any tax laws.
Republican Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, the committee chairman, could have blocked the report's release. Grassley said Thursday he would consider the report but said it should have looked at more nonprofit groups.
"The problems are widespread and won't be resolved just with Mr. Abramoff going to jail," Grassley said.
The report also questioned the tax-exempt status of other groups, based on their association with Abramoff. It found that:
The Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy, co-founded by Italia Federici, Norquist and former interior secretary Gale Norton, received at least $250,000 from Abramoff clients to lobby the Interior Department.
The National Center for Public Policy Research used money from Abramoff's clients to sponsor golf trips in 2000 and 2003 to Scotland for members of Congress.
Toward Tradition, a religion-centered group once chaired by Abramoff, took money for help with generating news articles for Abramoff and his clients.