From ABC News, Brian Ross and Rhonda Schwartz reporting:
Abramoff Reports to Prison; Officials Focus on Reid, Others (November 15, 2006 1:23 PM)
As convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff reported to federal prison today, a source close to the investigation surrounding his activities told ABC News that Sen. Harry Reid (D-NEV) was one of the members of Congress Abramoff had allegedly implicated in his cooperation with federal prosecutors.
A spokesperson for Reid, elected yesterday as the Senate Majority Leader, said the senator had done nothing illegal or unethical.
“We have no idea what Abramoff is telling prosecutors to save his skin, but I do know that these kind of old allegations are completely ridiculous and untrue,” Sen. Reid’s spokesman Jim Manley told ABC News.
A source close to the investigation says Abramoff told prosecutors that more than $30,000 in campaign contributions to Reid from Abramoff’s clients “were no accident and were in fact requested by Reid.”
Abramoff has reportedly claimed the Nevada senator agreed to help him on matters related to Indian gambling.
The Associated Press reported earlier this year that Reid wrote at least four letters helpful to the tribes that had contributed money to his campaign.
Reid has denied there was any connection between the letters and the contributions and has said he is a longtime opponent of certain kinds of Indian reservation gambling.
The AP reported that Reid acknowledged “routine contacts” with Abramoff’s lobbying partners and intervening to block rival tribal casinos.
The AP also reported that Abramoff’s billing records showed extensive contact with Reid’s office over a three-year period in which Reid collected more than $68,000 from Abramoff’s firm, partners and clients.
Prosecutors have said that Abramoff’s cooperation is essential to the corruption investigation, but, so far, they have brought only one prosecution against a member of Congress connected to Abramoff, Republican Bob Ney of Ohio, who resigned.
The source said prosecutors do not intend to rely solely on Abramoff’s account of events, and his allegations against Reid and others will not necessarily result in criminal charges.
Sources close to the federal investigation say Abramoff has offered testimony about his contacts with “six to eight seriously corrupt Democratic senators” and an ever larger number of Republican members of Congress.
In addition to Reid, the sources say Abramoff has been most closely questioned about his contacts with Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.), who was defeated in last week’s election.
“Being defeated may have been one of the best things that ever happened to Burns,” said a source close to the investigation. “There is much more interest in members of Congress who are still in office,” the source said.
Burns, who received more than $150,000 in Abramoff-connected campaign contributions, has strongly denied any wrongdoing and returned the money.
Sen. Reid has been an outspoken critic of the connections between Abramoff and Republican legislators.
In a speech earlier this year, Sen. Reid described it as “a program where the lobbyists paid and the Republican members of Congress played.”
The Justice Department said it would have no comment on the ongoing Abramoff investigation. [My emphasis]
What was that about a “culture of corruption” again?