E-mails allege DeLay pressed for donation

December 15, 2005|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON --Newly disclosed e-mail messages from lobbyist Jack Abramoff show that he told an Indian tribe client that he was being pressured by Rep. Tom DeLay for a contribution for a $25,000-a-table Republican fund-raiser and that DeLay had personally phoned the lobbyist's office in search of the money.

The three-year-old messages suggest that the request was passed on to the tribe for payment within hours. They offer no evidence that DeLay, a Texas Republican, knew such a request for political money would be forwarded to Indian tribes and their gambling operations, and the messages from Abramoff's files suggest that he edited one e-mail message to exaggerate any contact with the lawmaker. DeLay's lawyer said DeLay never made the telephone call.

One e-mail message says that DeLay made an unusual personal call to Abramoff's office July 17, 2002, to press for the contribution to the Republican fund-raiser, saying that he would call back and that he might see Abramoff that night at Signatures, a Washington restaurant that the lobbyist then owned.

Members of Congress commonly encourage lobbyists to make political contributions, and the contacts are legal so long as there is no promise of official acts in exchange for the money.

The e-mail messages, obtained by the Justice Department and Senate investigators and made available to The New York Times, are significant because they are the first evidence to demonstrate that Abramoff cited personal pressure from DeLay in trying to persuade Indian tribe clients to send political donations and other money to Washington. The government's scrutiny of ties between Abramoff and DeLay had previously focused on a series of lavish overseas trips taken by the lawmaker.

Abramoff's former lobbying partner pleaded guilty last month to conspiring with Abramoff to defraud Indian tribe clients out of millions of dollars in a scheme in which they also tried to corrupt members of Congress with gifts, including political donations, in exchange for official acts. Abramoff has not been charged in the case.

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