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August 1, 2008

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BILL MOYERS: Welcome to the JOURNAL.

We return to Capitol Crimes because while Jack Abramoff is in jail, the investigation into this epic scandal is expanding - with new revelations about the rot at the core of our government. A major new book to be published next week puts it all into context. Thomas Frank's THE WRECKING CREW - excerpted in HARPERS' Magazine, now on the newsstands-describes the rise of a ruling coalition dedicated to dismantling government by simply selling it off. That was the theme of our report on "Capitol Crimes", produced by my colleague Sherry Jones. Take a look at this and stay tuned for an update.

BILL MOYERS: The story begins in 1984; a young Jack Abramoff was introduced to the Republican National Convention.

SPEAKER: One of the ever-growing list of young people who have joined in the Republican cause, the chairman of the College Republican National Committee, Jack Abramoff, for purposes of addressing the convention.

BILL MOYERS: A self-described "rabid right winger," he now headed the organization that had launched the careers of Republican power brokers from Lee Atwater to Karl Rove.

JACK ABRAMOFF: Fellow Republicans, I come before you today representing American students - the future of our Republican party.

SAM HARBEN: When I heard it for the first time, when they mentioned Jack's name, I said to myself, "He did it." Because that's what he did when we were College Republicans. We wanted to entertain Congressmen. That was like winning a football game.

BILL MOYERS: The team headed by Abramoff had lots of connections and lots of plays.

SAM HARBEN: One of the favorite ones was: Can we create a hospitality suite with plenty of liquor and plenty of college girls and see if we could get a Congressman to come to that? And you could.

BILL MOYERS: As college students, Jack Abramoff and another young Republican, Grover Norquist, organized campuses for Ronald Reagan. Now Norquist had become Abramoff's executive director. Together they intended to remove liberals from power, as Abramoff put it, "permanently."

SAM HARBEN: We were idealists. We were young people who thought that we were going to save the world for democracy. I mean we were fighting for the liberty of the world. And in that sense, we viewed everything as ideology. It either helps our fight against the Communists or it doesn't.

BILL MOYERS: They dreamed up headline-grabbing stunts, like this one in the shadow of the Capitol, to support Reagan's anti-communist foreign policy.

RALPH REED: Good morning. My name is Ralph Reed. I'm the executive director of Students for America...

BILL MOYERS: Ralph Reed, a junior from the University of Georgia, joined the hard-charging team as a $200 a month intern.

SAM HARBEN: It was very simple, very black and white. We used army metaphors. We talked about being "hard core."

BILL MOYERS: Volunteers sent out to organize the grass roots were told to memorize a speech from the movie Patton. But for the word "Nazis" they were to substitute the word "Democrats." "Wade into them," the young recruits repeated. "Spill their blood!"

JACK ABRAMOFF: If we're the party of composure - and not the party that ducks disclosure - then we're riding our wave. If we equivocate, capitulate, accommodate, negotiate...

BILL MOYERS: From the beginning, Abramoff played fast and loose with the money.

JACK ABRAMOFF: If we try to outspend big, fat Tip O'Neill...

SAM HARBEN: We were bankrupt and we owed thousands and thousands of dollars. And I was going, "There's no way we..." We had people call us every day... printing companies and ...wanting money. And I played that horrible game for six months or three months of going, "I don't have the bill. Send me a bill." You know, "What's it for?" And so forth, because we were inundated with just tons of debt that Jack had run up.

MICHAEL WALLER: Two of my colleagues and I quit working with him in 1983, because we thought he was completely unethical. And I never went back to talk to him since.

JACK ABRAMOFF: And so it is to our party that they come. It is with us that they trust their dreams. And it is in us that they place their hopes.

SAM HARBEN: He seemed to be very much a man of principle. Until you got into it with Jack and began to see what he did. When it came to money, Jack had no principles.

JACK ABRAMOFF: And it is for them that we must restore liberty and righteousness throughout the world. Thank you.

BILL MOYERS: In November 1994, Republicans won eight new Senate seats and a whopping 52 seats in the House. The revolution imagined by Abramoff and his College Republicans was embodied in Newt Gingrich, the new Speaker of the House. Gingrich put Washington on notice: "If you want to play in our revolution," he said, "you have to live by our rules."

BILL MOYERS: And at the center of the action was Grover Norquist, a chief architect of the revolution.

BILL MOYERS: Poring over lists of campaign contributions, Norquist concocted a scheme to turn Washington into a Republican town: insist that only Republicans be hired as lobbyists and make sure the lobbyists contribute only to Republicans. The result would be a lucrative money machine for the party. He dubbed it the K Street Project - after the lobbyists' main drag in downtown Washington.

HILARY ROSEN: One day my Republican head of government relations came back from a meeting at Grover's shop. And he said that they had distributed a list of the biggest Democratic contributors that year who were registered lobbyists.

BILL MOYERS: Grover's shop is called Americans for Tax Reform. And it's the conservative movement's nerve center. Every Wednesday morning, Norquist commands a strategy session of Congressional staff, party activists, and think tankers.

BILL MOYERS: On Capitol Hill, Tom DeLay of Texas had moved up to number three in the new House leadership. He became the K Street Project's enforcer.

LOUS DUBOSE: And he called lobbyists in one at a time, and he put this ledger in front of them and said, "Here's the book. You've contributed too much money to Democrats. You've got to contribute more money to Republicans. We're in power now."

LOUS DUBOSE: His ambition was to create a vertically integrated political machine that controlled who was in the lobby at the top, controlled who got big lobby jobs. Some of them a million five a year, some of them a million a year, some of them - the lower paying jobs $250,000 a year. If they could control who got them, then they could control the political contributions that lobbyists and their clients made. So that was the top of this vertically integrated shakedown machine.

BILL MOYERS: Every lobby shop in town was searching for an in with the new GOP majority. Among them was the venerable Seattle firm of Preston Gates.

LAURENCE LATOURETTE: Their old connections weren't anywhere near as effective. And to sort of have contact and be able to talk with the new crowd, they needed somebody who had the bona fides to talk to them. Jack did.

BILL MOYERS: The K Street Project paved the way for Jack Abramoff. The firm announced its new hire with a press release touting Abramoff's ties to the Republican National Committee, to the Christian Coalition headed by his old pal, Ralph Reed, and to the new leaders of the House, Newt Gingrich and Tom DeLay.

But there was no one more indispensable to Abramoff's rise than Grover Norquist.

MICHAEL WALLER: They were probably about as inseparable as two political people can get.

BILL MOYERS: "What the Republicans need is fifty Jack Abramoffs," Norquist said. "Then this becomes a different town." So it did.

MICHAEL WALLER: If it wasn't for his relations with Grover Norquist, Jack Abramoff would never have been able to become the super lobbyist that he became, and to charge the huge rates that he charged because he had this unique relationship with certain Republican leaders.

BILL MOYERS: The hefty fees would enrich Abramoff. And he, in turn, would direct his clients to enrich the conservative political machine.

One of his first was the wealthiest gambling tribe in America - the Mississippi Choctaw. To keep their huge casino earnings from being taxed, the tribe needed connections to the right people in Washington.

SEN. BEN NIGHTHORSE CAMPBELL (R-CO): It appears from their own words Mr. Abramoff and Mr. Scanlon held their tribal clients in absolute contempt. In an e-mail discussing a dinner meeting with a client, the reason Mr. Abramoff could not attend: "I have to meet with the monkeys from the Choctaw Tribal Council." Mind you that these "monkeys'' had enriched him over a 5-year period with over $7 million in lobbying fees. It is a story of greed run amok.

BILL MOYERS: In 1995, Jack Abramoff had convinced the Choctaw he was their man.

BILL MOYERS: And Grover Norquist had just what Abramoff needed to prove his worth to the Choctaw: an organization dedicated to opposing all tax increases "as a matter of principle." The two old college comrades framed the casino tax as a tax increase that Conservatives should oppose. All of a sudden, activists at Norquist's weekly meetings found themselves discussing Indian tribes.

MICHAEL WALLER: We didn't know one tribe from another. So what? Let them have their casino. We didn't know. Nobody knew they were multi-billion dollar entities. It's not something anybody paid attention to.

BILL MOYERS: But Norquist was paying attention, and the Choctaw were putting up the money to organize anti-tax groups across the country to lobby their cause.

MICHAEL WALLER: Why in the world would Grover Norquist care about -- care so deeply about Indian tribes, unless there was something else going on. We all suspected something pretty fishy.

BILL MOYERS: In fact, the Choctaw became a major contributor to Norquist's organization. And Norquist in turn was moving much of the money to this man - the third member of the old College Republican troika. In 1989, Ralph Reed had become head of Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition. His skill at mixing religion with hardball politics landed him on the cover of Time magazine at the age of 33.

RALPH REED: This reflects what we believe is one of the greatest cancers growing on the American body politic, and that is the scourge of legalized gambling.

BILL MOYERS: In the mid-1990's, Reed left to set up his own political consulting firm, and he sent an e-mail to his old friend Jack Abramoff, who was now known on K Street as "Casino Jack." This is what Reed wrote:

[E-mail from RALPH REED]: Hey, now that I'm done with electoral politics, I need to start humping in corporate accounts! I'm counting on you to help me with some contacts.

BILL MOYERS: And humping they did go. Despite Reed's long-time opposition to gambling, he and Abramoff set out to protect the Choctaw casino against competition. The scheme called for Reed to organize his fellow Christians on moral grounds - to oppose threats to Abramoff's client without telling them that that client was actually in the gambling business.

E-mails between the two make clear there was no doubt where the money came from. When Reed pushed for a "green light," for example, to begin organizing devout gambling opponents in Alabama, Abramoff told him approval would first have to come from the Choctaw, and asked:

[E-mail from JACK ABRAMOFF:] ...get me invoices as soon as possible so I can get Choctaw to get us checks ASAP.

BILL MOYERS: Reed wrote back with a list and a total:

[E-mail from RALPH REED]: We have fronted $100K, which is a lot for us.

BILL MOYERS: Abramoff promised to do what he could:

[E-mail from JACK ABRAMOFF]: Any chance that a wire from Choctaw directly would be OK?

BILL MOYERS: Just days later, Reed tells Abramoff:

[E-mail from RALPH REED]: We are opening the bomb bays and holding nothing back.

[E-mail from JACK ABRAMOFF]: Yeaaaa baaabby!!!

BILL MOYERS: To keep secret the source of the Choctaw money paid to Reed and the Christian groups he recruited, Abramoff turned to their old friend Grover Norquist. When Norquist needed money for his own organization, he turned to Jack.

[E-mail from GROVER NORQUIST]: What is the status of the Choctaw stuff. I have a $75K hole in my budget from last year. Ouch.

BILL MOYERS: In a reminder to himself, Abramoff notes:

[E-mail from JACK ABRAMOFF]: Call Ralph re Grover doing pass-through.

BILL MOYERS: And then tells Reed:

[E-mail from JACK ABRAMOFF]: I need to give Grover something for helping, so the first transfer will be a bit lighter.

BILL MOYERS: But not to worry with the next $300,000. So when Norquist again kept a cut for his cause, Abramoff registers his surprise:

[E-mail from JACK ABRAMOFF]: Grover kept another $25K!

BILL MOYERS: The money spigot was now wide open. Abramoff was being paid millions as a lobbyist. Reed was being paid millions to dupe his fellow Christians, and Norquist was feeding his political operation by acting as their cover.

The three College Republicans first came to Washington to run a revolution. It was turning into a racket.

SEN. BYRON DORGAN (D-ND): And what's the basis for your tribe making a donation to Americans for Tax Reform?

BERNIE SPRAGUE (Subchief, Saginaw Chippewa Tribe): I have no idea, Senator. I did not understand it then. I opposed it, and I don't understand it today.

SEN. KENT CONRAD (D-ND): Did you, Mr. Abramoff, you and your partner, colleague, Mr. Scanlon, give $4 million to Ralph Reed?

JACK ABRAMOFF: Senator, I respectfully invoke the privileges previously stated.

BILL MOYERS: To follow Jack Abramoff's money trail, we will be coming back often to this red door. The town house at 132 D Street S.E. is just three short blocks from Tom DeLay's office on Capitol Hill. His staff called it his "safe house." It was bought by the U.S. Family Network - a non-profit outfit that said its mission was to restore "moral fitness" to American life.

JEFFREY SMITH: Tom DeLay, in a letter that was signed by him, which was used for fundraising purposes, claimed that it was one of the most powerful and influential pro-family groups in Washington. And, in fact, it had a single staffer. It operated from a townhouse that was paid for by Jack Abramoff's client money. A townhouse that was also shared with Tom DeLay's political fundraising groups and was really an arm of his political machine.

BILL MOYERS: DeLay's political action committee, Americans for a Republican Majority, was housed here. Upstairs, the second-floor master suite was reserved for DeLay to make telephone fundraising pitches - calls that would be illegal if made from Congressional offices. With DeLay's support, the Family Network had been set up by this man, Ed Buckham. Buckham was DeLay's chief of staff and spiritual confidante. The two men often prayed together. Buckham, himself a lay minister, recruited his own pastor, an evangelical in Frederick, Maryland, along with his wife, to volunteer as members of the board.

REV. CHRIS GEESLIN: He'd been in my church for 20 years, and we thought, "Well, this sounds like a good thing." He's been written up in Roll Call as one of the most brilliant strategists on Capitol Hill, a very good family man, very good husband, you know, strong Christian. We felt, "Hey, here's Ed who's really this professional strategist," you know, and basically Ed ran the whole thing.

BILL MOYERS: The Family Network's very first contribution had come from Jack Abramoff's client, the casino-rich Choctaws.

REV. CHRIS GEESLIN: Everybody on this board was opposed to gambling. Nobody on the board, none of the people on this pro bono board believe in gambling.

BILL MOYERS: While the board was kept in the dark, Ed Buckham was thanking Abramoff for the Choctaw money - payments that would eventually total $345,000.

[Graphic - ED BUCKHAM]: I really appreciate you going to bat for us. Pray for God's wisdom. I really believe this is supposed to be what we are doing to save our team.

REV. CHRIS GEESLIN: I never asked questions of Ed, you know. Ed's finding this money, he's bringing it in, and you know, we're doing our part to bring America back to God, you know, basically through political means.

BILL MOYERS: When Ed Buckham left DeLay's staff, he set up his new lobbying shop on the top floor of the "safe house." Jack Abramoff sent him many of his first clients.

But to unravel the hidden ways Abramoff funded DeLay's political machine, we need to travel far beyond the house with the red door.

BILL MOYERS: American soldiers, sailors and marines fought hard to liberate the Northern Marianas during World War II. Today, this string of islands in the Pacific Ocean is U.S. territory, promoted as a tropical paradise with first class hotels, sandy beaches, and championship golf. But there are other realities here, too.

Over the years, tens of thousands of people, primarily Chinese and mostly women, have been lured to the main island, Saipan, told they were coming to a job in America.

PAM BROWN: All the flights arrive in the middle of the night. It's scary for the workers. They really had no understanding of where they were going to end up. They were coming to America for a job. And most of them back then; they were paying huge recruitment fees.

BILL MOYERS: They soon discovered they were essentially indentured servants, thousands of dollars in debt to the company men who had recruited them and often forced them to sign secret "shadow contracts."

PAM BROWN: They agreed they wouldn't date, they wouldn't go to churches. If they got pregnant, they'd have an abortion.

BILL MOYERS: The factories, many owned by the Chinese Communist government, manufactured clothing for some of the biggest retailers in America - from the Gap to Jones New York - and legally labeled them "Made in the USA." But workers were paid a pittance. It was a very sweet deal made possible because Congress had exempted the territory from U.S. minimum wage and immigration laws.

ALLEN STAYMAN: It was just a general understanding that if you filed a complaint against your employer that they would have you deported.

BILL MOYERS: At the Interior Department in Washington, Allen Stayman was the point man in efforts to bring the Chinese manufacturers in the Marianas, officially U.S. soil, in line with U.S. law.

ALLEN STAYMAN: They had a tremendous amount of control over these workers, something I think it's pretty hard for an American to understand. Americans can always just say, "I've had enough," and walk out. These people did not have that opportunity.

BILL MOYERS: They lived behind barbed wire in squalid shacks; the Interior Department called them "labor camps." Forced to work twelve hours a day, often seven days a week, their pay was barely half the U.S. minimum wage.

ALLEN STAYMAN: It was very tough for me personally, as the senior government official. They would say, "We were told we were coming to America. This is America, why can't you do anything for me?"

BILL MOYERS: Republican Senator Frank Murkowski, then Chairman of the Committee with Oversight of U.S. Territories, traveled to Saipan with Stayman to investigate.

SEN. FRANK MURKOWSKI (R-AK): How could we have in the United States working conditions like this under the U.S. flag?

ALLEN STAYMAN: We went to where a number of Bangladesh security guards were living.

SEN. FRANK MURKOWSKI (R-AK): A couple of them came out with a handful of checks and they said, "Can you help me? Help me. These checks are for my wages, but I can't cash the checks. The checks are no good." You begin to get the impression that this was a scam going on.

ALLEN STAYMAN: They had borrowed money from friends and family to get these jobs. They went to work every day, and every time they tried to cash a paycheck, it bounced.

INTERVIEWER: And nothing they can do about it.


BILL MOYERS: During the 1990's, pressure mounted in Washington to bring the Marianas in line with U.S. law. The factory owners convinced the government in Saipan they needed some big-time lobbying. Once again, Jack Abramoff was the man.

Critics called the faraway garment industry America's biggest sweatshop. Abramoff set out to paint a different picture, promoting the Marianas to conservatives as a free-market Eden for maximizing profits. He began running all-expense paid tropical junkets for lawmakers, their staff, and conservative activists and journalists.

BILL MOYERS: Abramoff's marquee guest was Tom DeLay. When DeLay, his wife, and daughter and Ed Buckham arrived to ring in the new year of 1998, DeLay praised Abramoff as "one of my closest and dearest friends."

ALLEN STAYMAN: They were generally taken on a dog and pony show to one of the garment factories, where everything had been sanitized, and employers were there to monitor the workers and what they said.

BILL MOYERS: DeLay later told a Texas newspaper that contrary to reports that workers were being sexually exploited, he had interviewed them one-on-one and found no such evidence. "It's a beautiful island with beautiful people who are happy," he said. Their first night, Abramoff and DeLay were hosted at a party thrown by Willie Tan, a Chinese textile tycoon who had paid the largest labor fine in U.S. history - $9 million for sweatshop conditions in his factories.

REP. TOM DELAY (R-TX): You represent everything that is good about what we are trying to do in America - and in leading the world in the free market system...

BILL MOYERS: But, DeLay warned his hosts, back in America, people wanted to spoil their deal: "You are up against the forces of big labor and the radical left. Stand firm. Resist evil. Remember that all truth and blessings emanate from our Creator."

Later that night, DeLay and Willie Tan went to a cockfight. When he returned to Washington, DeLay called the Marianas a "petri dish of capitalism" and denounced efforts to enforce U.S. laws. And at the weekly meetings of Grover Norquist's conservative nerve center, a new item appeared on the agenda. Activists were now discussing not only Indian tribes, but the U.S. territory fourteen time zones away.

MICHAEL WALLER: I can't say it with a straight face. Why Saipan would become a conservative issue was beyond so many of us. Now, to some of us, Saipan is a huge Chinese sweatshop. To those of us getting money from those Chinese sweatshop interests, Saipan was a wonderful experiment in free market and low taxes at work. Every time Grover Norquist would take an issue, if you map it, you can see how Abramoff had a client. And there's a symbiosis there.

BILL MOYERS: Turning the Marianas into a conservative cause was crucial if Abramoff was to block the growing bipartisan consensus in Congress that U.S. minimum wage and immigration laws should be enforced in the islands.

SEN. FRANK MURKOWSKI (R-AK): Now, the purpose of this hearing is to consider legislation that would alter the federal laws applicable to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

BILL MOYERS: When Senator Murkowski convened hearings on reform legislation, Jack Abramoff and his lobbying team were there. And they had a plan.

But just days before the session, Abramoff's battle plan had been leaked.

SEN. FRANK MURKOWSKI (R-AK): It appears that we've got a good deal of media interest in the hearing today.

BILL MOYERS: In the rare inside look at big time lobbying, Abramoff bragged he would work his Congressional connections "to impeach Allen Stayman" and "either defund or severely restrict" Stayman's activities at the Interior Department.

INTERIOR SECRETARY BRUCE BABBITT: Mr. Stayman has been subjected to a massive campaign of intimidation, much of which is being orchestrated by the paid lobbyists for the government of the Northern Marianas.

SEN. FRANK MURKOWSKI (R-AK): We saw living conditions that simply should not exist in the United States of America.

BILL MOYERS: Murkowski's reform bill passed the Senate by unanimous consent. That's as far as it went.

SEN. FRANK MURKOWSKI (R-AK): Time went on; it went in a dry hole over in the House. We passed it again, and then nothing was done.

BILL MOYERS: Nothing was done because Jack Abramoff - and the Marianas' garment industry - had Tom DeLay in their pockets. When Willie Tan met in Saipan with a human rights activist posing as a clothing buyer from New York, a hidden camera recorded their conversation. Tan was confident he had nothing to worry about.

WILLIE TAN: Because Tom DeLay will never let it go.

[QUESTION]: You're sure?

WILLIE TAN: Sure. You know what Tom told me? He said, "Willie, if they elect me the Majority Whip, I'll make the schedule of the Congress. And I'm not going to put it on the schedule." So Tom told me, "Forget it, Willie. No chance."

BILL MOYERS: True to his word, DeLay made sure no bill that might threaten the fortunes of the sweatshop owners would ever be debated on the floor of the House. In the end, Abramoff billed the government of the Marianas for more than 200 contacts with DeLay and his staff and collected close to $8 million dollars in fees.

BILL MOYERS: And Willie Tan, Abramoff's sweatshop patron, would contribute $650,000 to DeLay's "favorite non-profit," the U.S. Family Network, with its stated mission of restoring America's "moral fitness."

BILL MOYERS: Over the Memorial Day holiday in May, 2000, Jack Abramoff was the lobbyist who arranged for DeLay, his wife and two close advisers to head for the famed St. Andrews course in Scotland on a golfing vacation. On his official report, DeLay listed the purpose of the trip as "educational." It was an expensive education. The group's greens fees exceeded $5000 a day. At their stopover in London, Abramoff nabbed the best tickets to one of the hottest plays and arranged for DeLay and his wife to stay in a room at the Four Seasons that cost almost $800 a night. He charged their business class air tickets to his own American Express card.

JEFFREY SMITH: Here you had the most powerful man in the House of Representatives, and he was taking money directly from a lobbyist. A lobbyist was paying his travel tab.

BILL MOYERS: DeLay's official report also names the conservative non-profit National Center for Public Policy Research as the trip's sponsor. Sounds innocent enough until you learn this pro-business outfit was run by another Abramoff pal from College Republican days and that Abramoff himself was on the board. He told one colleague that the center:

[E-mail from JACK ABRAMOFF]: ...can direct money at our discretion, anywhere if you know what I mean.

BILL MOYERS: It provided just the kind of cover Abramoff needed to sponsor trips that Congressional rules prohibited him paying for. And on the very day DeLay flew to Scotland, two of his clients, who were trying to stop Congress from outlawing Internet gambling, sent the non-profit $25,000 each.

BILL MOYERS: Two months after they returned from Scotland, Tom DeLay saw to it that the bill opposed by Abramoff's clients died in the House of Representatives.

BILL MOYERS: When George W. Bush was elected President, he played a "victory round" with his fellow Texan. "We have the House. We have the Senate. We have the White House," Tom DeLay declared. "Which means we have the agenda." And number one on his agenda was a project to keep Republicans in power - permanently. And the old College Republican troika of Jack Abramoff, Grover Norquist, and Ralph Reed was also flying high.

Abramoff had been a major fundraiser for Bush. He and his wife also made a big contribution to the Florida recount fund. Reed raised more, at least $100,000. And that made him an elite Bush "pioneer." Abramoff leaned on Reed to get him appointed to the transition team preparing to take over the Interior Department - the government agency that had power over his biggest clients - the Marianas and Indian tribes.

[Email from JACK ABRAMOFF]: This would be really key for future clients for both of us. Let's discuss.

BILL MOYERS: Reed got the point; Abramoff asked for more. He wanted his man appointed to Allen Stayman's old job overseeing the Marianas.

[Graphic - JACK ABRAMOFF]: Do you think we could get this favor from Karl? It would be my big ask for sure.

BILL MOYERS: A "big ask" from Karl Rove, the new president's closest adviser.

PETER STONE: Reed responds, it never hurts to try. "What's the next move?" I believe were his words. Later that day, Reed writes Jack back full of energy and enthusiasm.

[Graphic - RALPH REED]: Just let me know who to call, when to call and what to say. And while you're at it, get me another client! NOW!

BILL MOYERS: Going back to College Republican days, Grover Norquist also had ties with Rove. Over the next five years, he would log almost one hundred meetings inside the White House - some with guests he invited.

LOUS DUBOSE: George Bush was still trying to find out where the linen closets were in the White House, and Grover Norquist suddenly, he's holding fundraisers in the White House. That's our White House, right?

BILL MOYERS: Abramoff told his Choctaw clients that Norquist would be:

[Email from JACK ABRAMOFF]: ...launching a new anti-tax campaign... and have asked whether Choctaw could underwrite $25K of this.

BILL MOYERS: Twenty-four hours later, he writes Norquist:

[Email from JACK ABRAMOFF]: Grover, Here is the first of the checks for the tax event at the White House. I'll have another $25K shortly.

LOUS DUBOSE: He's charging $25,000 a head for American Indians and other legislators to fly to Washington and to have face time with the President.

BILL MOYERS: Abramoff also forwarded an invitation from Norquist to another tribe - the Coushatta of Louisiana, a new casino-rich client:

[Email from GROVER NORQUIST]: We would be honored if a representative for the Coushatta Tribe and you could come to the White House meeting...

BILL MOYERS: The Coushatta cut a check for $25,000. Lou Dubose found it in the tribe's files.

LOUS DUBOSE: And there is a canceled check for $25,000 from Americans for Tax Reform. The chief said he never went. I called Americans for Tax Reform. They said it never happened. But I had the check in hand, and ultimately, they said, "Maybe it did happen, but it's not what it seemed to be."

BILL MOYERS: In fact, on May 9, 2001, at least four of Abramoff's clients met with President Bush. They included Willie Tan's right-hand man from the Marianas, Ben Fitial. The Coushatta chairman was there, as was a member of another Louisiana tribe. So was the chairman of the Kickapoo. Standing against a wall watching the action was one of the biggest rainmakers on K Street.

SEN. BYRON DORGAN (D-ND): Why would a tribe be making a donation to Americans for Tax Reform?

BERNIE SPRAGUE (Subchief, Saginaw Chippewa Tribe): Because Mr. Abramoff suggested that we make these donations to these various groups and organizations.

SEN. BYRON DORGAN (D-ND): Because it would be helpful to you?

BERNIE SPRAGUE (Subchief, Saginaw Chippewa Tribe): Because they help us.

SEN. BYRON DORGAN (D-ND): They would help you?

BERNIE SPRAGUE (Subchief, Saginaw Chippewa Tribe): Yes.

SEN. BEN NIGHTHORSE CAMPBELL (R-CO): You and Mr. Scanlon referred to tribes as "moron," "stupid idiots," "monkeys," "troglodytes," which you define as a "lower form of existence," and "losers." Why would you want to work for people that you have that much contempt for them?

JACK ABRAMOFF: I respectfully invoke the privileges stated, sir.

BILL MOYERS: Once upon a time, the Coushatta tribe of Louisiana had subsisted, in part, on pine needle weaving. Then they struck gold with a casino built on farmland between New Orleans and Houston, and each of their 800 members began receiving stipends of $40,000 a year. But in 2001, their casino compact with Louisiana needed a renewed blessing by the Interior Department in Washington. Jack Abramoff and DeLay's former press secretary Mike Scanlon came calling.

BERTNEY LANGLEY (Secretary-Treasurer, Coushatta Tribal Council, 1999-2003): When they would come here, they were your best friend. They were appreciating your culture and your tradition, and saying that you're doing a great job for your people and everything.

WILLIAM WORFEL: Jack went to telling us that he understood our cause because he was a Jew, and his people had been, you know, took advantage of, been mistreated, so he understood. Threw a good pitch there.

BILL MOYERS: First off, Abramoff suggested the tribe contribute to one of Tom DeLay's golf fundraisers. He said they needed some "real stroke" in Washington, because threats to the tribe's gaming interests were everywhere. That was especially true next door in Texas. Folks from Houston could follow the billboards along Interstate-10 to the Coushatta gambling palace less than an hour across the Louisiana Border. But, Abramoff told the Coushatta, Texas was just "one vote away" from allowing a new casino to open close to Houston.

BILL MOYERS: Abramoff and Scanlon promised the tribe they could get gambling outlawed in Texas. They didn't mention that the Texas Attorney General had already filed suit to do just that.

BERTNEY LANGLEY (Secretary-Treasurer, Coushatta Tribal Council,1999-2003): Abramoff was able to convince some people in the council that if we didn't do this, our whole casino would be shut down and we would hurt our people.

BILL MOYERS: Scanlon told Abramoff:

[E-mail from MIKE SCANLON]: Coushatta is an absolute cake walk. Your cut on the project as proposed is at least 800K.

[E-mail from JACK ABRAMOFF]: How can I say this strongly enough: YOU IZ DA MAN.

BILL MOYERS: On the Coushatta's tab, Casino Jack once again turned to Ralph Reed. The "Right Hand of God" was just the one Abramoff needed to stir up Texas Christians against gambling in the Lone Star State. Mike Scanlon told the Coushatta that paying Reed was crucial:

[Memo from MIKE SCANLON]: Simply put we want to bring out the wackos ...The wackos get their information from the Christian right, Christian radio, the internet, and telephone trees.

BILL MOYERS: "I do guerrilla warfare," Reed once said of his political tactics. "I paint my face and travel at night. You don't know it's over until you're in a body bag." In Texas, his weapons included bogus Christian front groups.

BILL MOYERS: Reed's e-mails to Abramoff were insistent - he needed money and he needed it now. At one point, Abramoff responded:

[E-mail from JACK ABRAMOFF]: Give me a number.

[E-mail from RALPH REED]: $225K a week for TV; $450K for two weeks of TV.

[E-mail from JACK ABRAMOFF]: Ralph, they are going to faint when they see these numbers.

BILL MOYERS: But Reed claimed he was worth it:

[E-mail from RALPH REED]: We have over 50 pastors mobilized, with a total membership in those churches of over 40,000...

MARVIN OLASKY: We have one of our reporters based in Dallas who did a lot of calling around and just asking pastors, "Well, were you involved in this?" And lo and behold, no one was.

BILL MOYERS: Marvin Olasky is editor-in-chief of World, the leading national journal of the evangelical right. The magazine spent seven months investigating Reed's involvement with Abramoff.

MARVIN OLASKY: There was a lot of fooling going on - Abramoff, in a way, was manipulating Ralph Reed, Ralph Reed was manipulating others, but perhaps Ralph Reed was manipulating Abramoff and saying, "I'm accomplishing these things," whereas he wasn't. So, you know, there were millions of dollars changing hands, there were actually hundreds of millions of dollars at stake in this whole thing.

LOUS DUBOSE: You know, there's something ironic and amusing in all that, is that while Abramoff was shaking down these Indians, it's quite possible that Ralph Reed was shaking down Jack Abramoff.

BILL MOYERS: They were now turning on each other. When Mike Scanlon quizzed his partner:

[E-mail from MIKE SCANLON]: Did Ralph spend all the money he was given to fight this - or does he have some left?

BILL MOYERS: Abramoff answered:

[E-mail from JACK ABRAMOFF]: That's a silly question! He would NEVER admit he has money left over. Would we?

[E-mail from MIKE SCANLON]: No - but...

[E-mail from JACK ABRAMOFF]: He is a bad version of us! No more money for him.

SUZII PAYNTER: You know, I think when I read that phrase about Ralph Reed, that he's "a bad version of us," I've got to tell you my heart hurt. That you could really just disregard the values and the rules that you've played by. And for what? We all come to the edge of that shore at some point in our lives and have to ask ourselves, "Am I going to step over that?" And for what? For money? For, you know, raking off money for my own political gains or whatever. That's what it said to me, that Ralph Reed had stepped across some kind of moral line - even Jack Abramoff would say he's a bad version of ourselves.

BILL MOYERS: In Washington, Abramoff had transformed a midsized lobbying practice at Greenberg Traurig into one of K Street's top cash cows. His tribal clients paid an average of $6 million dollars a year in fees to the firm. They were also major donors to Tom DeLay's Republican Majority Project. And that wasn't all. Abramoff was also secretly funding DeLay's political machine through the U.S. Family Network - the non-profit that owned the house with the red door.

The group's tax returns, which we obtained, make clear that almost all of its $3 million dollar-plus income came from Abramoff's clients. They included not only casino owners and sweatshop tycoons but some Russian oligarchs, as well.

BILL MOYERS: In the mid-1990s, Russia was like something out of the Wild West.

MICHAEL WALLER: These Russian gangster capitalists had a lot of money, and they didn't care which political party they got involved with. Whether - when it was the Democrats running the White House, they did it with the Democrats, and when they wanted to work with the Republicans in Congress, then they'd buy a Republican, or rent a Republican here and there.

BILL MOYERS: A plum ripe for Abramoff's picking. This time, he registered as a lobbyist for a mysterious company based in the Bahamas connected to a Russian oil and gas giant called Naftasib.

BILL MOYERS: Naftasib - with its headquarters in this unmarked building in the heart of Moscow - was a major supplier to the Russian military. It also advertised the close ties between its Vice President and Russian military intelligence.

MICHAEL WALLER: So, here you have an instructor at Russian Military Intelligence Academy who is one of the top two people in a very sketchy, deceptive-looking, influence operation in Washington where it's hiring people to identify lawmakers and staffers for free trips to Russia, in hotels that were still equipped the way the KGB had always equipped the hotels. This is not an educational exchange program. This is not a pure person-to-person, understanding-type program. This is potentially a very serious operation.

BILL MOYERS: On the fifth of August, 1997, Tom DeLay and Ed Buckham, DeLay's Chief of Staff who had recently set up the U.S. Family Network, left for a six-day visit to Moscow. Abramoff joined them there. DeLay's official report claimed the trip was sponsored by the very same non-profit that paid for his golf vacation in Scotland. In Russia, they were hosted at a lavish dinner and shown around town by the two top Naftasib executives.

JEFFREY SMITH: The oil executives were excited at the possibility that Tom DeLay could help open doors for them in Washington, and they wanted to reward him in some way, and so they asked a colleague of Abramoff's, you know, what would happen if the DeLays woke up one day and found a luxurious car, like a BMW or a Mercedes on their driveway. And the colleague of Abramoff said, "Well, that would be illegal. This shows a motive and desire by the Russians to reward the DeLays in one way or another for work that they expected him to do for them.

BILL MOYERS: Nine months later, the U.S. Family Network received a wire transfer from a London law firm, now defunct, that the Washington Post has connected to the Naftasib bosses. The amount: one million dollars. Pastor Chris Geeslin questioned Ed Buckham.

REV. CHRIS GEESLIN: He kind of looked at me with some disdain, and he said, "You know where the large money has come from, don't you?" And I said, "No, I have no idea." And he said, "Well let me tell you, this is how it works in Washington." He said, "That money came from Russian oil barons." And I, you know, I just couldn't believe it.

BILL MOYERS: One million dollars was an astounding sum. But consider the timing: it arrived just as Washington was beginning to debate legislation critical to Russia and its collapsing economy. Congress was being asked to resupply the International Monetary Fund, the I.M.F., with taxpayer money that would be used to help bail out the Russian economy and oligarchs like the Naftasib bosses.

BILL MOYERS: Long a critic of the IMF, Tom DeLay had disparaged the pending legislation. "The IMF is bailing out the bankrupt," he said. But by the time the vote came, he had a change of heart and supported the legislation he had scorned.

REV. CHRIS GEESLIN: We were supposed to be presenting, you know, this moral value to the country, and bringing the country back to God in supporting these programs. And we did some of that. But you know, really I feel now that was kind of a charade, and the real purpose of this USFN was a shell organization, whether it was Jack Abramoff's shell organization out of his concepts, or whether it was Ed Buckham's, you know, doesn't really matter. We, you know, we were just used.

BILL MOYERS: Subsidized by Jack Abramoff's clients, the non-profit outfit that promised to restore America's "moral fitness" spent some half million dollars, illegally, on radio ads attacking Democrats. It rallied to Tom DeLay's side to lobby against campaign finance reform. And Ed Buckham, DeLay's political and spiritual adviser, pocketed more than a million dollars in consulting fees paid to his lobbying shop - Alexander Strategy Group.

Buckham, in turn, paid DeLay's wife more than $3,000 a month and set up a retirement account in her name. In all, the money machine operating out of the "safe house" paid almost half a million dollars to the family of Tom DeLay. R.G. RATCLIFFE: The kind and ways that dollars have flowed into the system in recent years have led to something of a form of institutional corruption.

JEFFREY SMITH: What he did is not that different from what- the way other people behave in town. I mean you can look around and you see all the same problems in other lobbying work that cropped up in Abramoff's work. You see the use and abuse of non-profit organizations to funnel money to law makers. Issue payments to lawmakers' spouses. You see legislators doing favors for big donors. I mean these are not rare events in Washington. Unfortunately they are very common.

BILL MOYERS: This, one of the biggest scandals in American history has already sent one member of Congress to jail, others into retirement, and dozens of accomplices running for cover. Here are some of the developments since we first broadcast Capitol Crimes.

Jack Abramoff is serving five years plus for fraudulent business practices. He's expected to be sentenced next month for his role in the lobbying scandal. Because he's been cooperating with the expanding investigation, more shoes could drop.

Tom DeLay left congress after being indicted in Texas on money laundering charges. Two former aides including Press Secretary Michael Scanlon have pleaded guilty to charges connected to Abramoff. While awaiting trial DeLay has launched a new organization called "Coalition for a Conservative Majority." His goal is to organize chapters in 50 states. His old ally in protecting those Marianas sweat shops, Grover Norquist, says -- without a trace of irony -- that DeLay quote "has the name id and the trust to help make this work."

Norquist himself has written a book entitled Leave Us Alone, again with no trace of irony. He is an active board member of the National Rifle Association and remains busy as a lobbyist in his role as president of Americans for Tax Reform, the organization that funneled money to Ralph Reed.

Ralph Reed has written a novel about a presidential race with a candidate who finds God and goes for the Christian vote. His ties to Abramoff cost Reed almost certain election to high office in Georgia and a possible national career in electoral politics. He now runs a PR firm in Atlanta and is on the host committee for a John McCain event later this month.

Earlier this summer, the House Oversight Committee issued a new report which builds on an earlier one detailing some 485 contacts between Abramoff and the Bush Administration. This new report focuses on his contacts with White House officials.

A few of the findings: Quote "Senior White House officials... held Mr. Abramoff and members of his lobbying team in high regard and solicited recommendations from Mr. Abramoff and his colleagues on policy matters."

Quote "... a central point of contact for the Abramoff team," the report says, was Susan Ralston, - Abramoff's assistant until she moved to the white house to become Executive Assistant to the president's most powerful adviser, Karl Rove. Some news reports said Ralston had been recommended to Rove by Ralph Reed.

Among many emails uncovered by the Committee was one Ralston sent Abramoff concerning an appointment he wanted the White House to block. Quote "You win. KR said no endorsement."

Quote "...the Abramoff team persuaded White House officials to intervene to remove from office... Allen Stayman, who had advocated reforms in the Northern Mariana Islands that Mr. Abramoff opposed."

Quote "We pulled the plug on him." announced one White house email.

They got rid of Allen Stayman, for sure, and those workers in the Marianas remained at the mercy of Willie Tan and his ilk. But this spring - with DeLay gone, Abramoff in jail, and their allies discredited - Congress finally voted to improve the wages and working conditions in those garment factories. It had taken 16 years.

After the vote, Congressional staffers and human rights activists gathered to celebrate at a restaurant between the White House and the Capitol - in the very same space, where Jack Abramoff once held forth at Signatures, his own fancy restaurant, wining and dining other members of the wrecking crew. A touch of irony, after all. Or maybe, at least for one moment, simple justice.

That's it for this week. I'm Bill Moyers.

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