The pervasive aroma of Washington - Mercedes-Benz Forum

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The pervasive aroma of Washington

Abramoff probe broader than thought: paper
Fri Nov 25, 2005 10:11 AM ET

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The U.S. Justice Department's probe of Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff is broader than previously thought, examining his dealings with four lawmakers, former and current congressional aides and two former Bush administration officials, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.

Prosecutors in the department's public integrity and fraud divisions are looking into Abramoff's dealings with four Republicans -- former House of Representatives Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas, Rep. Bob Ney of Ohio, Rep. John Doolittle of California and Sen. Conrad Burns of Montana, the paper said, citing several people close to the investigation.

Abramoff is under investigation over his lobbying efforts for Indian tribes with casinos. He has also pleaded not guilty to federal charges in Florida that he defrauded lenders in a casino cruise line deal.

The prosecutors are also investigating at least 17 current and former congressional aides, about half of whom later took lobbying jobs with Abramoff, as well as an official from the Interior Department and another from the government's procurement office, the Journal said.

It said investigators were looking into whether Abramoff and his partners made illegal payoffs to the lawmakers and aides in the form of campaign contributions, sports tickets, meals, travel and job offers, in exchange for helping their clients.

DeLay and Ney have already retained criminal defense lawyers.

The Journal said spokespeople for Doolittle and Burns said that they haven't hired lawyers and haven't been contacted by the Justice Department.

Michael Scanlon, a former aide to DeLay and partner to powerful Republican lobbyist Abramoff, pleaded guilty to conspiracy on Monday under a deal in which he is cooperating with prosecutors probing the alleged influence-buying.

Scanlon left DeLay's office and become a partner to Abramoff, who has been indicted for fraud in a separate case in Florida. The plea agreement has been seen as a major advance in prosecutors' efforts to investigate the lobbyist.
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