The high profile Washington DC action taken in the past against lobbyist Jack Abramoff in attempts to reduce political corruption (see previous InfoPowa reports) surfaced again this week as Republican politicians tried to marshall support against current proposals to legalise online gambling.
The Washington Post reports that the prosecution and imprisonment of Abramoff, who was primarily promoting Indian land gambling but also had online gambling clients, was a political disaster for Republicans. But now some Republican lawmakers feel that the historical Abramoff scandal can be used against Democrats in attempting to fight off legalised Internet gambling.
The newspaper reports that a Republican-generated memo circulating on Capitol Hill argues that while Abramoff's ties to Indian casinos are well known, he and the lobbying firm that employed him, Greenberg Traurig, also did a significant amount of work on behalf of foreign-based gambling Web sites.
Citing mandatory lobbying disclosure records, the memo asserts that Internet gambling interests paid "Team Abramoff" nearly $5 million from 2001 to 2004, including clients such as the Interactive Gaming Council of Vancouver, which is helping to lead efforts to legalize online gambling in the United States.
"While Jack himself is now imprisoned, many of his former associates continue to carry out Abramoff's plan to legalize Internet gambling in the United States," the memo, a copy of which the Washington Post has in its possession, reads.
Supporters of online gambling legalisation claim the memo is full of misinformation and treats all Greenberg Traurig clients as if they were connected to Abramoff, who was fired by the firm.
Keith Furlong, deputy director of the Interactive Gaming Council, said his group "never retained Jack Abramoff in any capacity. We did retain others at his firm at the very end of his tenure there, and we continue to do so, but we have never had a relationship with him."
The Washington Posts claims that the IGC and other pro-gambling groups have spent millions over the past year attempting to stave off the crackdown on Internet gambling epitomised by the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, and muster support for legalisation.
The newspaper reports that many top Republican lawmakers as well as conservative groups, began pushing back this week against the legalisation effort. Minority Republican Whip Eric Cantor and other lawmakers have scheduled floor statements condemning the legislation, while Republican aides began circulating the Abramoff-related memo.
Representative Spencer Bachus, a Republican from Alabama who is the ranking member on the House Financial Services Committee, said in a statement to the Post that he would continue to push for implementation of the 2006 law hardening the prohibition for online gaming.
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