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Special Investigation of Lobbyist Urged

October 07, 2005|Walter F. Roche Jr. | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — Two Democratic congressmen called for the appointment of an outside special counsel Thursday to investigate whether lobbyist Jack Abramoff played a role in the demotion of a U.S. attorney in Guam who was investigating him.

Reps. John Conyers Jr. of Michigan and George Miller of Martinez cited what they called evidence of "political manipulation" in a letter to Atty. Gen. Alberto R. Gonzales. They also questioned whether Abramoff might have had unauthorized access to classified documents relating to national security concerns in Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands, where the lobbyist had several clients.

"The Congress and the American people need to know whether a criminal investigation was tampered with," the congressmen said in a statement.

Abramoff, through spokesman Andrew Blum, declined to comment. A Justice Department spokesman confirmed that the request had been received and said it would be reviewed.

The once-influential lobbyist is the subject of investigations by a Senate committee and a federal grand jury on charges related to his multimillion-dollar lobbying efforts for Indian tribes with casino operations. He was recently indicted in Florida on unrelated fraud charges stemming from the purchase of a fleet of floating casinos. He has pleaded not guilty in that case.

On Aug. 7, The Times first disclosed that the removal from office in late 2002 of Frederick A. Black, longtime acting U.S. attorney for Guam and the Northern Marianas, took place shortly after the prosecutor started an investigation of a lobbying deal between Abramoff and Guam court officials. The investigation was subsequently dropped.

In their letter to Gonzales, the congressmen said that a criminal investigation was "clearly warranted in the present case" and that inherent conflicts required the appointment of a special prosecutor.

Among the items they cited was an e-mail released this year by the Northern Marianas government in which Abramoff bragged about his connections in the Justice Department and that a top Justice Department aide had been a guest in Abramoff's box at a Redskins football game.

In that same e-mail, Abramoff said that a classified document could exist in the Justice Department relating to the need for tighter immigration rules for the islands. Abramoff's clients, which included garment manufacturers, opposed any increased immigration restrictions that could hinder the use of low-wage workers from other countries.

Miller charged that Abramoff made Congress and the U.S. government "his personal playground" and said the lobbyist was able to succeed "because he had willing partners in Congress and this administration."

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