The Abramoff gift that keeps on giving

The ties that bound between Jack Abramoff and Washington's ultra-right think tanks

By Andrew Leonard

Published October 13, 2006 12:09AM (EDT)

In February, I traced the conservative think tank authorship of a study claiming that adhering to the Kyoto Protocol's restrictions on carbon emissions would be "economic suicide" for the United Kingdom. The not-very-hard-to-follow trail involved a Washington nonprofit called the National Center for Public Policy Research. Amy Ridenour, president of NCPPR, was tickled pink at my description of her operation as "an ultra-conservative think tank that makes the Cato Institute look like a hotbed of raving Trotskyist revolutionaries," but took aggrieved offense at my calling the report "a classic example of the bought-and-paid-for intellectual dishonesty of so-called 'climate skeptics.'"

Funny thing, I went back to Amy Ridenour's blog just now and couldn't find any comment on the 600-page report released today by the Senate Finance Committee detailing how the National Center for Public Policy Research and four other Washington think tanks worked hand in hand with Jack Abramoff in the noble enterprise of helping his clients out with puff pieces placed in the press and assorted other propaganda. You can read about the report in the Washington Post but I would strongly encourage downloading the actual document and reading pages 23-33, which include the text of numerous e-mails between Ridenour and Abramoff and other related parties.

"In testimony before the Committee on Indian Affairs and in an interview with Finance Committee staff, Ms. Ridenour said that her organization accepted donations from Mr. Abramoff's clients and routed money as Mr. Abramoff directed. Mr. Abramoff served on NCPPR's board of directors. E-mail exchanges among Ms. Ridenour, Mr. Abramoff, and Mr. Abramoff's colleagues and clients indicate that CREA/Ms. Ridenour: (1) accepted payments from Mr. Abramoff's clients and then acted as the front organization to pay for trips by members of Congress, their staff members and others, (2) accepted payments from Mr. Abramoff's clients and then wrote checks as Mr. Abramoff directed, and (3) accepted contributions from Mr. Abramoff's clients and then performed services such as writing favorable newspaper columns and speaking in favor of clients' causes."

"The e-mails between Mr. Abramoff and NCPPR indicate that NCPPR functioned as an appendage of Mr. Abramoff's lobbying operation."

How so, exactly? Well, "In 1999, Mr. Abramoff and his associates discussed with Jeff Ballabon, who at the time was executive vice president of public affairs for Primedia's Channel One Network, the best way to fend off a coalition seeking the network's ouster from public school classrooms."

Ridenour ended up writing articles defending Channel One.

"Mr. Abramoff wrote to Mr. Ballabon on May 19, 1999:"

"When we are through the hearing, we have to discuss getting Amy a contribution as we discussed. She was going to do 5 pieces for $10K. We can chat on this next week."

"Mr. Ballabon responded: yup -- I have not forgotten (was it $10? -- I wrote it down -- whatever it was, she'll get it.)

"Mr. Abramoff wrote to Ms. Ridenour the same day:"

"I just want to thank you again for all you to do help us. Jeff is so grateful and, as soon as the dust clears, is going to make his gratitude tangible. Thanks for all you do!

"On May 23, 1999, Mr. Ballabon wrote to Mr. Abramoff saying that Ms. Ridenour "really does deliver."

"Mr. Abramoff wrote back: We should get her a check as soon as we can. She can really help us with the Approps battle (we have used her before for this kind of battle before)."

There's much, much more. So I salute you, Jack Abramoff, for all you've done in bringing to light exactly how Washington works! And I look forward to reading all about this at the National Center for Public Policy Research blog.

Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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