Hastert and Abramoff

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay isn’t the only Republican leader with ties to lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who has pleaded guilty to corruption-related charges and is cooperating with federal prosecutors.

The Associated Press reported November 18 that "House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R.-Ill.) held a fundraiser at Abramoff’s Signatures restaurant in Washington on June 3, 2003, that collected at least $21,500 for Hastert’s Keep Our Majority political action committee from the lobbyist’s firm and tribal clients. Seven days later, Hastert wrote [Interior Secretary Gale] Norton urging her to reject the Jena tribe of Choctaw Indians’ request for a new casino. Hastert’s three top House deputies also signed the letter."

Abramoff’s clients, Indian tribes that already owned casinos in Mississippi and Louisiana, did not want the Jena tribe to open a competing facility.

"Hastert ultimately collected more than $100,000 in donations from Abramoff’s firm and tribal clients between 2001 and 2004," the AP reported. "His office said he never discussed the matter with Abramoff, but long opposed expanding Indian gambling off reservations and was asked to send the letter by Rep. Jim McCrery (R.-La.)."

McCrery sent his own letter, and got $36,000 in Abramoff-connected contributions according to the report. For two years, the AP said, Hastert failed to report his use of Abramoff’s restaurant or to reimburse for it as required by law.

"Hastert blames a paperwork oversight and recently corrected it," said the AP.