Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Lobby Firm Is Scandal Casualty

There is so much news here on the scandals today. We've got another episode of the The Tom DeLay Comedy Hour! This is from the Washington Post:

One of Washington's top lobbying operations will shut down at the end of the month because of its ties to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff and former House majority leader Tom DeLay.

Alexander Strategy Group, which had thrived since its founding in 1998 thanks largely to its close connections to DeLay (R-Tex.), will cease to operate except for a relatively small business-development division, Edwin A. Buckham, the former top DeLay aide who owns the company, said yesterday.

Edwin Buckham. NY Times File Photo

Buckham said in a telephone interview that the company was fatally damaged by publicity about the ongoing federal investigation into the affairs of Abramoff, who pleaded guilty last week to fraud and conspiracy charges. Abramoff is cooperating with prosecutors in their probe of congressional corruption.

Jack Abramoff AP File Photo

DeLay was indicted in Texas last year on money laundering and other charges. He is one of several lawmakers under scrutiny in the Abramoff case, sources knowledgeable about the investigation have said.

"Reports in the press have made it difficult to continue as a lobbying/political entity," Buckham said.

Looks like the bad publicity that has been coming out against the Alexander Strategy Group has forced Buckham to close shop. This whole network was built up between these three players--Abramoff, DeLay, and Buckham. They all helped each other in accumulating money and power--Abramoff was the ubber-lobbyist salesman for clients, DeLay was the congressional connection to control legislation favorable to clients, and Buckham's Alexander Strategy Group was the gatekeep between the lobbyists, DeLay, and the clientele. It was all built up like a house of cards--the K-Street House of Cards. Knock one pillar off, and the whole house comes crashing down. I've posted on the link between DeLay and ASG. And here is the original NY Times story on ASG. Consider this from the Post:

The end of DeLay's leadership role was a major blow to the lobbying firm. Former DeLay associates have said that ASG and Buckham were key gatekeepers for DeLay with outsiders including lobbyists and their corporate clients. DeLay's fall from power presaged a major commercial loss for the company whether it dissolved or not.

Tom DeLay. AP File Photo

The senior ASG employee estimated that 40 to 50 percent of the firm's clients probably would have abandoned the firm soon because of adverse publicity about the continuing investigations involving Rudy and Buckham.

Buckham said that he will be leaving the lobbying business and hasn't any regrets. "I'm at peace with all this," he said. "I'm not bitter. I'm not resentful. I harbor no ill feelings toward anyone. The important thing in life is having a clean heart and I do. I'm not even upset with the press."

ASG, based in Georgetown, lobbies for an A-list of about 70 companies and organizations, including Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Microsoft, and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. ASG ranked No. 21 on National Journal's 2005 lobbying list with $8 million in revenue, a 34 percent jump over the previous year.

Financial disclosure forms show that ASG employed Christine DeLay from 1998 to 2002. Lobby filings also show that Buckham hired Julie Doolittle, wife of Rep. John T. Doolittle (R-Calif.), to do bookkeeping for a nonprofit group he created called the Korea-U.S. Exchange Council. A year ago, Julie Doolittle and her firm received a subpoena from the grand jury investigating Abramoff, according to her lawyer.

Former lobbying associates have said that Abramoff shared some high-paying clients with ASG, including Malaysian interests, the Mississippi Choctaw Indian tribe and online gambling firms. Federal investigators have questioned some former Abramoff associates about whether those referrals were related to Christine DeLay's employment there, sources said.

Like it or not, Buckham is not out of the clear yet. He worked closely with DeLay and Abramoff in building up this troika. Buckham was involved hiring DeLay's wife as a consultant to ASG, and hiring Doolittle's wife to do some bookkeeping for a non-profit that Buckham created. ASG shared Abramoff's Indian tribe clients for the gambling casinos, and was involved in hiring several of DeLay's former staff members--including Tony Ruby, who is being investigated for his connections between DeLay and Abramoff. Ruby's wife was hired as an ASG consultant, and there is Buckham's involvement in the U.S. Family Network--a supposed grass-roots that was financed through Abramoff's clients. Buckham and his company had a major involvement in helping create this entire network, and you can bet the feds are looking into all of this.

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