Legislators cut Abramoff connections

Missouri Republicans who accepted donations are giving the money away.
Thursday, January 5, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 1:20 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Now that Jack Abramoff has pleaded guilty to fraud, tax evasion and conspiracy to bribe public officials, U.S. legislators from Missouri are distancing themselves from the lobbyist, as well as from former House Speaker Tom DeLay, who was indicted on campaign finance charges last fall.

Abramoff contributed to many Republican lawmakers’ campaigns, lavishing meals and vacations in an attempt to influence certain laws, according to the plea agreement.

Sen. Kit Bond, Sen. Jim Talent and Rep. Roy

Blunt, all Missouri Republicans, have all received contributions from Abramoff and his lobbyist groups. Now, in the wake of the Tuesday’s plea agreement, they are trying to get rid of it.

The Associated Press reported Wednesday that Blunt planned to donate to charity $8,500 in contributions he had received from Abramoff over the years. A Blunt representative said the charity has not yet been determined.

According to the Federal Election Commission, last year Talent returned a $3,000 campaign contribution he had received from Abramoff and one of his lobbyist groups in 2002.

John Hancock, spokesman for the Missouri Republican Party, said party officials were not aware of any contributions Talent may have received from Abramoff or his committees.

In October 2005, U.S. Rep. Kenny Hulshof, R-Mo., donated about $14,500 to the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund, the same amount Hulshof had received from ARMPAC, a political action committee formed by DeLay, who has been closely linked to Abramoff and his lobbying activities. Hulshof has been receiving money from ARMPAC since he first took office in 1997.

Phone calls to Bond, Hulshof and Talent’s offices were not returned.

The investigation could implicate some sitting members of Congress.

Jack Cardetti, spokesman for the Missouri Democratic Party, called the Abramoff matter “the biggest corruption scandal in Washington for more than a generation.”

Hancock acknowledged that the investigation could hurt the Republican Party’s credibility, but said he did not know whether it will be a big issue for voters in the next election.

Associated Press and Missourian reporter Matt Harris contributed to this story.

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