A Bipartisan Scandal?

A BIPARTISAN SCANDAL?….The American Prospect has commissioned Dwight L. Morris and Associates, a specialist in campaign finance, to examine the contribution records of Indian tribes since 1991 to find out how their giving patterns changed based on whether or not they hired Jack Abramoff to represent them. The full article by Greg Sargent is here, and there are two significant results.

First, Morris compared the contribution patterns of tribes that hired Abramoff to tribes that didn’t. The result? Over the past 15 years, non-Abramoff tribes have given 72% of their contributions to Democrats. Conversely, Abramoff’s tribes, during the period they were represented by Abramoff, gave 70% of their contributions to Republicans. Since these tribes would almost certainly have given 30% of their contributions to Democrats on their own, this is compelling evidence that Abramoff directed his clients to give the vast bulk of their contributions to the GOP.

Second, Morris looked solely at the tribes that hired Abramoff and compared their contribution patterns before and after they hired him. The figures in the Prospect article are a little unfair in this regard, since the pre-Jack period is generally twice as long as the post-Jack period, so I recalculated their figures based on approximate contribution rates per year.

The chart on the right shows what happened. Before hiring Abramoff, annual contributions to Democrats and Republicans were roughly equal. After hiring Abramoff, contributions went up across the board, but skyrocketed for Republicans. Abramoff not only persuaded his clients to increase their overall giving, but persuaded them to give practically all of the additional money to Republicans.

Here’s the bottom line:

?If you?re going to make the case that this is a bipartisan scandal, you have to really stretch the imagination,? says Morris. ?Most individual tribes were predominantly Democratic givers through the last decade. Only Abramoff?s clients switched dramatically from largely Democratic to overwhelmingly Republican donors, and that happened only after he got his hands on them.?

There’s not much doubt that Abramoff directed his clients to contribute small amounts to certain Democrats. Taken as a whole, though, his direction to his clients was clear: to give more ? much, much more ? to Republicans.

POSTSCRIPT: In some sense, it’s unfortunate that this has even become an issue. After all, there’s nothing wrong with a politician taking a donation from an Indian tribe, regardless of whether it was directed by Abramoff or not. It’s only wrong if there’s specific evidence of wrongdoing associated with the contribution.

Still, since this has become an issue, it’s worth looking at the figures to see what they show. And what they show is no surprise: Jack Abramoff was a Republican lobbyist who directed his clients to give overwhelmingly to Republicans. And they did.