WASHINGTON: Michael Scanlon, a public affairs executive and former press aide to Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX), last week pleaded guilty in federal court to conspiracy to bribe public officials.
The charge stems from allegations that Scanlon conspired with lobbyist Jack Abramoff to swindle four Native American tribes.
The pair allegedly devised a scheme where Abramoff would advise the tribes to hire Scanlon's company, Capital Campaign Strategies, for grassroots PR work. In return, Abramoff would receive kickbacks totaling 50% of the profits from Scanlon's work.
As part of the plea agreement, Scanlon will pay restitution totaling more than $19 million to the tribes and could face up to five years in prison. He also agreed to cooperate with an investigation into possible wrongdoing by some members of Congress.
Altogether, Scanlon and Abramoff reportedly received $82 million in lobbying and PR fees from half a dozen Indian tribes they represented from 2000 to 2004.
Scanlon's work for the Pueblo of Sandia in New Mexico offers a glimpse into his dealings with Indian tribes. Although not described in the criminal charge, the Pueblo of Sandia reportedly paid Scanlon's firm $1 million in 2002 to help move legislation in Congress that would transfer pieces of public land to the tribe.
Abramoff, while working as a lobbyist at DC law firm Greenberg Traurig, allegedly suggested the tribe hire Capital Campaign Strategies.
Scanlon's firm conducted focus groups and helped with other "positive communication" to residents in the Albuquerque, NM, area about the tribe's goal of gaining access to almost 10,000 acres, Pueblo of Sandia tribe governor Stuwart Paisano told the Albuquerque Tribune. The tribe opted not to renew the contract in 2003.
All of the lobbying firms that the tribe interviewed, including Abramoff's, suggested hiring a PR firm, Paisano told the newspaper.