From the North Dakota FORUM, 12-12-05
BISMARCK – Stung by recent news that he accepted money tainted by a high-powered Washington lobbyist he’s charged with investigating, Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., said Monday he’s returned $67,000 in political contributions to donors tied to the man.
Dorgan is the ranking Democrat on the committee and has blasted Abramoff as “crooked” and “corrupt,” saying he and Chairman Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., have “uncovered a disgusting tale of greed and outright fraud.”
While the money was legally donated and properly reported to the Federal Election Commission as required, Dorgan said Monday, “I don’t want one cent related to this guy. I think returning this money is the right thing.”
Dorgan directed staff at his campaign committee and Great Plains Leadership Fund political action committee to go through the books and identify and return all contributions “from tribes represented by Mr. Abramoff’s law firm and from individuals employed by his law firm during the time he was at the firm,” he said.
Dorgan’s campaign committee returned $24,000 and the Great Plains Leadership Fund returned $43,000, he said.
The AP reported Dorgan received nearly $95,000 in Abramoff-related money between 2001 and 2004.
Dorgan said a Washington Post story put his Abramoff-related donations at $44,000, and other reports mention $70,000.
The donations often came just days after Dorgan or other lawmakers took significant steps to push legislation helping certain tribes.
The March 6, 2002, check was among more than 60 the tribe issued that day to various lawmakers’ campaigns and political groups, the AP said.
Dorgan said the various actions favorable to tribes began long before the questionable donations were made. He has “worked for many years to improve the lives of American Indians,” he said.
The Forum called four tribes listed by the AP as donating money related to Abramoff lobbying to see if they had received any of Dorgan’s returned money.
Dorgan said some of the other lawmakers identified by the AP have announced they will not return Abramoff-related donations because all were legally contributed and reported.
He has dismissed suggestions that he should step aside from the investigation in light of the donations, saying he had aggressively pursued Abramoff’s activities.
No one at the tribal offices of the Mashpee Wampanoag, Mashpee, Mass., could be reached late Monday, and they did not immediately respond to messages left seeking comment.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Janell Cole at (701) 224-0830. See story.