The year 2003 was a heady one for the group of lobbyists who became known as "Team Abramoff," and for one Oklahoma congressman.
In addition to multiple meetings with then-White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove and having a cozy golf-trip relationship with "The Hammer," former House leader Tom DeLay, the group also had another congressional friend rising in the ranks to a very powerful position.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, a man identified as "Lobbyist C" in the federal documents, widely reported to be Kevin Ring, closely watched the rise of U.S. Rep. Ernest Istook, R-Oklahoma City, and his chief of staff, John Albaugh. When Istook assumed a high-ranking station, for now-disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his team, the fix was in.
"On or about Jan. 28, 2003, shortly after learning that Representative 4 was to be named chairman of the Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee, a fellow lobbyist at Firm B e-mailed Lobbyist C, remarking, '[t]hat's good for us!! Hello Albaugh,'" the Justice charges state.
Last week, after more than five years, and after millions of dollars in taxpayer money, influence and political donations traded hands, Albaugh pleaded guilty to conspiracy in the Abramoff bribery scandal, agreeing to work with prosecutors to implicate others involved in the case.
"Mr. Albaugh decided to accept the government's proposal and move on with his life," said his attorney, Jeffrey S. Jacobovitz. "He deeply regrets and accepts full responsibility for his involvement in these matters and their impact upon his family and the community."
Istook's office had long been in Abramoff's sights, according to the Department of Justice. In March of 2002, Ring e-mailed Albaugh and bragged to him, "[y]ou are going to eat free off of our clients." "Ben Fenwick
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