Two Arizona congressmen have been linked to the influential Washington lobbyist who pleaded guilty Tuesday to federal charges of fraud, conspiracy and tax evasion.
Reps. J.D. Hayworth and John Shadegg, both R-Ariz., have been tied through campaign contributions or media reports to Jack Abramoff, who will cooperate with federal investigators as part of his plea agreement.
Both congressmen have said they did nothing improper.
An analysis last month by the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan political watchdog group, named Hayworth as the top recipient in Congress of political contributions from Abramoff, his clients and a Florida casino company Abramoff bought in 2000. That report, based on campaign finance disclosure statements since 1999, put Hayworth’s receipts from Abramoff-connected entities at $101,620. Most of that is from American Indian tribes Abramoff has represented.
Hayworth’s spokesman could not be reached Tuesday for comment.
In November, the Associated Press included Shadegg among 33 members of Congress who signed a letter in 2002 opposing federal approval of a proposed Indian casino in Louisiana. That letter turned out to be part of an effort organized by Abramoff on behalf of Indian tribes he represented that already had gaming rights.
Shadegg spokesman Mike Steel said Tuesday that the congressman was unfairly linked to Abramoff by The Associated Press. Shadegg signed the letter because of his long-time opposition to allowing gambling on Indian reservations, said Steel, repeating statements the congressman made in a letter to the Tribune shortly after the AP article was published. Shadegg said in his letter to the Tribune he had no idea Abramoff or any of his clients were involved in circulating the letter.
More than a year after signing the letter, Shadegg received $1,500 from a partner in Abramoff’s law firm, said Steel, adding the firm has more than 1,000 lawyers. Shadegg received an additional $1,000 from the firm’s political action committee in 2004.
"Shadegg has never met Abramoff. He’s never gotten money from Abramoff. He has no connection whatsoever with Abramoff," Steel said.
State Democratic Party chairman Harry Mitchell renewed calls Monday for Hayworth to return campaign contributions he has received from Abramoff clients. "There used to be a time when public officials were embarrassed to be associated with felons," Mitchell said Monday.