Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Rep. Wilson Refutes Allegations in Talking Points Memo!

An online report on the Talking Points Memo's Muckracker's blog this morning is being refuted by NM Representative Heather Wilson late this afternoon.

TPMmuckraker reported:

... the indictment of former Jack Abramoff associate Kevin Ring, filed yesterday, suggests that Wilson's office was tied in to Abramoff's corruption network at a level not previously known. And John McCain's 2005 investigation into Abramoff's fleecing of Indian tribes, which McCain conducted as chair of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, made no mention of that fact.

But, Wilson denies knowledge of her staffer's email and said, "I'm proud of the work that I did with Senator Bingaman and Senator Domenici to settle the Sandia Land Claim, " Wilson said.

Wilson admits she has had an ongoing relationship with members of the Sandia Pueblo and other tribes and even worked on legislation mentioned in the staffer's emails, but seems to say those emails followed final legislative action.

Abramoff has admitted he gave gifts to federal officials who provided favors to his clients. More than a dozen people eventually were implicated in a corruption scandal, including Ohio Republican Rep. Bob Ney, who resigned in disgrace after being convicted of accepting illegal gifts. Several key congressional aides also were convicted, as was a deputy secretary in the Interior Department.

Abramoff was sentenced earlier this month to four years in federal prison.

An examination of the unnamed Wilson staffer's emails, presented in the indictment, seems to indicate that Wilson was actively involved in helping Ring and Greenberg Traurig (where Ring worked at the time), retain their contract to represent the Sandia Indians. And Ring's Greenberg partner -- most likely Abramoff himself, but certainly a member of Abramoff's team at Greenberg -- believed he had the power to affect decisions made by Rep. Wilson concerning the tribe's interests.

"We have worked with whomever the Pueblo has chosen as its representatives and with tribal leaders directly on matters of concern to the Pueblo," said Wilson.

Wilson believes the T'uf Bein Shur Preservation Act (2003) was important to the Sandia Pueblo, neighboring cities, Sandia Tram, homeowners at the base of the mountain and nearby farmers and event ranchers.

"Regarding the March 2003 e-mails between two rogue lobbyists concerning whether they would continue to be retained by the Pueblo, I am not sure whether to be amused or offended that they were operating under the delusion that I would help them retain their contract, or that losing their contract would hurt the Pueblo's longstanding relationship with me. As my constituents, I represent the Pueblo regardless of who they hire to represent them. At no time did I take any action on behalf of Greenberg Traurig with Sandia Pueblo."

The Representative says all proceeds from Kevin Ring's fundraiser for her re-election in May 2003 were donated to charities in accordance with FEC Commission Rules.

Democracy for New Mexico and NMFBIHOP are also following this developing story here and here.

Photo Credits: MG Bralley

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