Abramoff 'not responsive' to Finance Committee

The Senate Finance Committee, which is investigating a nonprofit group associated with former superlobbyist Jack Abramoff, indicated yesterday that Abramoff failed to produce documents the panel requested last month.

The Senate Finance Committee, which is investigating a nonprofit group associated with former superlobbyist Jack Abramoff, indicated yesterday that Abramoff failed to produce documents the panel requested last month.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and ranking Democrat Max Baucus (Mont.) had asked Abramoff and his wife, Pamela, for information and documents related to the Capital Athletic Foundation, which has faced allegations that it was used as a pass-through for money rather than a legitimate charity. Both Abramoffs are directors of the foundation.

A spokeswoman for the committee, Jill Gerber, said yesterday that “the committee received an interim letter that isn’t responsive to the committee’s request. The interim letter doesn’t contain the requested information.” She indicated that the committee staff was contacting the foundation’s legal representation “to follow up.” The committee would not release the letter.

The committee had asked Abramoff to respond within 30 days, by April 15.

The developments bring the committee closer to having to issue a subpoena to obtain the materials.

A spokesman for Abramoff’s attorney, Abbe Lowell, declined to comment.

Both the Senate Finance Committee and the Senate Indian Affairs Committee are conducting investigations of Abramoff’s lobbying activities, as is a multiagency criminal taskforce. A grand jury has been convened by prosecutors and has been stepping up its activities in recent weeks, sources said.

Recent news reports have suggested that donations to the Capital Athletic Foundation were used to pay for lobbying, for a Jewish school founded by Abramoff, and for a lawmaker’s golfing trip to Scotland, rather than for youth sports programs. The Finance Committee has said that its investigation of the foundation is part of its larger probe into 501(c)(3) charities.

The committee had asked Abramoff to provide a list of the foundation’s employees and their compensation packages, an accounting of the travel and conferences attended by the foundation’s employees, and details of the foundation’s investments, among other information.

Meanwhile, Abramoff’s former employer, Greenberg Traurig, hired Randy Scheunemann, a defense analyst, a longtime lobbyist for gun owners’ rights and a former campaign aide to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, which is conducting an exhaustive investigation of Abramoff’s dealings with Indian gaming tribes.

Neither Scheunemann nor a spokeswoman for Greenberg Traurig returned calls seeking comment on what services Scheunemann would provide the firm. Scheunemann served as defense and foreign policy coordinator for McCain’s 2000 campaign for president, according to a biography provided by the Project for the New American Century, where Scheunemann is on the board of directors.

The Senate Indian Affairs Committee is expected to hold its next hearing on the Abramoff investigation in June. The Indian Affairs Committee has had to issue several subpoenas to Abramoff, including one compelling his appearance at a hearing last fall. Abramoff asserted his constitutional right against self-incrimination at that hearing.