Former Gregg staffer caught up in corruption probe
Senator Judd Gregg (Rep-NH), Obama's nominee to become Commerce Secretary, may have a few skeletons in his closet related to convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Or at least a couple of his former aides do.
"A former congressional aide to Commerce Secretary-nominee Judd Gregg has been caught up in a long-running investigation into a Capitol Hill lobbying scandal," the Associated Press reports.
Excerpts from AP story:
A person familiar with the case confirmed Wednesday that "Staffer F" in court documents is Kevin Koonce, who worked as legislative director in Gregg's Senate office from 2002-04. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the case is still under investigation.
Staffer F was cited in a guilty plea last week by Todd Boulanger, a former deputy to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff. In federal court, Boulanger admitted he plied the staffer with front-row tickets to a hockey game, meals and drinks and other tickets to a baseball game, and in exchange received favors in spending legislation.
The total value of the gifts Staffer F took from Boulanger exceeded $10,000, court papers said.
The AP adds, "Abramoff, once a top GOP lobbyist, is now in prison and has cooperated with the Justice Department to help convict more than a dozen people, including former Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, former Deputy Interior Secretary J. Steven Griles, and a number of former lobbyists and Capitol Hill aides."
A follow-up AP report noted that the White House was downplaying the news about Gregg's former aide.
"White House spokesman Robert Gibbs says Gregg himself is not a target or subject of any investigation about the employee," the AP reports. "Gibbs pointed out that the staffer hasn't worked for Gregg since 2004."
Gregg's former chief of staff, Joel Maioli, was reported to have been involved in another Abramoff-related shenanigan.
New Hamphire author and journalist Jack McEnany reported that "former Republican State Committee executive director, and convicted phone jammer, Chuck McGee, has claimed under oath that Sen. Judd Gregg’s chief of staff, Joel Maiola, personally delivered checks totaling $15,000 from the Mississippi Choctaw and Agua Calienti tribes to the NH Republican State Committee office a week before the 2002 election."
McEnany notes that "this was the exact amount paid by the NH GOP to the now-defunct Republican Marketplace to affect the phone jamming scheme. The tribes were clients of convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff."
Excerpts from Dec. 21, 2006 Union leader article:
New Hampshire's Union Leader had reported, "While questioning McGee in an Aug. 30 deposition in the now-settled phone-jamming civil suit, Democratic attorney Paul Twomey said, "But you were aware that somebody working for Senator Gregg, either his office or his campaign, hand-delivered those checks to the Republican State Committee.'"
McGee responded, "I believe that's correct."
Former state GOP office manager Kristy Stuart gave similar testimony.
Joel Maiola, Gregg's chief of staff, did not dispute that, but said, "We've had no involvement in this (phone-jamming) matter and any suggestion otherwise is totally baseless and without merit."
Former Democratic State Committee chair Kathy Sullivan was quoted as asking, "What was Senator Gregg's relationship with Jack Abramoff?"
After 27 years of working with Gregg, Maiola left a year ago to start his own consulting firm.
In January of 2006, the Associated Press reported, "A spokesman for Sen. Judd Gregg said Wednesday the senator has never had any contact with lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who pleaded guilty to fraud, corruption and tax-evasion charges and has agreed to tell the FBI about alleged bribes to lawmakers."
"But Gregg spokesman Joel Maiola said records show donations came from two Indian tribes represented by Abramoff's firm in 2002 and 2004, totaling $12,000, which will be given to a New Hampshire-based charity," the AP reported.
At Talking Points Memo, Paul Kiel wrote that "Todd Boulanger, a lobbyist in Abramoff's shop, gave the two checks to a staffer for Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH) to pass along, because, the staffer says, Boulanger 'wanted to help out.' Gregg wasn't running that year, mind you, but Abramoff didn't see that as a reason to stop passing money around."
"So was that money meant to pay for the jamming?" Kiel asked. "The Democrats say no. Paul Twomey, lawyer for the New Hampshire Democrats, told The New Hampshire Union-Leader, that 'he is quite sure there is no Gregg connection to phone-jamming.'"
"There you have it: Sometimes a contribution is just a contribution -- or as much as that could be the case when Jack Abramoff is involved," Kiel concluded.