Monday, February 13, 2006

More Than Just Indians

The major focus of the Abramoff Affair has been on Abramoff's cheating of various Indian tribes, but Abramoff did a lot of other lobbying business at Preston, Gates & Ellis and Greenberg Traurig.

Some of America's best know companies relied on Jack Abramoff's services. Included among his clients are companies such as Microsoft, Unisys and Business Software Alliance (BSA). Information Technology companies such as these spend tens of millions of dollars lobbying the government. In 2004 alone, the top ten IT contractors to the federal government spent $46 million on lobbyist expenses.

Software and IT services are extremely expensive and unlike hardware tend to require subjective judgments as to their effectiveness and efficiency. Don't forget that former congressman Randy Cunningham's major benefactors and co-conspirators were primarily IT/software companies.

The current issue of Washington Technology asks if the "party is over" for the IT lobbying industry.
In recent weeks, just as the Washington lobbying season begins, immediately after the president introduces the budget request, IT executives in Washington are being more cautious in inviting government officials and aides to corporate work sites and headquarters, dinners and special events until Congress clarifies lobbying rules, Grkavac and others said.

“We don’t want to make plans that may have to change because of new rules,” she said.

“People are hunkered down,” waiting for the other shoe to drop, said Chip Mather, partner in Acquisition Solutions Inc., a government contracting consulting firm in Arlington, Va. “People have noticed lower attendance by government people at parties. It’s the people in the trenches who are worried to death.”
So much money, so many members of congress. How can we bribe them all? Let's get Jack to help us.

According to government filings, Unisys in January 2003 hired Abramoff and others at the Greenberg, Traurig law firm, paying $640,000 through mid-2004. Unisys’ largest contract with DHS at that time was a $1 billion IT contract with the Transportation Security Administration, awarded in August 2002.

In a July 2005 article, The Washington Post named Greg Baroni, president of Unisys global public sector, as one of the buyers of Signatures, Abramoff’s restaurant in downtown Washington. Meyer said last week that Baroni has no financial interest in the restaurant, but she declined further comment. Baroni “has no involvement in it, whatsoever,” Meyer said.

Microsoft hired Abramoff and lobbying firm Preston, Gates & Ellis LLP in 1998, 1999 and 2000, paying $780,000 for those efforts, according to Senate records. Microsoft officials declined to comment.

Software developers industry group Business Software Alliance paid Abramoff and other Preston, Gates lobbyists $320,000 from 1998 to 2000.
None of these companies hired Abramoff directly and most of their accounts were handled by lobbyist other that Abramoff himself. However, the same firms that gave Jack Abramoff free reign to do whatever it took to generate business and profits, continue to lobby congress on behalf of corporations with little interest in promoting the public interest.