Candidate;s spokesman says allegations are wrong
Rob Capriccioso -- Today staff
DENVER - On opening day of the Democratic National Convention, several American Indian political leaders who support Sen. Barack Obama took the opportunity to tie disgraced former lobbyist Jack Abramoff to the Republican party and to Sen. John McCain.
The McCain campaign is not accepting the criticism, and a spokesman for the senator from Arizona is strongly defending the presumptive GOP candidate's integrity.
A draft resolution being considered for adoption by the First American Caucus reads in part: ''... lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his Republican cohorts have done irrefutable harm to tribes and their ability to fully participate in political campaigns ...''
The caucus is composed of a record-breaking 143 politicos who identify as Native. It is one of several special caucuses meeting in various sessions throughout DNC week.
The resolution, which was written jointly by several members of the caucus, states that Ralph Reed, a former Abramoff business associate, helped to organize a fundraiser held Aug. 18 for McCain's campaign - despite assertions from the McCain camp that this is not the case.
It calls on the presumptive GOP presidential candidate, as well as the Republican National Committee, to renounce campaign involvement of those who have been involved in fraudulent activities.
''[T]he honest efforts of tribes to fully involve themselves in local state and national political campaigns has been damaged by the negative press, and the negative perceptions that were created by the dishonest actions of noted Republican activists who were associated with Jack Abramoff,'' the resolution says.
The document notes, too, that Abramoff ''conspired to bill Indian tribal governments out of an estimated $85 million in fees'' and that the former businessman played a role in the Bush administration's 2001 transition advisory team.
Abramoff pled guilty in 2006 to three criminal felony counts related to the defrauding of American Indian tribes and corruption of public officials.
Tucker Bounds, a spokesman for the McCain campaign, recently told Indian Country Today that McCain is being unfairly scrutinized on the Abramoff issue.
''The assertion that he's in bed with Jack Abramoff - after he put the crook in jail - [is wrong],'' Bounds said. The spokesman added that the campaign has taken no money from Reed, and said Reed is not a member of the campaign.
Bounds also said that Reed did not attend the event to which the Native caucus document alludes, nor did he host it.
Frank LaMere, a member of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska and the chairman of the caucus, said McCain deserved scrutiny on the lobbying issue.
''Native people need not temper their feelings. Some things are wrong. And the way Abramoff treated the tribes was wrong.''
LaMere has been involved on the national political scene for more than 20 years. He expects a final version of the resolution to be voted on by the caucus later in the week.
Some Native leaders in attendance at the Aug. 25 meeting questioned whether attention directed toward Abramoff and away from Obama during his big convention week was a positive development.
One delegate who asked to remain anonymous said she would like to further discuss the resolution with LaMere before a final draft is voted on, perhaps as early as Aug. 27.
''We need to think in positive terms,'' the delegate said. ''Change doesn't mean we have to forget about the past, but we don't have to dwell on it either.''
In lighter developments on opening day of the DNC, a group of proud Navajo Nation code talkers presented the flag colors to kick off the convention.