WASHINGTON — Michael Scanlon, a former partner of lobbyist Jack Abramoff, pleaded guilty Monday to conspiring to bribe public officials, a charge growing out of the government investigation of attempts to defraud Indian tribes and corrupt a member of Congress.
At the same time, it was disclosed that Scanlon, a former aide to Rep. Tom DeLay, has been cooperating in a widening criminal investigation of members of Congress since June.
Scanlon entered his plea before U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle and was ordered to pay restitution totaling more than $19 million to Indian tribes that he admitted had been defrauded.
Abramoff and Scanlon were paid more than $80 million between 2001 and 2004 by six American Indian tribes with casinos.
One of Scanlon's lawyers, Plato Cacheris, disclosed outside the courthouse after the plea that his client has been cooperating for the past five months.
"There have been a lot of conversations" between Scanlon and the Justice Department starting in June, Cacheris said in a brief interview Monday.
In a statement of facts, Scanlon agreed that he and an unidentified person referred to as Lobbyist A "provided a stream of things of value to public officials in exchange for a series of official acts."
The items to one unidentified congressman or his staff included all-expense-paid trips to the Northern Marianas Islands in 2000, a trip to the Super Bowl in Tampa, Fla., in 2001 and a golf trip to Scotland.
Based on information already placed on the public record by the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, Lobbyist A is Abramoff and the congressman is Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio.
On Friday, Scanlon was charged with conspiracy. On Monday, the Justice Department's statement of facts that Scanlon signed went considerably beyond the earlier charging document, revealing that trips, tickets to sporting events and campaign contributions went to other public officials besides Ney in exchange for official acts.
The statement of facts said Scanlon and Lobbyist A provided items of value to public officials in exchange for "agreements to support and pass legislation, agreements to place statements in the Congressional Record, agreements to contact personnel in the United States Executive Branch agencies and offices to influence decisions of those agencies and offices."
A representative of the inspector general's office in the Interior Department was seated at the prosecutors' table in the courtroom.
The court documents said a senior staffer for "Representative No. 1" and others traveled to the Northern Marianas Islands in January 2000 to assist Abramoff and his firm in maintaining lobbying clients; as the co-chairman of a conference committee of House and Senate members, Representative No. 1 agreed to introduce legislation that would lift existing federal bans against commercial gaming for two Indian tribes in Texas that were Abramoff clients; and that Representative No. 1 met with a California tribe to discuss Representative No. 1's agreement to assist in passing legislation regarding taxation of certain payments received by members of the California tribe.
"Guilty, your honor," Scanlon told the judge when asked how he was pleading. He could face up to five years in prison.
The statement of facts Scanlon signed said he had a fee-splitting arrangement with Abramoff that was kept secret from the tribes because disclosure likely would have jeopardized the arrangement.
Lobbyist A, said the court papers, recommended the tribes hire Scanlon's firm, while promoting himself to his Indian tribe clients as having knowledge that was superior to theirs regarding lobbying and grass-roots activities.
In one instance, the statement of facts said, Abramoff and Scanlon together solicited the business of an Indian tribe aimed at reopening the tribe's gaming operations, with Abramoff telling the client that he would work free of change.
"Scanlon and Lobbyist A knew and agreed that ... Lobbyist A would receive approximately 50 percent of the net profits received" by Scanlon's firm, said the statement of facts.
The prices Scanlon's firm charged for its services "were significantly in excess" of the costs, the statement added.
Cacheris, Scanlon's lawyer, said his client regrets what happened to the tribes and "he is trying to do what he thinks is right" by cooperating with the government investigation.
DeLay is among those facing scrutiny for his associations with Abramoff, including a trip to Scotland and use of Abramoff's skybox at a Washington sports arena.
Abramoff's lobbying network stretched far into the halls of Congress. Documents obtained by The Associated Press show nearly three dozen lawmakers helping to block an American Indian casino in Louisiana while collecting large donations from the lobbyist and his tribal clients.
Mark Tuohey, a Washington attorney for Ney, has said the congressman was misled by other people and was a victim in the circumstances involving Scanlon.
Ney's office performed certain acts and "there was certain other wining and dining situations like other people do," Tuohey said.
DeLay, who relinquished his post as House majority leader after a separate indictment in Texas, is due in court Tuesday in Austin for a hearing seeking dismissal of conspiracy and money laundering charges.