Abramoff Probe Takes a New Turn
While most connoisseurs of the Jack Abramoff scandal have been wondering if or when the federal probe into the disgraced lobbyist would ensnare any more current lawmakers or ex-Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas), the investigation veered in a different direction today with the filing of charges against John Albaugh, the former chief of staff to ex-Rep. Ernest Istook (R-Okla.).
Albaugh has been charged with conspiracy to defraud the House. The specifics may sound familiar, as he is accused of offenses similar to those of other Abramoff scandal figures: Taking meals, sports and concert tickets from Abramoff and his lobbying colleagues in exchange for legislative help.
House payroll records on the Web site Legistorm show that Albaugh was last a congressional employee in January 2007, when Istook left office. It's not immediately clear what Albaugh is doing now, though this LinkedIn page says he is a partner at Renaissance Coastal Development in Savannah, Ga. (Albaugh's actual profile on LinkedIn appears to have been removed).
So far, the Abramoff probe has frequently sought to charge or otherwise pressure congressional aides in hopes that they will provide evidence against their bosses. The charges against Albaugh could be a step towards a federal move against Istook, who is referenced in the charging documents against Albaugh. Istook was previously known to have accepted concert tickets and campaign contributions from Abramoff.
Is this a sign that the Abramoff investigation is heating up again, and will soon reel in more fish? Or is this simply one of the last loose ends federal prosecutors wanted to tie up? We'll know more in the coming months.
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