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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, January 9, 2006

Abramoff leaves cloud all must work to clear

It was inevitable that Hawai'i's members of Congress, with a natural interest in Indian affairs, would come under the shadow of disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Abramoff recently pleaded guilty to federal fraud, conspiracy and tax-evasion charges largely related to his dealings with Indian tribes. Over the years, Abramoff and his clients, including Indian tribes, funneled millions into the hands of members of Congress.

Now it has been reported that both Sen. Daniel Inouye, a founding member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, and Rep. Neil Abercrombie, a member of the House Resources Committee with jurisdiction over Indian affairs, have received campaign contributions from tribes associated with Abramoff.

But let's be clear here. The contributions came before the tribes were affiliated with Abramoff. And they were legal, both in amount and in timing.

So what is the issue? The point is that Abramoff's actions have cast a cloud over anyone who was associated with him or his clients. Members of Congress from both parties have been busy giving back money that might have come from anyone associated with the lobbyist.

It is interesting to note the different approaches taken by Inouye and Abercrombie.

Inouye says he will return any contribution if any tribe requests it.

Abercrombie says he does not intend to return the money, since doing so might imply that either he or those who gave did something wrong, which they did not.

Both positions are defensible. The follow-up now should be to offer up as much transparency as possible on voting records and other actions on anything remotely associated with Abramoff.

It's unfortunate. Abramoff has tainted the system. It remains the duty of those left behind to restore public confidence that his efforts did not, and will not, stick.