Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Van Hilleary's PAC received Contributions From Two Tribes Connected To Jack Abramoff

As reported in October by the Memphis Commercial Appeal, Van Hilleary has some very strong ties to indicted Republican Leader Tom Delay.

In the October report by the Appeal's Bart Sullivan, it was revealed that Hilleary had "received $17,020 from Americans for a Republican Majority or the Tom DeLay Congressional Committee since 1994."

The aticle went on to say, "Hilleary got a total of $7,020 for his congressional races from 1994-2000 and $10,000 when he ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2002."

Also in the report, Hilleary spokeswoman Jennifer Coxe said, "the DeLay money won't be a factor in the campaign. "Americans for a Republican Majority supports conservative Republicans across the country. Van was a conservative leader in Congress... and as such has been supported by other conservative leaders who share a common belief in limited government, lower taxes and traditional family values."

Well, it appears the Hilleary camp has got a lot more explaining to do.

In today's Chattanooga Times Free Press it is reported that Van Hilleary's PAC accepted two contributions from American Indian tribes connected to Delay protege, Jack Ambramoff.

In 2002, then-U.S. Rep. Van Hilleary, R-Tenn., received $10,000 from two American Indian tribes linked to lobbyist Jack Abramoff, now under federal indictment, campaign contribution records show.

Jennifer Coxe, a spokesman for Mr. Hilleary, said she does not know why the tribes contributed. "Van said he does not know them (the tribes) or Mr. Abramoff," Ms. Coxe said Monday.

Federal campaign records show the Van Hilleary PAC received $5,000 from the Tigua Indian Reservation: Ysleta Del Sur Pueblo in El Paso, Texas, on May 13, 2002, and another $5,000 that same day from the Coushatta Tribe of (Elton) Louisiana.

Federal records show the Van Hilleary PAC was registered Dec. 21, 2001, and took in $15,500. Mr. Abramoff has been under investigation by the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs and the FBI for more than a year.

He was indicted in August on five counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy related to his purchase of a fleet of Florida gambling boats unrelated to his dealings with the tribes.

A February 2002 memo released by the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs shows that Mr. Abramoff made recommendations pertaining to potential contributions from the Tigua tribe.

"The tribe will have to make approximately $300,000 in federal political contributions," Mr. Abramoff wrote in the memo addressed to the head of the tribe.

"We are currently preparing a target list of these contributions and hope to have them to you shortly."

At the time, Mr. Abramoff was not under indictment. L. Stuart Dungan, former treasurer of the Van Hilleary PAC, said he was just the custodian of the records.

Mr. Hilleary "asked me to help set up a PAC to raise money for federal candidates," Mr. Dungan said. "All I did was make sure the (Federal Election Commission) was notified on a timely basis.

"I had nothing to do with soliciting the money," Mr. Dungan said. The Van Hilleary PAC, terminated in 2003, made $9,000 in contributions to federal candidates.

Janice Bowling, who ran unsuccessfully for Congress against U.S. Rep. Lincoln Davis, D-Tenn., received $5,000.

Others receiving $1,000 contributions each were then-Tennessee congressional candidate Forrest Shoaf and then-U.S. Senate candidates Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.; Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga.; and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. About $6,500 in excess money was "transferred to nonfederal" Van Hilleary PAC, according to federal records.

There is no state or federal record of a Van Hilleary nonfederal PAC.

Ms. Coxe said their best guess was that Hilleary├é’s Equal Opportunity Education Project was given the money.

A check of state records by the Tennessee Register of Election Finance shows the project did not receive any money from the Van Hilleary PAC in January 2003.

Ms. Coxe said Mr. Hilleary is opposed to gambling.

"His record proves that," she said.

She said Mr. Hilleary would not be returning any of the funds.

"He spent that money," Ms. Coxe said. "We cannot give it back."

Mr. Hilleary is vying in the Republican primary for the seat held by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., who has said he will not seek re-election.

The GOP primary is Aug. 3. Former U.S. Rep. Ed Bryant, R-Tenn., and former Chattanooga Mayor Bob Corker also are seeking the Republican Senate nomination.

"This type of activity pretty much speaks for itself," Ben Mitchell, spokesman for Mr. Corker, said.

Sonny Scott, adviser for Mr. Bryant, declined comment Monday.

In 2002, Mr. Hilleary was a member of several congressional committees, including Budget, Education and Workforce and Armed Services.

This is yet another example of why Van Hilleary is not worthy of being our next U.S. Senator.

He has demonstrated time and time again that he does not have the leadership or decision making capabilities that is needed in the U.S. Senate.

The same goes for Ed Bryant. There is a reason why Bryant's spokesman would not comment on this matter.

He knows that is in the same boat Van Hilleary is in. He too has accepted large amounts of money from Tom Delay and other crooks such as John Gregory.

Van Hilleary has some tough questions to answer.

While in Congress did Hilleary try to help Abramoff in any way? Did he meet with Abramoff and Co. ever to talk about legislation pending in Congress that could benefit him or his accomplises?

These are questions that must be answered.

Tennessee deserves better than someone like Van Hilleary or Ed Bryant.

The voters deserve a leader they can be proud of and stand behind.

Harold Ford Jr. is that man.

Update: Both Blogging for Bryant and Conservatives for Corker have picked up on our story and are pressing Van Hilleary on this money.

Will Van address this issue? Stay tuned.