In a report issued today, Senate investigators say that five conservative non-profit groups, including one headed by Grover Norquist, sold their clout to Jack Abromoff and thereby perpetrated a fraud on taxpayers.
Officers of the groups "were generally available to carry out Mr. Abramoff's requests for help with his clients in exchange for cash payments," said the report, issued by the Democratic members of the Senate Finance Committee after a one-year investigation.
The report states that the groups probably violated their tax-exempt status "by laundering payments and then disbursing funds at Mr. Abramoff's direction; taking payments in exchange or writing newspaper columns or press releases that put Mr. Abramoff's clients in a favorable light; introducing Mr. Abramoff's clients to government officials in exchange for payment; and agreeing to act as a front organization for congressional trips paid for by Mr. Abramoff's clients."
The five groups include: Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform
, the Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy
(co-founded by Norquist and Gale Norton), Citizens Against Government Waste
, the National Center for Public Policy Research
, and Toward Tradition
In one email examined by Senate investigators, Jack Abramoff referred to Norquist as a "hard-won asset" of his lobbying empire. In exchange for Norquist's opposition to taxes on Brown-Forman products, he required, according to an email, a "donation" of $50,000 for his group. Other emails indicate explicit discussions of money exchanged for support.