Today's Chicago Tribune reports that House Speaker Dennis Hastert attended a June 2003 fundraiser at the restaurant owned by Abramoff. Nobody paid for the lunch -- or reported it in disclosure documents as an in-kind contribution as federal election law requires -- until inquiries to Hastert's office prompted his political action committee, Keep Our Majority PAC, to belatedly pick up the tab.
The Greenberg Traurig law firm, where Abramoff worked, hosted the event, which was attended by other lobbyists and donors. [John McGovern, a top Hastert aide] said the law firm's political action committee had agreed to pay the tab as an in-kind contribution to Hastert's PAC, but the speaker's office has no record of a payment or an in-kind contribution."This is the first question I've had about Hastert."
Ordinarily, both PACs would report such an in-kind contribution in disclosures to the Federal Election Commission. The law firm's PAC also is supposed to send Hastert a document reporting the amount of any in-kind contribution, such as the lunch tab.
But, when BusinessWeek raised questions about the restaurant bill, Hastert's office could not locate documentation that the tab was paid, McGovern said. No in-kind contribution was reported on either PAC's disclosure forms.
Ron Bonjean, a spokesman for the speaker, declined to expand late Friday on the explanation offered by McGovern. Aides would not make available a copy of the restaurant bill.
McGovern declined to provide an estimate of how much was raised at the lunch.
But in the days following the event, when contributions typically flow in, the speaker received more than $20,000 from individuals, according to FEC reports. Records show that two weeks after the event Abramoff himself wrote a $2,500 personal check to Hastert's committee. The speaker's PAC also received $25,000 in contributions from Indian tribes, including those Abramoff has represented and are at the center of the controversy over his lobbying.
I doubt it will be the last.