Matthews trumpeted comparatively small Abramoff client donations to Sen. Clinton, virtually ignoring larger donations given to Bush, Hastert

››› ››› JOE BROWN

On Hardball, host Chris Matthews repeatedly mentioned Sen. Hillary Clinton's (D-NY) decision to donate to charity $2,000 in campaign contributions received from American Indian tribes represented by lobbyist and felon Jack Abramoff, yet virtually ignored the $6,000 and $69,000 in campaign contributions received from Abramoff and his clients by President Bush and House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-IL), respectively -- contributions both have also pledged to donate to charity.

On the January 5 edition of MSNBC's Hardball, host Chris Matthews mentioned during three separate segments Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's (D-NY) decision to donate to charity $2,000 in campaign contributions received from American Indian tribes represented by disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who on January 3 pleaded guilty to felony charges of conspiracy, mail fraud, and tax evasion and on January 4 pleaded guilty to conspiracy and fraud charges in a separate case. Despite repeatedly noting Clinton's receipt of the donations from Abramoff's clients, Matthews virtually ignored the $6,000 and $69,000 in campaign contributions received from Abramoff and his clients by President Bush and House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-IL), respectively -- contributions both have also pledged to donate to charity. Moreover, no mention was made of the more than $100,000 Abramoff reportedly raised on behalf of Bush's re-election campaign that the president has refused to relinquish. Matthews did not inform viewers that Bush had received money from Abramoff and his clients at all and gave only passing mention to the contributions Hastert received, and only in response to remarks by MSNBC host and former Rep. Joe Scarborough (R-FL), a guest on the program.

Clinton's re-election campaign announced she "would return $2,000 in donations from tribes that were Abramoff clients," according to a January 4 Associated Press article. Bush's 2004 re-election campaign will donate $6,000 in campaign contributions received from Abramoff and some of his clients to the American Heart Association, The Washington Post reported on January 5. But Bush's campaign has no plans to return or donate more than $100,000 Abramoff raised on the president's behalf as a Bush campaign fund-raiser, the Post noted. Similarly, Hastert has announced he will donate $69,000 he received from Abramoff and his clients to charity, the Chicago Tribune reported on January 5.

Although the amount of money Clinton received from Abramoff's clients was far smaller than the amounts Bush and Hastert received from Abramoff and those he represented, Matthews mentioned Clinton by name with regard to Abramoff-connnected donations during three separate segments. During the introduction to the program, Matthews remarked that "those $1,000 gifts [are] being sent back to charity like Christmastime fruitcake. Even Hillary Clinton's got some hot Abramoff cash to shed." Similarly, during the introduction to a panel discussion featuring Bloomberg News chief political correspondent Roger Simon and MSNBC chief Washington correspondent Norah O'Donnell, Matthews stated: "Everybody is giving away their money, giving it away. Hillary Clinton even giving a thousand bucks away." After a commercial break, Matthews reintroduced Simon and O'Donnell, then stated: "So far, most of the names on the short list connected to Abramoff are Republican. There are some outlying names that keep popping up. Hillary Clinton gave back $1,000 today."

Matthews never informed his viewers that Bush had received money from Abramoff or his clients. It was left to O'Donnell, who remarked that "when it comes to personal contributions by Abramoff and his wife, he only made personal contributions to Republicans. Those Republicans have got to return those personal contributions, just like President Bush returned those contributions." At no point were viewers made aware that Bush has decided to keep more than $100,000 in contributions that Abramoff raised for the campaign during the 2004 election.

Matthews gave only passing mention to Hastert's receipt of Abramoff-related money, after Hardball correspondent David Shuster and Scarborough mentioned Hastert in two separate segments. During his report, Shuster stated:

SHUSTER: The Boston Globe reports Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert at a fund-raiser two years ago at Signatures, Abramoff's Capitol Hill restaurant, and collected [sic] $21,000. A week later, Hastert wrote to Interior Secretary Gail Norton, urging her to reject an Indian casino in Louisiana. Abramoff's clients feared that casino would be a new competitor. Hastert told Norton the new casino would, quote, "run counter to congressional intent."

Later, Scarborough mentioned the donations to Hastert, which Matthews briefly acknowledged before changing the subject to Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH), who also received money from Abramoff and his clients, and could face indictment for "allegedly receiv[ing] favors from ... Abramoff in return for supporting legislation beneficial to one of Abramoff's clients," The Los Angeles Times reported January 4.

During the exchange, Scarborough stated:

SCARBOROUGH: I saw the report on Denny Hastert getting money from Abramoff, $21,000 at a fund-raiser that David Shuster reported. A week or two later, he writes a letter that helps an Indian casino that Abramoff supports. I think that's going way over the line.

To which Matthews responded:

MATTHEWS: Because he doesn't have Indians in his district. He's clearly -- this guy, Robert Ney, making some push in the Congressional Record for some business deal down in Florida, trying to screw some enemy of a business deal. There's nobody in Ohio that's got a casino in Florida.

From the January 5 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:

MATTHEWS: Johnny, we hardly knew ye. Suddenly, the biggest big shot on K Street is the man nobody knows. Suddenly, the man who handed out campaign cash like Johnny Appleseed is watching those $1,000 gifts being sent back to charity like Christmastime fruitcake. Even Hillary Clinton's got some hot Abramoff cash to shed. Let's play Hardball.

[...]

Good evening. I'm Chris Matthews, and welcome to Hardball. As disgraced Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff gets ready to dime out his pals on the Hill, the politicians who grabbed his campaign cash keep rushing to give it back, showing charity doesn't begin at home, but rather with hysteria. Tonight, as a public service from Hardball, we'll be listing the names of politicians, congressmen and senators returning or donating Abramoff-related contributions. You can read on the banners at the bottom of your screen. It's a public service. But will returning the campaign cash cleanse lawmakers of their sins in time for the midterm elections this November? And the big question today in Washington: Will Congressman Tom DeLay, "The Hammer," get nailed by the Abramoff scandal? Prominent conservative voices are already calling for DeLay's banishment as majority leader, with reports that some GOP House members are already campaigning for his job.

[...]

SHUSTER: The Boston Globe reports Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert at a fund-raiser two years ago at Signatures, Abramoff's Capitol Hill restaurant, and collected [sic] $21,000. A week later, Hastert wrote to Interior Secretary Gale Norton, urging her to reject an Indian casino in Louisiana. Abramoff's clients feared that casino would be a new competitor. Hastert told Norton the new casino would, quote, "run counter to congressional intent."

[...]

MATTHEWS: Try to decipher this. A member of Congress, somebody you know, once told me that you could go into a subcommittee and you'd be sitting around a room trying to figure out how to mark up a bill or how to begin to approach it -- and you could tell all of a sudden that some guys were tanked, as he said. In other words, you could tell they were in the tank, the industry had gotten to them, they were basically "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" types. And there's also guys like you, you know, a member of -- a lobbyist guy, you respect him, and he's a good source of information and maybe a campaign contribution now and then. But you're not owned by the guy. He can get in the door, maybe spend 10 minutes with you, but you could also say, "Tough luck." Where's the line?

SCARBOROUGH: I think the line is, and I saw the report on Denny Hastert getting money from Abramoff, $21,000 at a fund-raiser that David Shuster reported. A week or two later, he writes a letter that helps an Indian casino that Abramoff supports. I think that's going way over the line.

MATTHEWS: Because he doesn't have Indians in his district. He's clearly -- this guy, Robert Ney, making some push in the Congressional Record for some business deal down in Florida, trying to screw some enemy of a business deal. There's nobody in Ohio that's got a casino in Florida.

[...]

MATTHEWS: For more on this, we turn to Roger Simon, chief political correspondent for Bloomberg News -- and he's one of the best there is in politics -- and MSNBC's chief Washington correspondent Norah O'Donnell. Thank you, Norah. Let's -- I want to start with Simon here -- Roger, because you've covered so many campaigns, you've covered so many politicians, you write beautifully, and these guys are all shedding like the dogs in shedding season. Everybody is giving away their money, giving it away. Hillary Clinton even giving a thousand bucks away. I've never seen so many people giving so much money away to charity overnight because they don't want this Abramoff money.

[...]

MATTHEWS: We're back with Bloomberg chief political correspondent Roger Simon and MSNBC chief foreign -- chief Washington correspondent Norah O'Donnell. Norah, let me go through the settling out of this thing, the way we set it up. So far most of the names on the short list connected to Abramoff are Republican. There are some outlying names that keep popping up. Hillary Clinton gave back $1,000 today. [Senate Democratic Leader] Harry Reid's [D-NV] got a little connection through some Indian tribes. Conrad -- what's the other guy's name?

O'DONNELL: Burns.

MATTHEWS: Burns -- [Sen.] Conrad Burns [R-MT] involved here, at least tangentially. Is this a partisan problem in the main?

O'DONNELL: It's a great question. Is this only a Republican Party problem? Listen, when it comes to personal contributions by Abramoff and his wife, he only made personal contributions to Republicans. Those Republicans have got to return those personal contributions, just like President Bush returned those contributions.

Posted In
Government, Ethics
Network/Outlet
MSNBC
Person
Chris Matthews
Show/Publication
Hardball
Stories/Interests
Abramoff Scandal
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