A former high level White House employee during the George W. Bush administration, who was on the receiving end of gifts from disgraced former Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff, facilitated a meeting between the owner of the offensively named Washington football team and the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, according to USA Today reports.
Jennifer Farley, who was the associate director of the White House’s Office of Intergovernmental Affairs during the George W. Bush administration, arranged the meeting between Washington football team owner Dan Snyder and members of the Poarch Band Tribal Council. According to Robert McGhee, the tribe’s treasurer, Farley contacted tribal Secretary David W. Gehman to assist in arranging the meeting. The meeting, which lasted about 45 minutes, was hastily set up and took place on Tuesday, McGhee told USA Today.
In an email to ICTMN, McGee confirmed that “the meeting was to talk about economic development and other Native issues and concerns to Poarch Creek.” McGhee did not specify what those issues were about, but told USA Today, "I thought the whole meeting was odd” and “My understanding is that he [Snyder] would be visiting other tribes, or has visited them."
Snyder is in the midst of a national firestorm over his refusal to change the name of his Washington NFL football team, which most Indians and a growing number of non-Indian Americans say is racist, demeaning and harmful both to Native Americans and society in general. A public relations campaign over the past two months called “Change the Mascot" launched by the Oneida Indian Nation has helped raise awareness about just how awful the word “Redskins” is. The Oneida Indian Nation is the parent company of Indian Country Today Media Network.
The controversy over the Washington team’s name change was not discussed despite the fact that the tribe’s chairman Buford Rolin sent a letter opposing the name “Redskins” to Maria Cantwell, chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs in September. Calling the name “racist and harmful,” he wrote, “The caricature of Indians personified by “Chief Zee” and Redskins games-with his faux headdress and tomahawk-is especially insensitive. Washington Redskins football games are perhaps the last place in the U.S. where such a spectacle is not only tolerated, also embraced.”
MCGhee also wrote over email that “the letter was never mentioned during the meeting.”
Phone calls were left for Redskins spokesperson Tony Wyllie, but they were not returned before this article was posted.
The Poarch Band is also in the midst of a continuing controversy over its $246 million casino expansion at Hickory Ground in Wetumpka, Alabama, on a sacred ceremonial site and burial ground of Muscogee (Creek) Nation ancestors.
Farley has also been touched by controversy. She worked in the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs from 2001 to 2005.
Abramoff pled guilty in 2006 to charges of tax evasion, mail fraud, bribery and conspiracy. He and his partner Michael Scanlon allegedly stole more than $80 million from six Indian tribes between 2001 and 2003, according to the investigative report “Gimme Five,” issued by the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. The report found that Abramoff persuaded his tribal clients to hire Scanlon at exorbitant fees for “grassroots support” or access to high public officials, and that Scanlon then kicked back half of the money to Abramoff. Because they cooperated with prosecutors, Abramoff was sentenced to only four years and Scanlon was sentenced to 20 months. Both men were ordered to pay restitution to victims of $20 million each.
A report by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee revealed that Abramoff had extensive contacts with White House staff, The Washington Post reported.
"High-level White House officials held Mr. Abramoff and his associates in high regard and solicited recommendations from Mr. Abramoff on policy matters," the report said. Among the findings in the report was that sporting event tickets were given to staffers. and that the lobbyists billed clients for more than 400 contacts with White House officials from 2001 to 2004, the Post said.
Farley was in contact with former Abramoff lobbyist Kevin Ring, who was convicted in 2010 on five counts of providing illegal gratuities, honest services wire fraud and conspiracy. According to ThePost, Farley was among the recipients of free tickets to sports events: She attended two Baltimore Orioles games and a Yanni concert. Farley allegedly used a code word—"fruit"—to refer to tickets when communicating with Ring. "Do you have any kind of fruit tonight?" Farley wrote Ring on December 12, 2002. "No games tonight," Ring replied.
In another email about an issue of interest to an Abramoff client, Ring wrote, "The fruit is going to happen. Just trying to make sure it is picked on the right day." Farley did not respond to questions about the matter and indicated she would invoke her Fifth Amendment rights if compelled to respond, the Post said.
Abramoff loved the Washington football team and had season box suites at the team’s FedEx field. One his favorite past times was to host lawmakers and congressional aides at the suite. According to his memoir, Capitol Punishment, Abramoff spent more than $1.5 million per year on event tickets, The Hill reported.
“Our seemingly unlimited ability to dispense sports and concert tickets to the [Capitol] left scores of representatives and staff thinking we were Ticketmaster. For their purposes, we were," Abramoff wrote. "An entire sub-industry developed at the firm [where he worked] to acquire, dispense and track the tickets. We had prime seats to every game and important event.”
The committee, which examined thousands of emails and other documents, reported that Abramoff lobbyists had 27 lobbying contacts with Farley. “The documents reflect Farley discussed possible candidates for political positions at the Department of the Interior with the Abramoff team, met with Greenberg [Greenberg Traurig law and lobbying firm where Abramoff worked] clients when they came to Washington, and discussed potential employment at Greenberg. On one occasion, the documents reflect Farley may have expressed concerns about appearing to be too close to the Abramoff team.”
Farley later opened her own lobbying firm, the Farley Group, and had two tribal clients, the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida and the Pasqua Yaqui Tribe, according to Anti Corruption Republican blogspot. She could not be reached for comment by posting time
Tom Rodgers, the owner/operator of Carlyle Consulting lobbying firm, who was instrumental in outing Abramoff and knew a lot of the people who were caught in the web of the Abramoff scandal, had a warning for those who might do business with Snyder. "As advocates for our people we are paid well to not violate the could-versus-should rule of ethical wise judgment," Rodgers said. "Mr. Snyder is on the wrong side of history and that should be a cautionary tale for those who might associate with him.”