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Chapter 24

Gerald Cassidy slips on the Jack Abramoff banana peel.

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By Robert G. Kaiser

When the Miami-based law firm of Greenberg Traurig pushed Jack Abramoff out of its Washington office in early March 2004, one of the most successful lobbyists ever to work in Washington suddenly found himself on the street, looking for a new situation.

To be sure, he was carrying baggage: ten days earlier The Washington Post had published an exposé of Abramoff's dealings with Indian tribes, reporting that he and a secret partner had been paid $45 million by four tribal clients over the previous three years. Greenberg Traurig heightened the sense of an unraveling scandal with its March 3 statement announcing Abramoff's departure from the firm, which revealed that six days earlier, Abramoff had "disclosed ..... for the first time personal transactions and related conduct which are unacceptable to the firm."

The Post story and subsequent firing created a sensation in the lobbying community. The Senate Indian Affairs committee announced its intention to investigate Abramoff. This was the beginning of the biggest lobbying scandal in modern Washington history.

[Photo]
Jack Abramoff, right, listens to his attorney Abbe Lowell during a hearing of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee. (AP Photo/Dennis Cook)

Nevertheless, Gerald Cassidy decided he ought to meet Abramoff to explore whether he might like to work at Cassidy & Associates. "I had never met him until the day I talked to him about being a consultant," Cassidy said in an interview. As a consultant Abramoff would be expected to bring clients to the firm and would be paid a percentage of whatever fees those clients paid to Cassidy -- typically ten percent. Cassidy said he was also interested in several of the lobbyists who had worked with Abramoff at Greenberg Traurig.

Abramoff's appeal to Cassidy was obvious: He made rain. This is the expression lawyers and lobbyists use for attracting clients, and Abramoff was a peerless rainmaker. In the three years that he worked at the firm, Greenberg Traurig's reported annual lobbying revenue rose from $3.49 million to $25.5 million, more than a sevenfold increase.

In the year prior to Abramoff's firing, 2003, Cassidy & Associates had fallen out of first place in the table of lobbying firms' total revenues for the first time since the records were kept electronically. [view the table at opensecrets.org] Its reported income that year was $27.99 million. Cassidy was always hungry for revenue, and losing first place to the law firm of Patton Boggs (revenue: $30.03 million) was an added incentive. He needed a rainmaker.

Cassidy said "a mutual friend" called him after Greenberg Traurig dumped Abramoff to suggest that the two men should get together. This may have been Arthur Mason, a colorful Republican lobbyist in the Cassidy firm who had been a guest in Abramoff's box at Fed Ex field and admired his pizzazz, according to several colleagues. Mason acknowledged that Abramoff had called him after being fired, to ask if there might be interest in him at Cassidy & Associates. But Abramoff called other people as well, Mason said. Cassidy declined to name the intermediary, but he did recount the message that was conveyed to him:

"There was a lot of talk amongst people who were friends of Abramoff -- and a lot of people who were friends of Abramoff were very nice people, were very good people -- that he had made a lot of money for Greenberg Traurig and that they had made a very bad decision about not defending him, and that what he was doing was defendable and defensible, and that he had a story to tell and that it would come out."

The intermediary "was somebody who knew Gerry very well," said Cassidy's longtime lawyer and partner, Lester "Ruff" Fant, when he heard this account. "He always has this intense loyalty to the underdog. Whoever told him 'this man is getting screwed' knew Gerry very well and knew that he would be sympathetic and try to help someone who was getting screwed."

Mason ushered Abramoff into Cassidy's corner office one day that March, according to colleagues in the office. Cassidy, then 63, had never previously met Abramoff, who had just turned 46. "Other people said he was a good guy," Cassidy said, sitting in the same office where this meeting had taken place. "He was very charming when he was in here, very charming," Cassidy remembered. "He was very impressive on how he would approach things, so we hired him on a consulting basis."

On March 23, three weeks after Greenberg Traurig had fired him, Cassidy and Abramoff struck a deal. Cassidy would pay Abramoff and give him an office in anticipation of the commissions they both expected him to make by referring clients to the Cassidy firm. And he would hire three Abramoff sidekicks, including Todd Boulanger, probably Abramoff's closest day-to-day associate at Greenberg Traurig.

Wasn't it the prospect of Abramoff bringing in more revenue that led Cassidy to offer him a job? "Yeah, but the revenue wasn't assured," Cassidy said. "This was prospective revenue. I was counting that this charming guy who had built a big business would be able to find business. And I wasn't making him an employee, I was simply making him a consultant. And I thought it would be helpful in getting the three people I was trying to get" -- the three former Greenberg Traurig lobbyists whom Cassidy did hire.

When the deal was reported in The Post and Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper, the lobbying community buzzed. The original Post exposé had stunned this world, because it showed how brazenly Abramoff and his clandestine associate, Michael Scanlon, had reaped huge rewards from the Indian tribes they represented without reporting the money under the Lobbying Disclosure Act. Then Greenberg Traurig cast Abramoff to the winds with that damning statement, and the Indian Affairs Committee launched its investigation, creating an unlikely backdrop for Cassidy's decision to give Abramoff a contract.

Five days later the Indian Affairs Committee disclosed its first major finding: Scanlon, the PR man whom Abramoff had told his Indian clients to hire, had kicked back at least $10 million of his fees from the Indians to Abramoff. The financial arrangement between the two men had not previously been known to Greenberg Traurig or to Abramoff's Indian clients.

Cassidy stuck to his deal with Abramoff for nearly three months. Everything changed when Sen. Daniel Inouye, a member of the Indian Affairs panel with whom Cassidy had maintained close relations for years, sent the lobbyist a stark message. In an interview, Inouye recounted what he told Cassidy: "I said that if he [Abramoff] is around, your people do not come in to my office."

Cassidy confirmed that the conversation took place. He remembered Inouye's instruction: "Get rid of him today." And he did, though without an announcement. In July, the "Special Interests" column on The Post's Federal Page reported that Abramoff had left Cassidy & Associates. This was the only publicity given to his departure. The timeline below shows key events in the Abramoff investigation and the Abramoff-Cassidy relationship.

Gerry Cassidy and Jack Abramoff

Gerald S.J. Cassidy, head of the powerful Cassidy & Associates lobbying firm, hired Jack Abramoff in March 2004 even though Abramoff was embroiled in a burgeoning lobbying scandal broken by The Washington Post in the previous month. Cassidy let Abramoff go in July. Here are Post articles that tracked Abramoff during that time.

GRAPHIC: Alice Crites and Cristina Rivero, The Washington Post - April 5, 2007

Inouye said he understood the business pressures on Cassidy. "You've got to maintain the level of business -- otherwise you've got to fire people. And your stock goes down. You won't be able to buy tailored suits," Inouye laughed. "I always kid him about that."

But he also made clear his distaste for Abramoff. "I took it personally. He was ripping off Indians."

For his part, Abramoff was impressed by Cassidy. According to a source familiar with his thinking who refused to be further identified, Abramoff found Cassidy calm, wise and "immune to the controversy going on around" Abramoff. When they first talked, Abramoff assumed that most of his Greenberg Traurig clients would come with him to a new employer, and he thought Cassidy's was "the only firm big enough" to take him on, the source said. Abramoff thought of Cassidy as a big man in the lobbying business, one who was envied by competitors because he "plays on several battlefields at once -- a lot of these guys can't conceive of doing that."

Many of Cassidy's colleagues regretted that there hadn't been more "due diligence" into checking Abramoff's past behavior before Cassidy hired him. When told this, Cassidy replied: "Obviously, it wasn't as good as it should have been. ..... Things like that haven't happened [previously], so it wasn't as good as it should have been. ..... I wish it hadn't happened, but you know, it did."

Months after he made that remark in an interview, Cassidy brought up the subject again. "I had somebody do some work on this," he said, and picked up a document which included excerpts from news stories about Abramoff beginning with the original Post story in February 2004. Cassidy took pains to point out that none of the early stories about Abramoff's relations with the Indian tribes and his kickback arrangement with Scanlon suggested there was any criminal investigation going on. The committee inquiry wasn't criminal, he added -- only in mid-July did The Post report that Abramoff was the target of a federal criminal inquiry. "By that time I had let him go."

Dan Tate Sr., a laconic Georgian who lobbied Congress for Jimmy Carter and worked for Cassidy for a decade until 2001, summarized the Abramoff episode: "If Gerry stubbed his toe there, it's because he saw dollar signs for the company."

At least there was some new revenue to show for this exercise. Eight Abramoff clients from Greenberg Traurig who came over to Cassidy with the Abramoff associates who joined the firm in 2004 brought in $620,000 that year and $700,000 in 2005. One of them was the Chitimacha Tribe of Louisiana, which paid a steady $10,000 a month for those two years.

Washington Post research editor Alice Crites contributed to this report.

Tomorrow: Cassidy turns to a leading Republican to once again reinvent his firm.

Key Related Materials

Cast of Characters

About This Series | Chapters:

Photo Gallery

An overview of Gerald Cassidy's life and career.

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A "cast of characters" in the life and career of Gerald Cassidy.

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The old porblem of greed at the top of these firms. It almost inevitably rears its ugly head.
David Jewell - Philadelphia

Posted by: dajewell | April 5, 2007 01:03 AM

Early in this series I commented on a matter relative to Gerry Cassidy's personal life. As one who has had some experience in the lobbying business including an association with the Cassidy firm, I feel compelled to weigh in on three aspects of the theses being proffered in this series.
As to the profession itself, in my opinion, Lobbying is not about representing interests that are either right or wrong, because if something is wrong everyone involved knows it is wrong - but to the handful of rogues that exist in any profession. It is essentially about someone's right versus someone else's right. Consequently, the successful lobbyist has to be more right, more of the time.
As to the business and Mr. Cassidy's impact on it, I submit that alumni of Cassidy and competitors alike have him to thank for turning once simple consultants into bona fide businessmen and has elevated the 'practice' to 'industry sector' status.
As to Mr. Cassidy's ethics, driven businessman and demanding leader aside, he always insisted that his employees understood the law and practiced accordingly. He made regular seminars, which I attended, on lobbying law and ethics a standard practice at the firm.
While it is fair for this series to allude to money, power, influence, greed, jealousy, flaws, disagreements, leverage, frailty and temperament, it would be unfair to breed contempt for the conduct of a legitimate and important element of the democratic process and the balance of power. Moreover and most importantly, the personal and professional integrity of Gerry Cassidy, flaws notwithstanding, is unquestioned and in the final analysis has withstood this unprecedented public scrutiny authored by an experienced veteran of the Fourth Estate and set in the 'belly' of the Beltway.

Jim Collins - Boston
A Cassidy Alumnus

Posted by: jcollins | April 5, 2007 08:53 AM

"Months after he made that remark in an interview, Cassidy brought up the subject again. "I had somebody do some work on this," he said, and picked up a document which included excerpts from news stories about Abramoff beginning with the original Post story in February 2004. Cassidy took pains to point out that none of the early stories about Abramoff's relations with the Indian tribes and his kickback arrangement with Scanlon suggested there was any criminal investigation going on. The committee inquiry wasn't criminal, he added -- only in mid-July did The Post report that Abramoff was the target of a federal criminal inquiry. "By that time I had let him go."

Give me a break !!!!!! The time line clearly shows that Gerry Cassidy's greed has no boundaries. Maybe these lobbyists thought that no Republican Congress would investigate, that their free ride would never end. Out of any semblance of an true ethical standard, Jack Abramoff should never have been hired.

"Oh what a tangled web we weave, When first we practice to deceive"

Posted by: Rachaelcre8f8 | April 5, 2007 09:44 AM

Ho hum. Frankly, this Abramoff story wasn't interesting. He was big news a while back, but now I'm more interested in the presidential race, looking to the future. Did you see Obama's fundraising numbers? That's so great. That's how we're going to shake up the system and turn everything around. Barack's got it.

Posted by: John2.Bravo | April 5, 2007 09:50 AM

What does Barak have to do with the Citizen K series? Looks like he's got his supporters on a spamming crusade. I'm not sure Cassidy stubbed his toe here if his firm walked off with $1.3 million off of JAs old clients from Greenberg Traurig. Sounds more like he rode a quick wave and didn't get hurt by the aftermath. I'd call that a win unless he paid Jack more than that, which I don't suspect. My only curiosity would be if his fee system still applied to Jack As old clients?

Posted by: bryanshuy | April 5, 2007 10:41 AM

Just didn't find today's story interesting. So much rehashing the past. Let's move forward, I say.

Posted by: John2.Bravo | April 5, 2007 11:19 AM

>> As to the profession itself, in my opinion, Lobbying is not about representing interests that are either right or wrong,

True. It's wrong in and of itself. There is not, and can never be, justification for any profit-seeking entity to use a part of its profits to bend policy so that it increases its own profits. A child should be able to see the immorality and danger in that.

If some farmer "lobbies" his congressman to point out the damage being done to an aquifer by a new WalMart Super-Monstrosity going up, that's one thing, but that's not DC lobbying. It's all about greed, greed, greed.

Ironic, the 60s generation -- always so earnestly congratulating itself on its spiritual superiority compared to everyone else, has produced, now that it is in power, an orgy of greed and materialism.

>> because if something is wrong everyone involved knows it is wrong - but to the handful of rogues that exist in any profession. It is essentially about someone's right versus someone else's right. Consequently, the successful lobbyist has to be more right, more of the time.

huh?

Posted by: craig | April 5, 2007 12:02 PM

Criag, you can't possible claim to know the intentions and motivations of every lobbyist in DC and to be able to deem what is and isn't acceptable lobbying. There are bad apples in every profession and that is a fact. I would also agree with Jim Collins that, "It is essentially about someone's right versus someone else's right."

On a brighter note, did anyone else catch the Nats game yesterday? What a great finish. We need to enjoy victory while we can.

As for the Obama numbers, and Hillary and Mitt for that matter . . .impressive indeed.

Posted by: Brad07 | April 5, 2007 12:48 PM

I was more impressed with Cassidy's charitable giving outlined in chapter 21 of the series. Millions to medical research and children.

Posted by: peterpaulmary | April 5, 2007 12:51 PM

Yes, you're right about the numbers. That's the future I want to see.

Posted by: John2.Bravo | April 5, 2007 12:54 PM

While John2.Bravo may need to talk to his doctor about adult ADD, I have to agree that there are more pressing (and much more interesting) things happening in the world worth discussing.

Posted by: heirtodc | April 5, 2007 01:42 PM

Since when, Brad, is it necessary to know the "intentions and motives" of every individual in a class before we can condemn unwanted behavior? I don't know the motives of everyone who climbs through the window of a house when the owners aren't home, either--some may only want a glass of water--but doing so should be illegal and punished, just like bribery was before people like Cassidy came along. And it isn't about the trespasser's "right" vs the homeowner's "right," as any child could see.

The lobbyists in this town are the conduit for wealth spent in an effort to bend public policy so that it increases the wealth of a limited number of people. It's corruption no matter how you cut it, no matter how many orphanages you donate to, no matter how many fawning articles in the Washington Post. It's repellent and deadly to a Republic.

The lobbyists pathetically defending their "profession" on this message board love to squeal, "Look, he gave millions to children!" They are too ignorant and selfish, I suppose, to stop and think for a minute that to the extent the lobbyists have taken the focus of government off the general good and focused it instead on General Dynamic's good, they have impoverished every child in the country. The lobbyists braying about the millions to children shamefully earn their livings betraying millions of children.

Posted by: craig | April 5, 2007 01:58 PM

Correction: "Its [Cassidy & Assoc] reported income that year [2003] was $27.99 million." You mean reported revenue, not income.

Posted by: cyberpunk | April 5, 2007 02:05 PM

For those who read John Silber's post regarding yesterday's story, I thought my post today might be of some interest.

"I was just informed today that John Silber posted another correction of Kaiser's reporting, denying a quote that Kaiser used from me. John is correct; Kaiser did misquote me. Everything John wrote about the process he followed on our original contract for $250,000 is true. Unfortunatey I guess, from John's point of view, that is only half the story. After we had obtained the federal funding for the three armories to replace the Commonwealth Armory for the state National Guard, I was waiting for people we were working with in Boston to obtain the legislative waiver of the state surplus property disposal act that would clear the way for BU to obtain title to the property. Nothing was happening. I came to Boston to assess the situation. I came to the conclusion that the Boston end would only get done in a timely fashion if we managed it as we had managed the Washington end. I went back to John's office and told him that we needed to take over the Boston end. He asked how much that would cost. I said it would cost him as much as the Washington end, another $250,000. He agreed on the spot and took the additional agreement and put it in his desk drawer, saying somethingto the effect of, "Nobody will anything about this except us." We were then paid at the monthly rate of the $500,000. If John has evidence that he went through the same process of informing the Board of Trustees of the additional $250,000 at the time it happened, then I am
sure he will be happy to produce it. But he said what he said, though to this day I don't know exactly why he felt it necessary to say it. When I read this installment and saw how Kaiser had used my quote, I emailed him immediately to inform him of his error. After John's post, he may want to include a correction in the installment." Ken Schlossberg.

As for today's story, like so many of the previous installments, it speaks for itself.

Posted by: ken70000 | April 5, 2007 02:12 PM

Posted by: ken70000 | April 5, 2007 02:23 PM

oh, tough guy. Mock me for what I talk about, why don't you. Well at least we agree there are more pressing issues. Like the FUTURE of our country, for starters! Let alone global warming. Spare me the look back. Let's look forward. Audacity of hope, anyone?

Posted by: John2.Bravo | April 5, 2007 02:23 PM

Go Nats! And go Skins! Especially now that Smoot is back. (Bravo, I'm throwing you a bone here.)

More substantively: First Kaiser over-quotes the Schlossbergs at the beginning of the series, now he misquotes Ken Schlossberg enough to the point where he makes a correction. I imagine Kaiser will make a correction, he's been decent about that. As many problems with this series as I have, I must give some credit to Kaiser for being pretty responsive to criticism and willing to accept blame. Lord knows, he's need it...

Posted by: sportsfan | April 5, 2007 02:33 PM

Um, needed. I *need* coffee.

Posted by: sportsfan | April 5, 2007 02:34 PM

Smoot? Smoot's back?
You mean Smoot-Hawley?
Now THAT's backward-looking. Hahahaha. Too funny.

Posted by: John2.Bravo | April 5, 2007 02:53 PM

It's too bad that a serious look at a serious topic has to be besmirched by the rather immature, off-topic, ink blots of a number of people whose focus appears to be elsewhere.

As to today's installment I find it not irrelvant but rather fascinating. Here is an inside, straight-skinny look at genuine movers and shakers in this Republic trying to rearrange the deck chairs.

This is not an esoteric exercise. What these people do affect all of us, our government and our republic.

As to the pious and charitable side of Mr. Cassidy, let it be remembered that every dollar he donated to widows and orphans came originially from our pockets -- tax dollars. They didn't come from the manufacture and sale of widgets.

And as to his going to mass every day -- so did Torquemada.

David Jewell -- Philadelphia

Posted by: dajewell | April 5, 2007 04:03 PM

two people worth googlin are Steve Baldwin of San Diego and Randy Dwyer of Tacoma Park. Actually... 90% of the members of Jefferson Ale Society -- founded by Jack and crew in 1982 in the basement of the Capial Hill Club.

Posted by: abdus_sammi | April 5, 2007 04:43 PM

I agree with David Jewell about staying on topic. Agreed. And since David mentions orphans, didn't I read somewhere that Tom Vilsack is an orphan? Maybe he said something like that, I'm not real sure. But Vilsack's with Hillary now. But I don't think that will really hurt Barack Obama in Iowa, do you?

Posted by: John2.Bravo | April 5, 2007 04:55 PM

"Moreover and most importantly, the personal and professional integrity of Gerry Cassidy, flaws notwithstanding, is unquestioned and in the final analysis has withstood this unprecedented public scrutiny ..."

Unquestioned by whom, Mr. Collins? You? There are many quoted in the series and in the blogs who---"munchkins" though some of us may be--- have concluded that the man has neither personal nor professional integrity, and your use of the term "HAS withstood" is wishful thinking. But go ahead and stand there and say it again. Click your heels together and say it three times if you like. Invite the other sycophants to join you. It will not change the fact that the Great Oz, through this series, has now been viewed by countless others behind his veil of smoke and mirrors and deception. We're not reading a fairy tale about heroes and villains. It's a documentary about the hijacking of our government and the disenfranchisement of the common man which cannot be sanctified by a Cassidy crash course on ethics.

Posted by: MaryZ | April 5, 2007 07:25 PM

Mr. Collins -- elevated 'practice' into 'industry sector' status? If that be the case, maybe that is the crux of the problem in lobbying -- and law and medicine and countless others. They are businesses now as opposed to practices. The 'chase' for money knows no bounds, and eclipses the practice, or the work. NOthing wrong with making a good living, but some people get carried away with it -- in a destructive pattern.

On leadership ("demanding leader"), Leadership 101 says you don't yell at, pound on or otherwise assault or insult your subordinates in front of others -- either their peers or strangers. While we are all human, leaders' integrity restrains them from that conduct -- which distinguishes 'Leaders' from leaders. You just don't do it. In some arenas, individuals in 'leadership' roles who carry on in that fashion have their leadership roles dissolved -- summarily.

Posted by: twilight5 | April 5, 2007 11:00 PM

Thank you Mary, David, and Twilight for insightful and provactive posts. I too see this as a very serious threat to our very democracy. It isn't a joke or a game, these "players" effect our lives, not only in the present, but possibly for decades to come.

Posted by: elenalouise | April 6, 2007 12:00 AM

I was pleased to read the mature reactions to my comments of yesterday. And at the risk of being labelled, disingenuous or some other perjorative adjective, there is the makings among some bloggers of a passionate anti-lobbying lobby group. Check out the publication Giant Killers (and others) by Michael Pertschuk as well as the Advocay Center - advocacy.org and put your passion to the test. Jim Collins

Posted by: jcollins | April 6, 2007 09:20 AM

I hope for the sake of our 1st Ammendment I am allowed to comment one last time since this is the last day- thanks to Mr. Kaiser for this series. I knew how terrible lobbying was to the very fabric of our democracy, but I did not realize until now how bad it really is until now. You have really opened my eyes.
And mostly thank you Todd and Racheal,Craig and others for your knowledge and wisdom. As for those who disagree with us, thanks also, for you have brought to light your own special way of thinking and I urge you to always pray for the truth, even if you have to make a little less money in accepting it. No offense, but alot of folks need to brush up on their history, read some books and search for truth.
I hope we meet again someday, perhaps united to end all lobbying as it is today.
This will be my primary effort from now on. Thanks Aagin! Bye

Posted by: steven.willhite | April 6, 2007 02:24 PM

Hey, I put this in the other chapter, 23, as well. But just in case you're reading here, I thought it might be interesting to remember Bob Kaiser's own words -- this comes from Chapter 11:
"They did it according to plan -- more precisely, by following a lobbying template that evolved in the first half-dozen years of the firm's history and is still in use today. The key to their success was not their personal influence over members of Congress, though they had some of that; nor was it their contributions to members' reelection campaigns, though they made many such contributions. The keys to their success were careful preparation, effective presentation of proposals, and persistent adherence to the template."

Posted by: Steveford114 | April 12, 2007 03:10 PM

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