Newt Gingrich has a Jack Abramoff problem. Or to be more precise, the former House Speaker and Presidential candidate has an Italia Federici problem.
We reported last week that Federici was helping organize Colorado for Gingrich, yet no mainstream press picked up on our report. We received only a single email from someone digging further into the story.
So we'll go ahead and break the story wide open.
Federici, who worked on Gale Norton's 1996 US Senate campaign in Colorado, pled guilty in 2007 to tax evasion and obstruction of a Senate investigation into the Abramoff lobbying scandal. She was sentenced to two months in a halfway house, four years of probation and ordered to pay more than $74,000 in restitution.
She was sentenced on December 14, 2007, meaning her four-year probation ended only weeks before the 2012 Iowa caucus.
Since our original report we've had a second source confirm Federici's involvement with the Gingrich campaign.
We reported on Federici’s involvement with the Gingrich campaign in a post about the former House Speaker’s campaign operation in Colorado, which was ramping up in anticipation of Tuesday’s Republican precinct caucuses.
Even with Federici's assistance, Gingrich fared poorly in Colorado, coming in third with 12.79% of the vote.
Ms. Federici has had a relationship with Speaker Gingrich going back many years. A March 1, 2000 story from The Hill newspaper noted that Gingrich was the keynote speaker at the inaugural fundraiser for the Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy (CREA), the group co-founded by Federici and later tied to the Abramoff investigation.
Federici co-founded CREA with former Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton in 1997, here in Colorado. The group then incorporated in Washington, DC in 2000, operating primarily on donations.
Court documents reveal that Federici introduced Jack Abramoff to Steven Griles, who she was dating at the time, one week before Griles was nominated to be the deputy secretary of the Department of Interior (DOI). Soon after that introductory meeting, Abramoff and his clients became contributors of CREA, donating approximately $500,000 between March 2001 and May 2003.
Many of Abramoff’s clients were subject to DOI oversight, including Native American tribes either operating, or interested in operating, gaming operations on designated Federal land.
Federici served as a conduit between Abramoff and Griles, including communicating with Griles and Abramoff about how to stop Indian tribe casinos from opening in areas that would compete with other Indian tribe clients of Abramoff.
Griles was sentenced to ten months in prison and fined $30,000 in 2007.
Federici pled guilty on tax evasion and obstructing a Senate investigation into the matter. She admitted that she made “materially false and misleading statements” to the US Senate Committee on Indian Affairs that likely limited the Committee’s ability to understand the full scope of Abramoff’s contact with Griles.
In her testimony before the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs in 2005 Federici received a now infamous grilling from Senators John McCain and Byron Dorgan.
McCain’s statement at the beginning of the hearing read: “In fact, documents obtained in the course of the investigation suggest that Mr. Abramoff might have had his tribal clients pay so much because he perceived that CREA’s president, Italia Federici, would help him get inside information about, and possibly influence, tribal issues pending at the Department of the Interior.”
You can see highlights from her testimony after the jump.