Washington Michael Scanlon, a former partner of lobbyist Jack Abramoff, pleaded guilty Monday to conspiring to bribe public officials, a charge growing out of the government investigation of attempts to defraud Indian tribes and corrupt a member of Congress.
At the same time, it was disclosed that Scanlon, a former aide to Rep. Tom DeLay has been cooperating in a widening criminal investigation of members of Congress since June.
Scanlon entered his plea before U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle and was ordered to pay restitution totaling more than $19 million to Indian tribes that he admitted had been defrauded.
Abramoff and Scanlon were paid more than $80 million between 2001 and 2004 by six American Indian tribes with casinos.
In an eight-page statement of facts, Scanlon agreed that he and an unidentified person referred to as Lobbyist A "provided a stream of things of value to public officials in exchange for a series of official acts."
The items to one unidentified congressman or his staff included all-expense-paid trips to the Northern Marianas Islands in 2000, a trip to the Super Bowl in Tampa, Fla., in 2001 and a golf trip to Scotland in 2002.
Based on information already placed on the public record by the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, Lobbyist A is Abramoff and the congressman is Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio.
"Guilty, your honor," Scanlon told the judge when asked how he was pleading. He could face up to five years in prison.
The statement of facts Scanlon signed said he had a fee-splitting arrangement with Abramoff that was kept secret from the tribes because disclosure likely would have jeopardized the arrangement.
Lobbyist A, said the court papers, recommended the tribes hire Scanlon's firm, while promoting himself to his Indian tribe clients as having knowledge that was superior to theirs regarding lobbying and grass-roots activities.
The prices Scanlon's firm charged for its services "were significantly in excess" of the costs, the statement added.
DeLay is among those facing scrutiny for his associations with Abramoff, including a trip to Scotland and use of Abramoff's skybox at a Washington sports arena.