From the archives: The things Channel One News did when it had money.

March 11, 2014
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Channel One's Jack Abramoff

Channel One’s Jack Abramoff

From Jim Metrock:

Back in 2006 the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance released a minority report on the Investigation of Jack Abramoff’s Use of Tax-Exempt Organizations.

The report painted an ugly picture of Channel One’s efforts through “Casino” Jack Abramoff and other to misuse various tax-exempt organizations to “bash” people and organizations critical of Channel One News.   I was one of the ones being “bashed.”  I survived.  Thankfully Channel One fortunes and revenue went steadily downward after 2000 and they couldn’t keep employing lobbyists.  Today, Channel One News has to stand on its own merits as an educational program and guess how well that has gone.

Obligation, Commercial Alert with Gary Ruskin, and others posed a serious threat to Channel One in 1999.  Here is a peak behind the dirty tricks of Channel One. 

The highlighting below is mine.  I am only showing the part of the report that dealt with Channel One. For the full report click on this link:  http://www.finance.senate.gov//newsroom/ranking/release/index.cfm?id=9fc2952c-9f3d-4fda-b5f2-f6b7acecbf8d

 

 

MINORITY STAFF REPORT

INVESTIGATION OF JACK ABRAMOFF’S USE OF
TAX-EXEMPT ORGANIZATIONS

PREPARED BY THE MINORITY STAFF OF THE

COMMITTEE ON FINANCE
UNITED STATES SENATE

CHARLES E. GRASSLEY, Chairman
MAX BAUCUS, Ranking Member

OCTOBER  2006

 

2. LOBBYING

Channel One Network

In 1999, as a coalition of opponents sought to remove Channel One from public school classrooms, Mr. Abramoff and his clients looked in part to tax-exempt organizations to provide public support for Channel One. One argument was that Channel One offered tax savings for state and federal governments.
Mr. Ballabon with Channel One wrote to one of the Preston Gates lobbyists, Amy Berger, on January 12, 1999: 
I think that next I want to get credit from the Pentagon public affairs dept & then from ONDCP (office of drug policy) & then from minority groups, &c &c . . . & Grover & CAGW & Rabbi Lapin . . . we should get these guys crazy! & lots & lots of interviews w/members of Congress! At least one press release every week or two

Mr. Ballabon wrote to Mr. Abramoff on January 18, 1999:
The only thing I think Paul really needs before he gets on C-SPAN on Thursday is a statement he can attribute somehow to Grover or CAGW that rebuts Molnar’s charge that we are a waste of tax dollars. Can you help us get something somehow (between now and then) that Paul can refer to which argues that we are, in fact, a huge and creative tax savings?

Ms. Berger wrote to Abramoff the next day as a reminder:
Call Council Nedd and/or Tom Schatz or even Grover to get a statement that Ch 1 is a huge and creative tax savings!!!!!

Mr. Abramoff wrote to Mr. Ballabon on January 20, 1999:
I set in motion today a piece by Peter Ferrara (the chief tax counsel of ATR and former fellow of Heritage and Cato) which deals with the cost to taxpayers issue. He’ll have a draft real fast for us. It’ll run in the Investors Business Daily, and probably reprinted in Human Events.

Mr. Ballabon replied:
Excellent. Thanks, Jack. ALSO—tell Grover he can redeem himself by blasting the coalition in a letter to the NYT responding to today’s story.

Mr. Abramoff wrote back and included Ms. Berger:
Good idea. Amy, hold on getting this to Ferrara. Let’s draft something from Grover to respond to this and I’ll get it to him. Have Daniel draft it up fast. I’ll run it by Grover. We’ll send it him and voila, it should work. Thanks Jeff.

Ten days later, Mr. Norquist published an op-ed in the Washington Times titled ‘‘Tuning in to Channel One.’’ Mr. Abramoff wrote to Mr. Ballabon on February 3, 1999, regarding providing money to ATR for a dinner series.
. . . especially in light of the huge hit Grover delivered, I think this would be a very nice gesture on your part.

On April 20, 1999, Mr. Abramoff wrote that they needed to agree on the price topay Peter Ferrara at ATR for an economic analysis related to Channel One.
Jeff, we need to agree on the price we are going to pay him. I think he wants $5K, but we have offered him $3K. We can put this on our bill as a subcontract, but the firm will not want to have to pay for this out of our fees. Give me some guidance. He is, meanwhile, working on it. . . .

Ms. Berger then wrote to Mr. Abramoff:
i have offered him $2000 and he said ok!!! I am calling right now to make the appointment.

Mr. Abramoff replied:
You’re a bargain shopper! Tell him we’ll give him $3K, but we want him to do press and talk radio on this. That way I don’t look like an idiot with Jeff. Wait till I tell Glen what a bargain you can drive!

Dennis Stephens (a government affairs counselor at Preston Gates) wrote to Mr. Abramoff on May 17, 1999, that ‘‘Peter with ATR is in,’’ referring to Peter Ferrara at ATR:
When I talked with Peter this morning, he was planning to draft a press release hammering the ‘‘anti technology’’ crowd per Jeff B’s request and will also be distributing Grovers nice piece on Channel One. A nice balance, a positive piece on the good guys and a hit piece on the bad guys. Sound good?

On May 19, 1999, ATR published a policy brief authored by Mr. Ferrara entitled ‘‘The Clear Benefits of Channel One.’’26 On May 20, 1999, Mr. Abramoff wrote to Mr. Norquist to say ‘‘thanks Gro- ver’’ after receiving a copy of an ATR press release defending Channel One.

On April 24, 2000, ATR was included in a list of organizations to contact on Channel One:
Grover Norquist (ATR)—Damon in his office is revising K. Ring Draft letter and intends to send out this Friday . . . to all GOP senators and maybe to Dems also—

The same day, Mr. Abramoff wrote to Mr. Norquist to say a need for ‘‘a hard-hitting op-ed has arisen’’ regarding Channel One. Mr. Abramoff asked whether Mr. Norquist would be willing to do it himself:
Ariana Huffington has now joined Ralph Nader and George Miller in attacking Channel One. . . . We want to do an oped which smacks her big time, and also swipes at Nader’s guy and the other loonieon this. We have $1,500 to do this piece and get it placed. Are you interested (we can write it for you)? If not, let me know if I can approach Peter [Ferrara].

Mr. Norquist wrote back to Mr. Abramoff the next day:
Jack, yes, go ahead and draft a copy for me. I have just spoken with the head of the Washington Times op-ed about a piece for Bruce Heinman. They said they are full for a while due to Elian article. I will talk to Helle Wed morning and make a case for this piece. yes, ATR will do this piece and push to have it in the Washington Times and the Investors Business Daily. Also I will share it with all our state groups. Grover

NATIONAL CENTER FOR PUBLIC POLICY RESEARCH

The National Center for Public Policy Research (‘‘NCPPR’’), which represents itself as a ‘‘conservative think tank,’’ is organized under IRC section 501(c)(3).29 The organization, founded in 1981, describes its primary exempt purpose as educating Americans about the free market solutions to today’s public policy problems.

On its website, NCPPR is described as a research organization dedicated to a strong national defense and to providing free-market solutions to today’s public policy problems. The website states: ‘‘We believe that the principles of a free market, individual liberty and personal responsibility provide the greatest hope for meeting the challenges facing America in the 21st century.’’

Amy Ridenour, NCPPR’s president and a founder of the organization, first met Mr. Abramoff when they were members of the College Republicans. In testimony before the Committee on Indian Affairs and in an interview with Finance Committee staff, Ms. Ridenour said that her organization accepted donations from Mr. Abramoff’s clients and routed money as Mr. Abramoff directed. Mr. Abramoff served on NCPPR’s board of directors.

E-mail exchanges among Ms. Ridenour, Mr. Abramoff, and Mr. Abramoff’s colleagues and clients indicate that CREA/Ms. Ridenour:
• accepted payments from Mr. Abramoff’s clients and then acted as the front organization to pay for trips by members of Congress, their staff members and others,
• accepted payments from Mr. Abramoff’s clients and then wrote checks as Mr. Abramoff directed, and
• accepted contributions from Mr. Abramoff’s clients and then performed services such as writing favorable newspaper columns and speaking in favor of clients’ causes.

  1.  LOBBYING AND PUBLIC RELATIONS WORK FOR ABRAMOFF CLIENTS

Channel One Network

E-mails indicate that Ms. Ridenour wrote newspaper columns at the direction of Mr. Abramoff’s client Primedia Inc. She maintains that she did such work ‘‘independent of’’ and ‘‘without regard to’’ Primedia’s contributions.

In 1999, Mr. Abramoff and his associates discussed with Jeff Ballabon, who at the time was executive vice president of public affairs for Primedia’s Channel One Network, the best way to fend off a coalition seeking the network’s ouster from public school classrooms.

Mr. Abramoff’s colleague, Amy Berger, wrote on April 12, 1999:
In preparation for hearings on Channel One, it would be extremely useful to have a white paper issued by a conservative think tank group like Heritage or CATO. I know that you have excellent contacts with these think tanks. Would you be able to work with a think tank to produce this type of a paper?

Patrick Pizzella, another colleague, wrote back:
my guess is it would cost about $5000 and we would want them to promote it. . . . and we ought to use a smaller out- fit . . . maybe Amy R., maybe CEI. . . .

Mr. Abramoff replied to Mr. Pizzella:
I think Amy is the way to go. I am meeting with her this week. I’ll raise it with her.

Mr. Abramoff wrote to Mr. Ballabon on May 19, 1999:
When we are through the hearing, we have to discuss getting Amy a contribution as we discussed. She was going to do 5 pieces for $10K. We can chat on this next week.

Mr. Ballabon responded:
yup—I have not forgotten (was it $10?—I wrote it down—whatever it was, she’ll get it.)

Mr. Abramoff wrote to Ms. Ridenour the same day:
I just want to thank you again for all you to do help us. Jeff is so grateful and, as soon as the dust clears, is going to make his gratitude tangible. Thanks for all you do!

On May 23, 1999, Mr. Ballabon wrote to Mr. Abramoff saying that Ms. Ridenour ‘‘really does deliver.’’ Mr. Abramoff wrote back:
We should get her a check as soon as we can. She can really help us with the Approps battle (we have used her before for this kind of battle before).

The next day, Mr. Abramoff wrote to Ms. Ridenour:
Amy, can you get me an invoice for a contribution for $10,000 which I can push through Channel One? Jeff has asked for this so we can get something to you asap. Thanks.

On March 13, 2000, Dennis Stephens forwarded a commentary from R.D. Davis, a member of NCPPR’s Project 21, a national leadership network of black conservatives:
I note for the files, that Amy Ridenour has a member of Project 21 who is a writer and radio talk show host in Huntsville, Alabama. With the proper education, etc, he might be recruitable for Channel One support and Metrock bashing. Thoughts?

Mr. Abramoff forwarded the message to Ms. Berger, who responded:
worth keeping in mind—esp. if we get a contract with [Channel One]!

In an interview with Committee staff, Ms. Ridenour denied that NCPPR was engaged in any ‘‘Metrock bashing.’’

On October 29, 2001, Mr. Ballabon at Primedia wrote to Mr. Abramoff regarding Ms. Ridenour:
Any way to get some paperwork from her on the 50k asap so I can get a check cut?

Mr. Abramoff wrote back with an attached NCPPR invoice requesting a contribution of $49,000 from Primedia ‘‘to support public programs.’’
I used one of their other invoices for another project and made it work. Let me know the next step. Please get the check directly to me. Thanks.

Mr. Ballabon wrote back on November 8, 2001, to say that a check had been cut and that he was sending it to Ms. Ridenour. Mr. Abramoff objected:
No! Send it to me. I have to work this through with her carefully.

CITIZENS AGAINST GOVERNMENT WASTE

Citizens Against Government Waste (‘‘CAGW’’) reports that its mission is ‘‘to eliminate waste, mismanagement and inefficiency in the federal government.’’ It was established in 1984, following the release of the Grace Commission report, a private-sector effort established by President Reagan with an aim of highlighting waste in government spending.

CAGW’s primary exempt purpose, as listed on its IRS Form 990, is ‘‘to perform nonpartisan research and analysis on waste and in- efficiency in the government and to conduct educational programs to eliminate government waste.’’ It is organized under section 501(c)(3).

The group is listed in e-mails as one that Mr. Abramoff and his colleagues thought they could turn to for a friendly op-ed piece or letter to the editor in exchange for a payment to the organization. In his response to staff questions, CAGW’s president, Tom Schatz, stated that the organization is independent and nonpartisan and that it was not ‘‘affiliated’’ with Mr. Abramoff and therefore did not play a role in Mr. Abramoff’s client relationships.

Channel One Network

In 1999, Mr. Abramoff and his associates solicited help from several tax-exempt organizations, including CAGW, for help serving their client, Channel One Network. In a written response to Minority staff questions, Mr. Schatz said CAGW has never received a contribution from Channel One. He reiterated in a telephone interview that the organization also never received a contribution from Channel One’s parent company, Primedia Inc.

On January 25, 1999, Amy Berger wrote to Mr. Abramoff about Council Nedd, at the time a CAGW employee:
Just heard from Council Nedd. He is getting calls from his members about the press release on Channel One including an Alabama member (not Metrock). I faxed him the release and offered to be of help answering questions raised by his members about Channel One. He asked that we keep all of this quiet.

Mr. Abramoff replied:
Is he OK? Which members? Please let me know as soon as possible.

Ms. Berger wrote back later that day:
I just talked to Council. He’s ok—at least for now. It turns out that a member of CAGW from Alabama and Jim Metrock called. The message is the usual Metrock stuff. Council was concerned that Tom Schatz would be upset but Schatz is completely fine on this. Council asked me to reassure you that they are fine on their position and I said if there’s a problem and/or they need bolstering, we are here!

Mr. Nedd wrote to Mr. Abramoff on March 3, 1999:
I just talked to Tom. He is also going to be on Washington Journal on C-SPAN this morning, and he going to try to get in a plug about Channel One.

Mr. Abramoff forwarded the e-mail to his staff, saying, ‘‘Let’s run a tape on this one!’’ But Ms. Berger wrote later that day to Mr. Abramoff and Mr. Ballabon at Channel One:
I talked to Tom Schatz this morning. Just as he was about to mention Channel One on CSpan he was cut off by the House of Representatives! He said that he will mention Channel One in his press conference today on the CAGW pig book. Also, Channel One is in the pig book as an example of an antidote to government waste. I am sending over a messenger to pick up copies and will distribute them.

On May 13, 1999, Ms. Berger wrote to colleague Dennis Stephens with the subject line, ‘‘one pagers by conservative groups (ridenauer, ATR, CAGW, TVC):
You may recall that Jack asked you yesterday to arrange for these groups to hand out one pagers following the hearing. With Jack’s approval, would you please coordinate this? Thanks.

The next day, Mr. Stephens wrote back to Ms. Berger and Mr. Abramoff:
. . . Council with CAGW is in . . . Hope to get our groups wrapped up today and follow up, follow up all next week.

In an e-mail to Mr. Abramoff on July 28, 1999, Mr. Schatz asked Mr. Abramoff a favor:
First, Shawn McBurney is now on board at CAGW. We are coming over on Monday for the Channel One event and I will make sure to introduce you to him at that time. Second, would you happen to have two or three tickets in your box to see Bruce Springsteen at the MCI Center, either Aug. 31 or Sept. 3? That would be greatly appreciated!!

Mr. Abramoff replied:
Look forward to seeing you Monday. We are oversubscribed at the box at this time for all the concerts, but let me see what I can do. Since we are definitely tight, would two work, or do you need three? Please let me know.

On October 14, 1999, Ms. Berger informed Mr. Abramoff that another lobbyist had discussed soliciting help from CAGW and other organizations. Mr. Abramoff replied:
We should not hand over our friends to this guy. In fact, we should tell our friends to stand clear of him . . .

An October 18, 1999, e-mail from Ms. Berger to Mr. Abramoff indicates that several organizations, including CAGW, had agreed to sign letters to the editor in support of Mr. Abramoff’s client Channel One after an article appeared in New Republic. The subject line is ‘‘Ok to send these to Jeff [Ballabon?]’’:
Daniel has drafted these letters to respond to the New Republic piece. Can you review these asap so we can get them to Jeff for his approval? We also may need your help getting Rabbi Lapin and CAGW to submit these letters to the New Republic. Is there anyone else who you think should write a response to the New Republic?

On November 3, 1999, Mr. Abramoff wrote to his assistant regarding Crosby Stills Nash and Young tickets that cost $211 each:
I would like four tickets and a parking pass. Attending would be Tom Schatz (Pres. Of CAGW and his wife), myself and Carie . . .

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