By MADELINE MARSHALL
WASHINGTON (January 20, 2012)—Sixth District Democratic congressional candidate Rob Garagiola never shared cases with notorious lobbyist Jack Abramoff, according to their law firm. Moreover, public information used in political attacks on Garagiola linking the two is in error, an investigation by Capital News Service has found.
Capital News Service examined the public records after two untraceable emails accused Garagiola of inappropriate ties to Jack Abramoff, who served time in jail for conspiracy to bribe public officials.
Greenberg Traurig reviewed all of Abramoff's lobbying filings and found no mention of him and Garagiola working together.
"Rob was a health care associate," Greenberg Traurig spokeswoman Jill Perry said. "He was not part of Abramoff's team" which dealt with Native American tribes.
An email sent Thursday by a "Joan Flacco," resembles another anonymous quarterback-related attacker, "Tim Teblow," who accused Sen. Garagiola, D-Montgomery, of having ties to Abramoff last week.
Garagiola's campaign denied the connection saying that although they worked at the same firm, that does not mean they worked together or shared clients.
"Joan Flacco" dismissed the explanation as "a blatant lie and misrepresentation" and shared a wholobbies.us webpage that shows Garagiola, Abramoff, and 31 other lobbyists worked with one of Abramoff's clients, the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana. The original filing, from Greenberg Traurig's required reports, does not mention Garagiola or 21 of the other lobbyists listed on the webpage.
Wholobbies.us sources its information from the Senate Lobbying Disclosure Act Database. A search in the database Thursday did not return any record of Abramoff and Garagiola sharing clients.
The Center for Responsive Politics, a reputable non-profit, which operates a lobbyist database on its website opensecrets.org, found that the Senate office previously made a clerical mistake when entering Abramoff's filings. Although not listed in the original filing, Garagiola and other lobbyist's names were included in the database.
"When the Senate gets something wrong it gets picked up by a lot of organizations that post a lobbyist database. So as a result, they get it wrong as well. When the Senate goes back and corrects it, it may not be updated on those other sites," Center for Responsive Politics Editorial and Communications Director Viveca Novak said.
"We looked at the original records and realized his name wasn't there. We were told that the Senate was correcting their records so we also corrected ours," Novak said.
Wholobbies.us has not been updated since 2009 so its database does not show the correction. Ben Pilkerton, the site's developer, says on the "About" page that the site was created "for fun and to learn a few new tools."
"I would recommend not using any data from wholobbies.us as it has not been updated in years and is not maintained," said Pilkerton in an email. "It would be foolish to cite the site in any capacity when other maintained sources are more accurate."
Garagiola was astonished by the allegations.
"It's ridiculous. I mean, we worked at the same law firm but I certainly never shared the same clients," Garagiola said. "I think it's a far reach to make an accusation and then make it through anonymous gmail accounts."
Flacco characterizes herself as a disgruntled Democrat who has found the field in the 6th District unsuitable.
"We deserve a proper explanation and not distracting tactics (i.e. like releasing your tax records Senator)," the email said. "We need proper vetting of these candidates. We cannot afford to let this seat fall in the hands of Republicans for the next ten years. Are you listening Party establishment?"
Efforts to track down the authors of the emails were unsuccessful. Return emails went unanswered, an IP search returned Google's server and social media searches did not turn up a person using those email addresses.