In June 2003, House Speaker Dennis Hastert sent a letter to Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton urging her to act in favor of clients of the scandal-plagued lobbyist Jack Abramoff. The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported yesterday that investigators believe that Abramoff and his staff provided the congressmen with the letter's text.
Three other representatives, including former House Majority leader Tom DeLay and the current majority leader Roy Blunt, co-signed the letter. Both DeLay and Blunt have close ties to Abramoff and have received thousands of dollars from his clients.
The letter endorsed a view of gambling law that would block the Jena Band of Choctaw Indians from opening a casino nearby one owned by the Coushattas, an Abramoff client.
In September 2004, the Washington Post quoted V. Heather Sibbison, a lobbyist at the time for the Jena Band: "I have never seen a letter like that before. It was incredibly unusual for that group of people, who do not normally weigh in on Indian issues, to express such a strong opinion about a particular project not in any of their home states."
Accoring to FEC reports, since 1999 Hastert has taken $49,000 from American Indian tribes while they were Jack Abramoff's clients. On June 3, 2003, Hasteret held a fundraiser at Signatures, a Washington restaurant owned by Abramoff. He did not pay for the space until more than two years later, when Business Week began an in-depth investigation into use of Signatures.