Posted by R. Neal

Politicians from around the South are distancing themselves from the Abramoff scandal. In Mississippi:

One of the biggest recipients of Indian donations was Sen. Thad Cochran. According to a report by the Center for Responsive Politics, the Mississippi Republican received $65,500 from Abramoff and his tribal clients since 1999.

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Third District Rep. Chip Pickering received $17,500 from Abramoff and his clients. The Republican lawmaker plans to give the $2,500 he received from Abramoff to the hurricane fund, spokesman Brian Perry said.

But Perry said Pickering would keep the other donations. "All the money was legally given," Perry said.

First District Rep. Roger Wicker received $21,600 from the tribes. The Tupelo Republican also received $250 from Abramoff in 1996.

"That contribution was received and reported consistent with federal law," Wicker said. "But following the example of the majority leader and President Bush, the campaign will donate that $250 to the Mississippi Hurricane Recovery Fund."

Sen. Trent Lott, also a Republican, received $22,000 in political cash from Abramoff's Indian clients. He will keep all the money, according to press secretary Susan Irby.

She said most of the contributions came from the Choctaws, whose leader, Chief Phillip Martin, has had a relationship with Lott for decades.

"Sen. Lott has never met with Abramoff," Irby said.

Mississippi's Democrats received far fewer tribal donations. Second District Rep. Bennie Thompson received $3,000 and 4th District Rep. Gene Taylor, $2,250.

But Thompson went on a trip sponsored by Abramoff to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands that cost more than $5,000 in 1997.

In North Carolina:

Spokesmen for Sen. Elizabeth Dole and Rep. Walter Jones said Wednesday each lawmaker decided to shed themselves of $1,000 donations received from Abramoff in recent years.

And in Tennessee:

A political action committee controlled by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said Wednesday it plans to return the $2,000 contribution it received from one of the American Indian tribes represented by former lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

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Three other current or former Tennessee members of Congress have been listed by a congressional watchdog group as having received political contributions linked to Abramoff.

In all, more than $9,000 went to Frist, Blount County native Sen. Lamar Alexander, U.S. Rep. John J. ``Jimmy'' Duncan Jr. and former congressman Van Hilleary, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. None of the lawmakers has been accused of any wrongdoing

Personally, it doesn't seem to me that accepting legal campaign contributions is any big deal. But giving the money back or donating it to charity is at least a nice gesture to avoid the appearance of impropriety. Heh.

Ralph Reed, on the other hand, seems to have much larger problems:

Reed has said he regrets funding a multistate antigambling campaign with money from Abramoff's gambling-industry clients. He angered religious groups when it was revealed that his work was paid for by Indian tribes with casinos who were trying to shut down would-be competitors.

Reed is the former head of the Christian Coalition. The hypocrisy is astounding.