Jack Abramoff’s Shadow of Disgrace Lingers – Bush-era Official Pleads Guilty

A former Labor Department chief of staff during the Bush administration entered a guilty plea today to a corruption charge related to the scandals of disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Horace Cooper, 44, of Lorton, Va., pleaded guilty to a count charging him with making and using a false certificate or writing. Specifically, the former chief of staff for the Department of Labor (DOL) Employment Standards Administration pleaded guilty to falsely certifying his Fiscal Year 2003 Executive Branch Personnel Public Financial Disclosure Report, the Justice Department says. He is due to be sentenced on July 1.

According to court documents, Cooper was the chief of staff for the DOL’s Employment Standards Administration from December 2002 through August 2005. In that position, Cooper was required by federal regulations to complete annual executive branch personnel public financial disclosure reports.

Cooper admitted that in 2003 he solicited and accepted gifts from Jack Abramoff and Neil Volz, former Washington lobbyists who had a client with business before the DOL. Cooper admitted he concealed his receipt of these gifts from DOL ethics officials and his supervisors, according to a Justice Department statement.

Cooper was required to report the gifts he received from Abramoff and Volz on his annual financial disclosure form because the value of these gifts exceeded the limits established by federal regulation. According to court documents, DOL ethics officials and his supervisors were deprived of critical information as a result of Cooper’s failure to report these gifts, which was necessary to determine whether Cooper had an actual or potential conflict of interest between his public responsibilities and his private interests and activities.

The charge to which Cooper pleaded guilty carries a maximum sentence of one year in prison and a $100,000 fine, the Justice Department says.

To date, 19 individuals, including lobbyists and public officials, have pleaded guilty, been convicted at trial, or are awaiting trial in connection with the ongoing investigation into the activities of Abramoff and his associates. At the highest level, corruption regarding Abramoff snared former Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio), who went to prison.

Abramoff pleaded guilty in January 2006 to conspiracy to commit honest services fraud, honest services fraud and tax evasion. Abramoff was sentenced in September 2008 to four years in prison. Volz pleaded guilty in May 2006 to conspiracy to commit honest services fraud and was sentenced in September 2007 to two years probation.

The publisher of the news site On The Hill, Scott Nance has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.

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