Many forces are bearing down on Mr. Abramoff. Last week, his closest business partner, Michael Scanlon, pleaded guilty to conspiracy in exchange for cooperating in the inquiry, being run by an interagency group, into whether money and gifts were used in an influence-peddling scandal that involved lawmakers.
Despite charging Indian tribes that were clients tens of millions of dollars in lobbying fees, Mr. Abramoff has told friends that he is running out of money. In a new approach that could contribute to the pressures, prosecutors are sifting through evidence related to the hiring of several former Congressional aides by a lobbying firm, Greenberg Traurig, where Mr. Abramoff worked from 2000 to last year, according to people who know about the inquiry. That course could impel a new set of Mr. Abramoff's former associates to cooperate to avoid prosecution.
Investigators are said to be especially interested in how Tony C. Rudy, a former deputy chief of staff to Representative Tom DeLay of Texas, and Neil G. Volz, a former chief of staff to Representative BobNey of Ohio, obtained lobbying positions with big firms on K Street.
The hiring pattern is "very much a part of" what prosecutors are focusing on, a person involved in the case said. Another participant confirmed that investigators were trying to determine whether aides conducted "job negotiations with Jack Abramoff" while they were in a position to help him on Capitol Hill.
Prosecutors are trying to establish that "it's not just a ticket to a ballgame, it's major jobs" that exchanged hands, the participant in the case said. Also under examination are payments to lobbyists and lawmakers' wives, including Mr. Rudy's wife, Lisa Rudy, whose firm, Liberty Consulting, worked in consultation with Mr. Abramoff, people involved in case said.
What began as an inquiry into Mr. Scanlon and Mr. Abramoff's lobbying has widened to a corruption investigation centering mainly on Republican lawmakers who came to power as part of the conservative revolution of the 1990's. At least six members of Congress are in the scope of the inquiry, with an additional 12 or so former aides being examined to determine whether they gave Mr. Abramoff legislative help in exchange for campaign donations, lavish trips and gifts.
It may be difficult for prosecutors to translate certain elements of the case into indictments. Bribery, corruption and conspiracy cases are notoriously difficult to prove. But the potential dimensions are enormous, and the investigation, at a time of turmoil for the Bush administration, threatens to add a new knot of problems for the party heading into the elections next year.
Several people involved in the case, insisting on anonymity because of the plea negotiations, said they anticipated that Mr. Abramoff would try to reach an agreement with the prosecutors in a rapidly closing window of time before he is scheduled to stand trial in a separate federal case in Florida.
Mr. Abramoff and another business partner, Adam Kidan, were indicted in August on charges of wire fraud and conspiracy for reportedly defrauding their lenders as they sought to buy a company in Miami, SunCruz Casinos, that operated a fleet of gambling boats.
That trial is to begin on Jan. 9.
We need to hit hard on this as a party and go after every possible seat in '06!
NOTE: THIS DIARY HAS BEEN SUPERSEDED BY A NEW DISCOVERY! BUSH ACTUALLY FIRED A PROSECUTOR INVESTIGATING ABRAMOFF IN 2002! GO HERE FOR THE MIND-BOGGLING DETAILS ON HOW BUSH PERFORMED AN OBVIOUS QUID PRO QUO FOR ABRAMOFF IN 2002!