Two former Abramoff lobbyists lose jobs
November 25, 2008
WASHINGTON ” Two former congressional aides-turned-lobbyists with ties to Jack Abramoff lost their jobs in recent days as federal prosecutors signaled interest in them in court papers.
One of them, James Hirni, was fired last week by Wal-Mart Stores Inc. where he worked as a director of Republican outreach, the company’s spokesman said Monday.
Hirni worked for former GOP Sen. Bill Frist of Tennessee and others on Capitol Hill before becoming a lobbyist and working with Abramoff, the jailed former Republican super-lobbyist who is cooperating with the Justice Department in a wide-ranging investigation of his corrupt relations with officials.
Hirni was named in court papers Friday indicating he will plead guilty to fraud for incidents that include helping to get an all-expenses-paid trip to Game One of the 2003 World Series for two congressional aides.
Meanwhile Todd Boulanger, who worked with Abramoff after spending several years as an aide to former GOP Sen. Bob Smith of New Hampshire and others in Congress, resigned Friday from the high-powered lobby firm Cassidy & Associates, where he, Abramoff and Hirni had all moved in 2004, said company spokesman Tom Alexander.
Boulanger has not been identified by name in court but appeared as “Lobbyist D” in the court papers outlining the charges against Hirni on Friday. He and Hirni both also figured as unnamed lobbyists in court papers Thursday as another former legislative aide, Trevor Blackann, pleaded guilty to hiding thousands of dollars of gifts from them.
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Boulanger’s attorney did not return repeated calls for comment Monday.
Hirni’s spokesman, Scott Sobel, has said his client regrets a mistake in judgment as a first-time lobbyist and is cooperating with the Justice Department. No date has been set for him to appear in court.
Hirni had represented Wal-Mart as a lobbyist before going to work for the company.
“He wants to say that he misses that company and it’s the greatest job he’s ever had,” Sobel said Monday, adding that “Wal-Mart had nothing to do with this particular case.”
In a statement, Wal-Mart spokesman David Tovar said: “Based on Mr. Hirni’s guilty plea, which relates to conduct occurring prior to and unrelated to his employment by the company, we terminated his employment.”
With Abramoff’s help, the Justice Department has won convictions against former Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, former Deputy Interior Secretary J. Steven Griles and several top Capitol Hill aides.