WASHINGTON — The top aide to former Oklahoma Congressman Ernest Istook pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court here Monday to securing road projects for lobbyists in exchange for meals and tickets to concerts and sporting events.
John C. Albaugh, 41, who now lives in South Carolina, made his plea as part of the U.S. government's continuing investigation into the illegal dealings of disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
Albaugh, who was Istook's chief of staff and a top aide on the House Appropriations subcommittee that had control over road projects, helped secure millions for road projects sought by clients of Abramoff's firm, according to the government's case.
Albaugh is cooperating in the ongoing investigation into the Abramoff scandal and is expected to provide testimony against others.
He is facing a sentence of between 18 and 24 months in prison but could get that reduced if he helps the government with its case. Sentencing has been set for Sept. 17.
“Mr. Albaugh decided to accept the government's proposal and move on with his life,” his attorney, Jeffrey Jacobovitz, said. “He deeply regrets and accepts full responsibility for his involvement in these matters and their impact on his family and the community.”
Albaugh served eight years as top aide for Istook, who left Congress to run for governor of Oklahoma in 2006. Istook lost the election and is now a fellow at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank in Washington.
“I am as surprised and as shocked as anyone,” Istook said. “I have not seen the charges and I have no information about them. I have met with the FBI. They did not share any details about the case, but they told me I am not a target of their investigation. I will continue to cooperate with them fully.”
Istook, who has not been charged with any wrongdoing, accepted tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from Abramoff and his associates. Referred to as “Representative 4” in court documents, he also used the lobbyist's skybox tickets for concerts. He later donated the campaign money to charity and paid for the seats.
Abramoff pleaded guilty to bribing lawmakers to support policies that helped his clients, including Indian tribes. Istook was among 33 lawmakers who accepted Abramoff-related money and wrote letters urging the Bush administration to reject a casino proposal that Abramoff's clients opposed. He has said the letter was unrelated to the campaign contributions.
“I signed the letter as part of my long-standing opposition to the spread of gambling, and for no other reason,” Istook said in 2005.
Throughout the court documents Albaugh is depicted in close contact with “Lobbyist C,” asking him for sports tickets, fundraisers for his boss and other favors.
Read the counts against Albaugh