We told you on Friday that David Ayres, a close John Ashcroft ally, looks set to plead the fifth in the latest corruption trial of a Jack Abramoff underling. And over the weekend we got fresh detail on what looks like Ayres’s cozy relationship with Team Abramoff.
In documents filed yesterday in the corruption trial of Abramoff aide Kevin Ring, and examined by TPMmuckraker, prosecutors asserted that Ayres — who at the time was Ashcroft’s chief of staff at the Justice Department — helped Ring win federal money for a prison to be built on the reservation of the Choctaw Indians, an Abramoff client. Prosecutors also asserted that Ring then gave Ayres tickets to the 2002 NCAA basketball tournament in Washington D.C. And, they say, the following year, Ring gave Ayres’s wife tickets to a pro hoops game after she had said that she wanted them as a birthday gift for her husband. Ayres didn’t report any of these tickets on financial disclosure forms, say the Ring prosecutors.
Here’s the key excerpt:
Briefly, the government believes that David Ayres helped Ring secure government funds for the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians (the “Choctaw”), specifically funds for a justice center on the Choctaw’s reservation. After the decision was made to grant the Choctaw those funds, Ring sought David Ayres’s further help to ensure that the Choctaw could award the construction contract for the justice center to a contractor of its choosing. In March 2002, Ring, with Jack A. Abramoff’s consent, gave David Ayres tickets to the March Madness NCAA college basketball tournament at the then-MCI Center. The evidence at trial will show that Ring hoped and intended that David Ayres would “pay … back” Ring and his lobbying colleagues for those and other things of value. (GX 572).
Moreover, in January 2003, Laura Ayres asked Ring for several expensive tickets to a professional basketball game at the MCI Center, telling Ring that she wanted to give them to her husband for his birthday. Ring, with Abramoff’s consent, gave Laura Ayres the tickets. On his annual financial disclosure forms for 2002 and 2003, David Ayres did not disclose his receipt of any of those tickets.
To be clear, the question of Ayres’s culpability is not directly at issue in the filing, or the case. What’s being argued over is the government’s decision not to immunize David and Laura Ayres for their testimony in Ring’s trial — something Ring’s lawyers had sought, believing that the Ayres’ testimony could be exculpatory for Ring. The fact that prosecutors declined to immunize the Ayres’s— thereby causing the couple to signal that they’ll plead the fifth — may be a signal that the government plans to bring charges against the Ayres’s, though it hasn’t done so at this point.
Ayres is a big fish. After serving as Ashcroft’s top aide at Justice, he teamed with his old boss and former Cheney aide Juleanna Glover to found the Ashcroft Group, a law and “strategic consulting” firm, where he still serves as C.E.O. He has known Ring since the late 1990’s, when both served on Ashcroft’s Senate staff.
Ayres has not responded to TPMmuckraker’s requests for comment, one made on Friday and one this morning.
Hat-tip, again, to the Anti-Corruption Republican.