Tracy Henke served as a staffer to Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.) for seven years prior to joining the Department of Justice under Attorney General John D. Ashcroft in 2001. At the Department of Justice, Ms. Henke served as Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Office of Judicial Programs. In this capacity, Ms. Henke had a degree of authority over the funding of a jail for the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, one of the major issues in the upcoming criminal trial of Kevin Ring.
Staking out what can only be described as a conservative Republican position, Ms. Henke saw no need for one of the richest Indian tribes in the country to suck off the teat of the federal government. According to Kevin Ring, Ms. Henke was "not impressed" by letters from the leadership in both houses of Congress urging the DoJ to raise funding for the Choctaw jail from $9 million to $16 million. In Orwellian fashion, Jack Abramoff called Ms. Henke a "liberal R" for not spending enough of the taxpayers' money for his taste. Lastly, Team Abramoff lobbyist Todd Boulanger talked about how Ms. Henke was placed in her position to "be a bitch". Ms. Henke was truly a headache for Team Abramoff and a champion for the U.S. taxpayer.
On January 31, 2002, things were moving quickly. As Kevin Ring predicted, a senior Justice Department official was going to "get the joke"1 (see: Kevin Ring Indictment, paragraph 179) and work on behalf of Team Abramoff to release the full $16 million. Ms. Henke was going to be overruled by a superior and the Mississippi Choctaw were going to get full funding for their jail. Ms. Henke scrambled to keep the Choctaw grant at $9 million. On January 31, 2002, Ms. Henke emailed at least one of her colleagues to try to stop the increase in funding. The ACR Blog has not seen this email, but it has been described to us. In it she tells her colleagues (paraphrased) "Hold off on the appropriation until I give it one more try." Ms. Henke failed and the Choctaw received the full $16 million grant.
Ms. Henke served in more and more responsible positions in both the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security. It appears that Ms. Henke served the government honorably throughout her tenure. She left government service October 31, 2006.
Immediately after leaving government service, Ms. Henke joined the lobbying firm The Ashcroft Group, founded by former Attorney General John Ashcroft and his Chief of Staff David Ayres.
On June 20, 2007, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform deposed Ms. Henke regarding, among other things, the Choctaw Jail funding. Ms. Henke had a terrible recollection of the Choctaw Jail issue (pages 22-42). To be sure, the Committee investigators were asking about events that had occurred five and a half years earlier. However, previous investigators had shown Ms. Henke many documents to refresh her memory. And remember how Ms. Henke scrambled at the last minute to prevent the full $16 million grant from going to the Choctaw. Someone went over her head to the tune of $7 million in additional funding, and Ms. Henke couldn't remember a thing.
The ACR Blog can't explain Ms. Henke's poor recollection. But we do believe that to this day Ms. Henke works at The Ashcroft Group with the senior Justice official who "got the joke".
We have time for one question from the audience:
Q: You mentioned a "JDA Bribe" that was somehow connected to John Ashcroft. You don't think that Mr. Ashcroft is the senior Justice Department official that "got the joke", do you?
A: DA! That is not what we're saying. In fact, the ACR Blog does not think Mr. Ashcroft is the official who got the joke.
1 To "get the joke" was some sort of code talk among Team Abramoff lobbyists. The senior Justice Department official who, according to the Ring indictment, "got the joke" in January 2002 is not the only person to "get the joke". According to a source familiar with this case, Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.) was supposed to "get the joke" in October 2001.
The author of the ACR Blog must be of a humorless sort. Although we don't get the joke (we would prefer to have it explained to us), we have a good idea of what the joke is. Indeed, we think we also know who got it ...