Scandal figure James Hirni pleaded guilty in December, 2008. The events described in his guilty plea involved a trip to the World Series that he hosted for Congressional aides Trevor Blackann and Fraser Verrusio. As part of his plea agreement, Mr. Hirni promised to provide assistance to the Justice Department in other cases. In March 2009, court documents confirmed that Mr. Hirni "has been cooperating with federal agents".
At the time of the March 2009 revelation that Mr. Hirni was cooperating, the ACR Blog wasn't sure what information Mr. Hirni could provide. While we suspected that Mr. Hirni was providing information about Mr. Ring, we thought it was background-type information. Here is what we wrote at the time:
Court documents filed in Mr. Hirni’s case never mention Mr. Ring. Nevertheless, the two had a close working relationship. Together, they worked on Team Abramoff at Greenberg Traurig and shared several clients. Best I can tell, neither Mr. Hirni nor the shared clients appear in Mr. Ring’s indictment. Nevertheless, Mr. Hirni may be able to provide prosecutors with color on how Mr. Ring did business.
According to documents reviewed by the ACR Blog, the following clients were shared by lobbyists James Hirni and Kevin Ring while both were at Greenberg Traurig:Agua Caliente
The ACR Blog is changing its editorial position. We now believe that Mr. Hirni has knowledge of events surrounding the increase of funding for the Choctaw jail from $9 million to $16 million.
On November 6, 2001, Todd Boulanger sent an email to Mr. Hirni entitled "Choctaw Jail Info". Included as an attachment was a file entitled "Jail Talking Points.doc". Here is some of the text of the email:
From: Boulanger, Todd (Dir-DC-Gov)
Sent: Tuesday, November 06, 2001 9:07 AM
To: 'Jim Hirni'[redacted]
Subject: Choctaw Jail Info
Jim, here is the info for [redacted]. I will send you the Choctaw justification letter via fax. Thanks for all your help with this.
Just as an FYI, [redacted] is trying to remove all Senate earmarks from the conferenced bill (we are in the senate, not the House). Matt Kirk is weighing in with [redacted] today, and the NRCC is pounding House conferees to let the choctaw request through.
Undoubtedly, Team Abramoff is trying to get Mr. Hirni (who was the Legislative Director for Sen. Tim Hutchison R-Ark. at the time this email was written) to intercede in favor of the Choctaw jail. In fact, when Mr. Boulanger thanks Mr. Hirni for his help, the email seems to suggest that Mr. Hirni has already helped Team Abramoff in this matter.
The ACR Blog believes that Mr. Hirni is helping prosecutors build their case against Mr. Ring regarding the alleged honest services fraud related to the Choctaw jail. That said, there is no direct evidence that Mr. Hirni did anything to help Team Abramoff in its efforts to secure the full $16 million for the Choctaw jail.
The very next day after Mr. Boulanger solicited Mr. Hirni's help on behalf of Team Abramoff, Jack Abramoff himself keyed an email to his administrative assistant:
From: Abramoff, Jack (Dir-DC-Gov) ...
Sent: Wednesday, November 07, 2001 7:50 AM
To: Plocki, Julie (AdmAsst-DC-Legis)
Subject: RE: Opera
Right, I forgot. Have you distributed the tix yet? if not, give the CC's to Matt Kirk, and give Hirni two of the BBB's leaving 2 for me. the aisle bbb's should stay with me. please let me know. Thanks.
The ACR Blog freely admits that it has a provincial sense of culture. We could never be influenced by tickets to the opera.
Be sure to catch the next installment in this series coming soon: "Choctaw Jail: WHO GOT THE JOKE?"