Saturday, May 27, 2006

Abramoff connection answers questions of puzzled residents

Montgomery County residents who opposed the deals to lease public school property to lobbyist Jack Abramoff's private school "said the disclosure of the campaign contributions yesterday provided new insight into a situation they found puzzling at the time," according to the Washington Post.

"Ed Ferrigno, a member of the North Woodside Montgomery Hills Civic Association, was active in pressing for safeguards requiring greater public and official review of school reuse that were instituted after the Belt transaction. When Duncan and the council sought an exemption for Yeshiva soon after the safeguards were approved, he said, the group was 'floored that they would reverse like that.'"

According to the Post, "Community activists said the timing of the contributions raises concerns that the money was intended to influence county policy. 'This is a very clear example of special interest money securing favors,' said Duncan critic Drew Powell, executive director of Neighbors for a Better Montgomery, a nonprofit group that tracks campaign contributions to local officials."

Ferrigno himself is a professional lobbyist, and he says he has no problem with local members of the private school making political contributions. "That's part of the system," he tells the Post. "But it certainly appears that a political contribution drove a decision to override sound public policy."