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Opinion

January 10, 2006

Give tainted money back to donors

Does giving a tainted gift to someone else clear the slate?

That seems to be the thinking behind the members of Congress who are lining up to return campaign or PAC contributions made by former lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Mr. Abramoff pleaded guilty last week to criminal charges of conspiracy, mail fraud and tax evasion. He represented Indian tribes that rolled millions of dollars of casino income into congressional campaigns over a five-year period, authorities said.

Oklahoma Congressman Ernest Istook forwarded $6,000 in Abramoff-related donations to Indian health research last month. On Monday a spokesman announced Mr. Istook is donating another $23,000 that was donated to his re-election campaign or his PAC to the Boy Scouts of America.

That money came from donors who had worked with Abramoff, according to a spokesman for Mr. Istook. The congressman, an announced candidate for governor, said he was never involved in any of Mr. Abramoff's dealings and was voluntarily taking the high road by donating the money to charities.

We're sure those organizations are happy to get the money. Mr. Istook's spokesman told the Associated Press he chose the Boy Scouts because he has been a longtime supporter and they share his values.

A better route might be to track down the donors and return the money to them. They likely have their own favorite charities and should get the credit and publicity for donating to worthy causes.

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