Education Federal File

The School Lobby

By Christina A. Samuels — January 31, 2006 1 min read
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Super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who pleaded guilty to federal felony charges of bribery, tax evasion, and conspiracy to bribe public officials and is helping federal investigators with a probe that could implicate members of Congress, is perhaps best known for lobbying on behalf of American Indian tribes. But he also has had education interests in his professional and personal portfolios.

Mr. Abramoff served as a lobbyist for media conglomerate Primedia Inc., representing the company’s Channel One Network, which provides news broadcasts to schools.

Public records filed by Mr. Abramoff do not indicate what work he performed for the New York City-based media company. Primedia told Advertising Age magazine in a statement that Mr. Abramoff and Greenberg Traurig, the firm that employed the lobbyist, worked for the company several years ago, and that the work was performed successfully and under budget. Amanda Cheslock, a spokeswoman for Channel One, referred to the Advertising Age story when asked about Mr. Abramoff’s ties to the company.

Channel One produces shows that are delivered to more than 7 million students and 300,000 teachers around the country. Its revenue comes from two minutes of commercials that accompany each 10-minute news segment.

Meanwhile, in the fall of 2002, Mr. Abramoff helped open and finance an Orthodox Jewish high school, the Eshkol Academy, in Columbia, Md., a suburb between Washington and Baltimore. The academy, which enrolled as many as 100 students before it closed after two years, was paid for in part with money that Mr. Abramoff collected for representing the interests of Indian tribes, according to news reports.

The school was supposed to focus on top-notch studies and sports, according to a Jan. 24 article in The Washington Post.

Andrew Blum, a spokesman for Mr. Abramoff’s criminal-defense lawyer, Abbe Lowell, declined to comment to Education Week on the fortunes of the Eshkol Academy. In other media reports, Mr. Blum has said the academy, which educated two of Mr. Abramoff’s sons, was a properly run charitable organization.

Some of the academy’s teachers have sued Mr. Abramoff in a Maryland circuit court, seeking salaries they say they are owed.

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