Abramoff’s Concert Connection

A former longtime aide to Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran pleaded guilty Tuesday to swapping legislative favors for event tickets and other gifts from disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff’s firm.

Ann Copland wiped tears from her eyes as she admitted to U.S. District Judge Richard Roberts that she took the gifts in exchange for helping one of Abramoff’s top clients, the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians.

Copland, 52, pleaded guilty to conspiring with Abramoff and his associates to commit honest services fraud over a two-year period beginning in 2002.

Copland is the latest among more than a dozen congressional aides, lobbyists, lawmakers and Bush administration officials convicted as part of a lobbying scandal spawned by Abramoff, a former high-flying influence peddler now serving a four-year prison term.

E-mails disclosed in court documents that Copland sent to Abramoff’s firm show she was particularly demanding in what she wanted from the lobbyist.

At one point she sent a long list of ticket requests that included several concerts, hockey, ice skating and the circus. At other times she sent e-mails from inside the firm’s luxury box seats complaining about the food and drinks.

Among the e-mails filed in court was one from lobbyist Todd Boulanger to his boss saying they should go out of their way to keep Copland happy because ”she’s more valuable to us than a rank-and-file House member.”

Another e-mail from Kevin Ring, an Abramoff associate, included a list of events Copland wanted to attend and how many tickets she wanted for each event. She asked to see singer Paul McCartney, an ice skating event, musical acts ‘NSync and Green Day and a hockey game. She also asked for two to six tickets to see the circus, but only if they were floor seats.

Abramoff responded: ”She’ll get everything she wants.”

Copland worked for Cochran for 29 years, then abruptly left his office last spring.

”I am very disappointed that this case has involved a former member of my staff,” Cochran said in a statement that indicates he is not a subject or a target of the investigation.

In Tuesday’s hearing, Copland admitted violating Senate rules that prohibit staff members from soliciting gifts from lobbyists.