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Horace Cooper Pleads Guilty: Former Labor Department Official Caught Up In Abramoff Scandal

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WASHINGTON — A former official with the Labor Department turned conservative commentator pleaded guilty Wednesday in a corrupt lobbyist case, saying he wanted to put the whole thing behind him.

Horace Cooper, also a one-time aide to former Republican Rep. Dick Armey when he was majority leader of the House, pleaded guilty to falsifying a document when he did not report receiving gifts from lobbyists Jack Abramoff and Neil Volz in 2003.

When Cooper was chief of staff for the Employment Standards Administration, he was required by law to report any such gifts. An indictment alleges he took expensive meals, concert tickets and sports tickets.

The 44-year-old Cooper faces a maximum sentence of a year in prison, but could receive more time because authorities say he tried to stymie investigators by lying to FBI agents.

Cooper's lawyers noted he admitted to a misdemeanor, rather than the handful of felonies with which he was initially charged.

In a statement, Cooper said: "My family and I are so grateful that this ordeal is over. It will be so good to get this whole thing behind me."

The long-running Abramoff corruption probe has led to the convictions of one former congressman, Republican Bob Ney, and 17 other lobbyists, Bush administration officials, congressional staffers and businessmen.

The original indictment against Cooper charged he also used his position in a previous job at Voice of America, as well as the Labor position, to advance the interests of Abramoff and his clients.

Abramoff was sentenced in September 2008 to four years in prison on charges of mail fraud, conspiracy and tax evasion. Since pleading guilty in 2006, the once-powerful lobbyist has cooperated with the federal investigation of influence peddling in Washington.

Prosecutors say that between 2002 and 2004, Cooper received thousands of dollars worth of free meals or drinks at Abramoff's restaurant.

The five-count indictment charged Cooper also took thousands of dollars worth of free entertainment, including tickets to professional baseball, hockey, basketball, and tennis events, as well as concert tickets.

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