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Former Cochran Aide Pleads Guilty in Abramoff Corruption Probe

WASHINGTON -- A longtime former 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 taking the gifts in exchange for helping one of Abramoff's top clients, the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians.

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 which says 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."

Copland worked for Cochran for 29 years, then abruptly left his office last spring after Abramoff prosecutors had netted a dozen convictions in the scandal.

In Tuesday's hearing, Copland admitted she understood that Senate rules prohibit staffers from soliciting gifts from lobbyists, but still secretly did so.