Thursday, September 28, 2006
485 Contacts Between Jack Abramoff Team and Bush White House Officials
From Roll Call: Hundreds of contacts between top White House officials and former lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his associates “raise serious questions about the legality and actions” of those officials, according to a draft bipartisan report prepared by the House Government Reform Committee.
The 95-page report, which White House officials reviewed Wednesday evening but has yet to be formally approved by the panel, singled out two of President Bush’s top lieutenants, Karl Rove and Ken Mehlman, as having been offered expensive meals and exclusive tickets to premier sporting events and concerts by Abramoff and his associates.
In total, the committee was able to document 485 contacts between White House officials and Abramoff and his lobbying team at the firm Greenberg Traurig from January 2001 to March 2004, with 82 of those contacts occurring in RoveÂ¹s office, including 10 with Rove personally. The panel also said that Abramoff billed his clients nearly $25,000 for meals and drinks with White House officials during that period.
Rove, Mehlman, and other White House officials have denied having any close relationship with Abramoff, despite the fact that Abramoff was a “Pioneer” who raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Bush’s White House campaigns.
“The documents depict a much closer relationship between Mr. Abramoff and White House officials than the White House has previously acknowledged,” committee staff wrote in a three-page summary that accompanied the report. Reps. Tom Davis (R-Va.) and Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), chairman and ranking member of Government Reform, this summer subpoenaed e-mails and billing records from Greenberg Traurig and other firms, including Alexander Strategy Group, which was run by one-time aides to former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas). They examined more than 14,000 pages of documents from Greenberg Traurig, including 6,600 pages of billing records and 7,700 pages of e-mail.
During the period examined by the committee, Bush administration officials repeatedly intervened on behalf of Abramoff’s clients, including helping a Mississippi Indian tribe obtain $16 million in federal funds for a jail the tribe wanted to build.
Abramoff was able to block the nomination of one Interior Department official using Christian conservative Ralph Reed as a go-between with Rove, according to e-mails between Abramoff and Reed.