National Commentary

Nicholas F. Benton: Deeper Abramoff Tie to White House




Imprisoned lobbyist Jack Abramoff’s link to the Bush White House was much deeper and frequent than the White House has admitted, an explosive new report issued this week by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee documents.


Imprisoned lobbyist Jack Abramoff’s link to the Bush White House was much deeper and frequent than the White House has admitted, an explosive new report issued this week by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee documents.

Abramoff pleaded guilty two years ago to fraud, tax evasion and conspiracy to bribe public officials. But the White House insisted his influence on the Oval Room was virtually non-existent, despite photographs of Abramoff and Bush shaking hands.

The document, described as a “Proposed Committee Report,” is entitled “Jack Abramoff’s Contacts With White House Officials.” It claims in an executive summary that “Documents and testimony obtained by the Committee confirm that Mr. Abramoff and his associates had contacts with White House officials and influenced some Administration decisions.”

This was despite considerable White House stonewalling, including three former White House officials who refused to cooperate with the Committee investigation on Fifth Amendment grounds and many claims of failures to recall. It was also despite claims by the Department of Justice that the Committee investigation would interfere with and compromise its own investigations into the matter. Also, the Committee was deterred by the fact that White House officials may have used Republican National Committee e-mail accounts to discuss matters pertaining to Abramoff, and as such the e-mails were out-of-bounds for the inquiry.

According to what the Committee was able to find, however, there are no less than six photographs of Bush gripping Abramoff, including with other members of Abramoff’s family. It also found more than 70 newly-discovered contacts between Abramoff and his associates and White House officials which confirm more than 80 contacts revealed earlier in a report from Abramoff’s Greenberg Traurig firm.

In all, there have been over 401 reports of contacts between Abramoff and the White House that the White House has failed to report.

The report found that “White House officials held Mr. Abramoff and members of his lobbying team in high regard and solicited recommendations from Mr. Abramoff and his colleagues on policy matters.”

It said that documents show “Mr. Abramoff and his associates influenced some White House actions,” adding, “In one instance, the Abramoff team persuaded White House officials to intervene to remove from office a State Department official, Alan Stayman, who had advocated reforms in the North Mariana Islands that Mr. Abramoff opposed.”

It added that “documents corroborate that White House officials joined Abramoff team members for expensive meals and that White House officials were offered and accepted expensive tickets to sporting and entertainment events from Abramoff associates. E-mails were found that referred to tickets for such events in code terms as “fruits.” Floor seats at Wizards games and private suite access to a U-2 concert at the Verizon Center in 2001 were involved.

In the conclusion to its executive summary, the Committee stated that, following the release of a preliminary report on the matter by the Committee in September 2006, “White House officials said the White House would take a ‘good hard look’ and conduct ‘a thorough review’ of the contacts that Mr. Abramoff had with White House officials. The Committee asked several former White House officials interviewed or disposed by the Committee whether the White House contacted them to inquire about their contacts with Mr. Abramoff. None of the White House officials who spoke with the Committee had any recollection of White House officials asking them about their contacts with Mr. Abramoff or his associates.”
The Committee reports determined that most of Abramoff’s contacts with the White House were through the office of Karl Rove, and that the total of 485 contacts between January 2001 and March 2004 included 170 meetings over meals and 16 meetings over drinks with White House officials, 156 of which Abramoff billed to his clients.

The report is issued in the name of the Committee, now chaired by Rep. Henry Waxman, Democrat of California that has as its ranking member retiring Rep. Tom Davis, a Republican from Virginia.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*