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Friday, September 29, 2006

House Report Details 485 Contacts Between Abramoff Team and White House Officials

DIRTY - DIRTY - DIRTY! Hah, who thinks these were benign contacts to arrange garden parties and tea socials? A couple of hundred million bucks to investigate Clinton and his administration and what came of it? ONE MISDEMEANOR CONVICTION! While 2 Republican admins before were rife with felonious convictions and this one will rival the all time greats if they are ever properly investigated. War crimes, embezzlement, war profiteering, treason and more. --pseudolus
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Update: 9-29-06
More dirt here:
TPM Muckraker
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By John Bresnahan and Paul Kane
Roll Call

Thursday, Sept. 28; 7:10 pm

A House committee has documented hundreds of contacts between top White House officials and former lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his associates, as well as tens of thousands of dollors worth of meals and tickets to sporting events and concerts that were offered to these officials during a three-year period starting in early 2001.

A 95-page report, which was released by the House Government Reform Committee on Thursday evening, includes an analysis of more than 14,000 pages of documents provided to the panel by Abramoff's former lobbying firm, Greenberg Traurig.

Democrats and Republicans on the committee immediately began to fight over the report's findings, with each side portraying the results in the context of its own political needs.

Continued...to "Read More" click link below

CONTINUED:

Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), chairman of the Government Reform Committee, released a statement portraying Abramoff’s efforts to lobby the Bush administration as largely ineffective.

Davis also pointed out that Abramoff’s billing records and e-mail exchanges do not mean that events unfolded as he claimed to either his firm or his clients.

“These records are just one side of what was often a multi-party conversation,” Davis said in a statement released by his office. “The almost complete absence of reply e-mails from Abramoff’s lobbying targets in the White House has to be seen as telling. In an environment that lives and breathes on e-mail exchanges, that silence speaks volumes about how seriously most people in the White House took Jack Abramoff’s schemes.”

“A number of individuals appear to have been offered tickets to sporting events and concerts,” said the statement from Davis’ office. "The Committee does not know in all cases if executive branch employees accepted them, if they were allowed to accept them without paying for them, or if they indeed paid for them themselves. The Committee is confident the appropriate authorities will examine whether the tickets were accepted, required to be paid for, and if so, whether they were paid for.”

A summary prepared for Democratic leaders by staffers for Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), ranking member of Government Reform, stated that the information provided by the Abramoff documents may show wrongdoing on the part of top White House officials.

Democrats suggested that the documents obtained by the committee “raised serious questions about the legality and ethics of the actions of multiple White House officials.”

The Government Reform Committee report 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 Rove¹s 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.

Democratic committee staff wrote in a three-page summary that accompanied the report: “The documents depict a much closer relationship between Mr. Abramoff and White House officials than the White House has previously acknowledged.” Davis and Waxman 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.

Abramoff also tried to oust a State Department employee who interfered with their efforts on behalf of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, one of Abramoff’s most lucrative clients.

White House officials were allowed to view the draft report on Wednesday evening.

Dana Perino, a White House spokeswoman, dismissed Abramoff’s claim of pull with the Bush administration. She also noted that Abramoff has pleaded guilty to a number of felonies during the last year, including fraud and conspiracy to bribe public officials.

“The billing records that are the basis of this report are widely regarded as fraudulent in how they misrepresented the activities and influence of Abramoff,” Perino said. “There’s no reason those records should be suddenly viewed as credible.”

Perino added that she was unaware of any link between Abramoff’s lobbying and White House intervention in policy or personnel matters affecting his clients. “Not that I’m aware of as a result of a direct contact,” Perino said.

Perino did not specifically address whether White House officials ever accepted meals or tickets from Abramoff.

“We have high standards and expect them to be met,” she said.

In a bipartisan executive summary of the new report, committee staff said that “there are certain caveats” about Abramoff’s actions that are impossible to verify because the report is based solely on the records of Abramoff and Greenberg Traurig employees.

“There is little or no corroboration of the events described in the documents,” the summary states. “In other instances, the documents are vague about who was lobbied and what was said. While the documents described in this report are authentic, that does not mean that the events actually transpired or that Abramoff and his associates did not exaggerate or misrepresent their actions.”

Tracey Schmitt, a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee, which Mehlman now chairs, said Mehlman and Abramoff would have interacted when Mehlman served as White House political director.

“In his capacity as Political Director of the White House, it is not unusual that Mr. Mehlman would be in contact with supporters who had interest in Administration policy,” Schmitt said in a statement.

The committee was able to uncover numerous times when Abramoff and his associates attended social events with senior White House aides using tickets or passes supplied by Abramoff. For instance, Abramoff attended an NCAA Tournament college basketball game with Rove in March 2002. Afterward, Abramoff told an associate that Rove was “a great guy” who told him “anytime we need something, just let him know” via Rove’s assistant, Susan Ralston. Ralston worked for Abramoff before moving over to the White House.

In June 2001, while he was still working at the White House, Mehlman was offered two tickets to a U2 concert by Abramoff. The documents do not indicate whether Mehlman paid for the tickets or attended the concert.

“If White House officials failed to pay for these meals and tickets, their actions would be a violation of these legal requirements,” Democratic committee staff wrote in their summary, noting a ban on gifts from lobbyists worth more than $20 to executive branch officials.

The committee said its investigation is continuing.
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SOURCE:

House Report Details 485 Contacts Between Abramoff Team and White House Officials

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