News and articles relating to the scandal surrounding Washington D.C. lobbyist Jack Abramoff

Friday, January 20, 2006 | 01/19/2006 | White House won't reveal which staffers met Abramoff

By William DouglasKnight RidderWASHINGTON - For the second straight day, the White House refused Wednesday to say who among its staffers met with disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff or whom the recently convicted felon was representing when he visited the executive mansion.
White House press secretary Scott McClellan, pressed to explain Abramoff's contacts with the Bush administration, said, ``We're not going to engage in a fishing expedition'' in the media.
``I know there's some that want to do that, but I don't see any reason to do so,'' McClellan said. ``Well, I think that some people [are] insinuating things based on no evidence whatsoever.''
Several government ethics groups found the White House stance perplexing, saying nothing prevents the administration from disclosing the identities of meeting participants.
``There's a feeding frenzy for transparency and disclosure on Capitol Hill, and that's not a good way to start,'' said Roberta Baskin, the executive director of the Center for Public Integrity, a non-partisan, non-profit watchdog group. ``You can't plead national security. The public has a right to know.''
Abramoff was a high-flying Washington lobbyist and a huge contributor to Republican political campaigns until he pleaded guilty before a federal judge Jan. 3 to one charge each of conspiracy to corrupt public officials, mail fraud and tax evasion. He gave only to fellow Republicans, but his clients contributed large donations to Republicans and Democrats.
He's now cooperating with prosecutors investigating corruption on Capitol Hill and in the Bush administration, and Republicans worry that public outrage over the spreading scandal could cost them control of Congress in November's elections.
After Abramoff's guilty plea, lawmakers from both parties rushed to distance themselves from him and unload contributions from him. The Bush-Cheney campaign donated $6,000 that it had received from Abramoff to the American Heart Association, though it's keeping more than $100,000 that he raised for the campaign from other donors.
The White House went public about returning the $6,000, but has said little else about contacts between Abramoff and its staffers. McClellan acknowledged Tuesday that Abramoff and White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove are casual friends largely because they both once headed the College Republicans.
Other than acknowledging that Abramoff attended Hanukkah receptions at the White House in 2001 and 2002, McClellan has refused to say how many other times the lobbyist has visited. While photos of guests shaking hands with the president at such events are routine, McClellan has ducked whether there are any pictures of Bush with Abramoff, saying only that he would look into the question.
The Associated Press reported Tuesday that Abramoff and his associates had nearly 200 contacts with the White House during Bush's first 10 months in office.

Sen. Burns Can't Escape Abramoff's Shadow - Yahoo! News

By MATT GOURAS, Associated Press Writer

Some 2,200 miles outside the Washington Beltway, back home in his rosy red state, and Sen. Conrad Burns (news, bio, voting record) still can't get away from Jack Abramoff.

During an appearance at a Rotary Club gathering at a Billings hotel last week, the Montana Republican was met by a half-dozen protesters holding signs such as "Sold to the highest bid" and "Burns, your lie is open." In fact, wherever Burns went on his statewide tour, people wanted to talk about the Abramoff lobbying scandal.

Burns was one of the biggest beneficiaries of the money Abramoff lavished on Capitol Hill — a connection some say could make the third-term lawmaker one of the Senate's most vulnerable incumbents come Election Day.

Every chance they get, the Democrats accuse Burns of being at the epicenter of a GOP "culture of corruption." Recent polls show that his two leading Democratic challengers may be gaining on him. Newspaper editorials have been critical, with the Missoulian calling Burns the "perfect candidate" to help the Democrats win his seat. And Burns finds himself dismissing speculation he will step aside in favor of a more popular Republican.

"It is absolutely going to be a race," said Craig Wilson, a Montana State University-Billings political scientist who has observed Montana politics for 40 years. "I think it's going to be interesting."

The Democrats already hold the governorship in this historically Republican-leaning state and are salivating over the chance to pick up a Senate seat and help break the GOP's 55-45 control of the chamber. Among Senate Republicans, only Pennsylvania's Rick Santorum is more vulnerable than Burns, some observers say.

"Burns is front and center in the Abramoff scandal, and I don't think you are going to see this race drop off anyone's radar screen until he is out," said state Democratic Party spokesman Matt McKenna.

Still, Burns has been marked as vulnerable before, only to win re-election. He also has the considerable advantages of incumbency, the election is a long 9 1/2 months away, and a lot could depend on how the Abramoff scandal unfolds.

Earlier this month, Abramoff pleaded guilty to fraud and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors investigating influence-peddling on Capitol Hill.

An Associated Press review found that in 2001, Burns and his staff met Abramoff's lobbying team and collected thousands of dollars in donations around the time that Burns took legislative action favorable to Abramoff's clients in the Northern Mariana Islands. Burns also helped arrange congressional funding for an Indian school building program sought by Abramoff's tribal clients.

He has announced plans to return or donate $146,700 that he received from Abramoff or Abramoff clients. (In an embarrassing turn this week, an American Indian council refused to accept $110,000 from Burns, saying the money was tainted.)

Burns is telling constituents that he has done nothing wrong, that he has a "clear conscience" and that he is being tied unfairly to someone he barely knows.

Still, "it doesn't look good, and it's hard to see it getting better," said Helena retiree Dal Phillips, an undecided voter.

As for the reception Burns has received during his home-state tour, "I think a lot of folks have withheld judgment because they recognize the source of these attacks, that is the state Democratic Party," said Mark Baker, Burns' campaign chairman.

The leading Democratic contenders for the Senate seat are state Auditor John Morrison and state Senate President Jon Tester. The primary is June 6.

Burns, who turns 71 next week and has token primary opposition, has positioned himself closely to the president and sits on the influential Senate Appropriations Committee. Over the years, he has pushed for airline pilots to carry guns, supported more oil drilling and held sway over Western land issues and the National Park Service.

He has also ridden out criticism for such gaffes as referring to Arabs as "ragheads" in 1999 and asking a woman with a nose ring what tribe she belonged to.

MSNBC - Abramoff's presence at meetings confirmed

White House admits to the convicted GOP lobbyist's access

Updated: 9:59 p.m. ET Jan. 19, 2006

Until recently, members of Congress couldn't resist accepting money and gifts from super lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Now that Abramoff has pleaded guilty to bribery and conspiracy, lawmakers are trying to pass lobbying reform as quickly as possible. But as they scramble to convince voters they care about the smell coming from Abramoff and his associates, the scandal continues. HARDBALL correspondent David Shuster reported about the recent events leading up to the White House's admission about Abramoff's access to staff meetings.

To read an excerpt from their conversation, continue to the text below. To watch the video, click on the "Launch" button to the right.

DAVID SHUSTER, HARDBALL CORRESPONDENT: Two weeks ago, the White House acknowledged that convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff may have met President Bush a few years ago during holiday parties. Today the president's press secretary added that Abramoff also attended White House staff meetings.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: With regard to Abramoff, can you give any more specificity on those meetings, when they were, years, time?

SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: No, this is sticking with our past policy. We're not going to engage in a fishing expedition.

SHUSTER: This was the second straight day McClellan refused to provide details about Abramoff. On Tuesday...

DAVID GREGORY, NBC NEWS CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Was it senior staff he met with? Would you qualify it as senior staff that he met with here?

MCCLELLAN: Staff level meetings is a way I would describe it. I mean, if you have anything specific, I'll be glad to take a look into it. Well, if there's any reason for me to check into it, please bring it to my attention.

GREGORY: He pled guilty to some serious charges.

MCCLELLAN: And so are you insinuating something?

GREGORY: I'm just trying out the facts.

MCCLELLAN: Well if you've got something to bring to my attention, do so and I'll be glad to look into it.

GREGORY: That's not a fair burden to place on us. I mean, this guy is radioactive in Washington and he knows guys like Karl Rove. So did he meet with him or not? Don't put it on us to bring something specific.

SHUSTER: One adviser outside the White House to President Bush and Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove is anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist. Norquist and Jack Abramoff are friends from their days as college Republicans.

MSNBC has confirmed that Norquist helped Abramoff bring at least two tribal chief clients into the White House to meet President Bush four years ago. On April 19, 2001, an e-mail from Grover Norquist to Jack Abramoff was forwarded to the Coushatta's Indian tribe.

The e-mail invited the tribe to attend a luncheon dinner at the White House and described the May 9, 2001 get-together as a meeting with, quote, “the president and congressional leadership.” Norquist has denied this $25,000 check the tribes gave him was his fee for the White House visit.

Still, the connections between the White House, Karl Rove, Grover Norquist, and Washington influence-peddlers have been issues the Democratic group has been trying to draw attention to for months. And today, group protesters took to the sidewalk outside where Norquist's lobbyists and part of the Republican Party's brain trust conduct a regular weekly meeting.

One senator who often attends the meetings is Pennsylvania Republican Rick Santorum. Last month when “The Washington Post” reported that Santorum met with the lobbying firms and associations “to discuss Republican candidates for job openings,” Santorum told the “Pittsburgh Post-Gazette” it was part of his leadership role as the Senate's third-ranking Republican.

“The K Street project is purely to make sure we have qualified applications for positions that are in town. From my perspective, it's a good government thing.”

Yesterday Santorum joined John McCain in introducing lobbying reform and spun hard.

SEN. RICK SANTORUM ®, PENNSYLVANIA: I'm not aware of any Senate liaison job that I do for the K Street project. What I have done is, I do host meetings once or twice a month with members who represent a variety of different groups in Washington D.C.

SHUSTER: And so today they rolled out a lobbying reform plan named after Republicans, including Norquist and Abramoff.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MINORITY LEADER: These people with the bad ideas, the K Street project and others, have infiltrated our government.

SHUSTER: And the White House is now the latest part of the government to get snared by this story. With Bush administration officials refusing to provide any details about Jack Abramoff's access to White House staff meetings, the stench, critics argue, is getting worse.

Cincinnati Enquirer - Abramoff's dad furious at Clooney jab

By Erica Solvig
The (Palm Springs, Calif.) Desert Sun

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. - The father of controversial Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff is responding to actor George Clooney for what he's describing as a "glib and ridiculous attack" on his son.

Frank Abramoff of Rancho Mirage, Calif., in a letter addressed to Clooney and sent Thursday to the Desert Sun newspaper of Palm Springs, said he was watching the Golden Globes on Monday night when Clooney, during his acceptance speech for best supporting actor, thanked Jack Abramoff "just because" and made a comment about the lobbyist's name.

"Who would name their kid Jack with the last words 'off' at the end of your last name? No wonder that guy is screwed up," said Clooney, a Kentucky native, during the internationally televised awards show.

In the letter, Frank Abramoff furiously defends the name, saying his son is named after Frank's father. In the two-page letter, he calls Clooney's act a "lapse in lucidity" and an "obscene query."

He also wrote: "One wonders how your father would respond, were the roles reversed." Clooney's father, Nick, is a veteran Cincinnati journalist.

Former GOP lobbyist Abramoff admitted bribing public officials and defrauding his American Indian clients of millions of dollars.

In a telephone interview with the Desert Sun on Thursday, Frank Abramoff said Clooney was "an idiot" and described the actions as "pure, unadulterated stupidity."

"You want to make fun. You can do that, but you don't make fun of someone else's hardships and misery," the 78-year-old Abramoff said. "We've gone through quite a bit, our family. But the political end of it and the media end of it and all the other areas are one thing. When you see something like that on a show for 500 million people, it was not only a slap in my son's face but in my father's."

Senator Apologizes for Attack on Payments to Republicans - New York Times

WASHINGTON, Jan. 19 - Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader in the Senate, apologized Thursday to 33 Republican colleagues for a document distributed by his office that listed contributions that some of them received from the lobbyist Jack Abramoff along with critical news reports on their past actions and statements.

"I am writing to apologize for the tone of this document and the decision to single out individual senators for criticism in it," Mr. Reid said after the memorandum, headed "Republican Abuse of Power," drew criticism from some Republicans. "As you know, I myself have been the subject of similar personal attacks from Republican outlets. I understand the unfair picture they can paint and the pain they can cause."

Mr. Reid has been harsh in his attacks this week on what he describes as a Republican culture of corruption exposed by Mr. Abramoff's recent guilty plea to bribery charges - even drawing comparisons between Republicans and organized crime.

And Democrats have been aggressively working to tie Republicans to the scandal and make it a top 2006 campaign issue. But Republicans, including the office of Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee, the majority leader, cried foul over the 25-page document that attacked individual senators for the contributions and for other acts placed under the headings of "Putting K Street Before Main Street" and "Out of Touch." They said the document was a blatantly political effort produced with taxpayer money in Mr. Reid's Senate leadership office.

"The bottom line is they used a taxpayer funded, self-proclaimed war room to issue a political smear document," said Brian Nick, a spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. This week, that group issued a lengthy document, "Harry's Hypocrisy," which sought to tie Mr. Reid to Mr. Abramoff and was underwritten by political contributions.

Mr. Reid, in his letter, said the Abramoff scandal had made the subject of Congressional ethics a legitimate issue for debate as the two parties seek to claim the high ground on the issue.

"But the document released by my office yesterday went too far, and I want to convey to you my personal regrets," he said.

He and fellow Democrats did continue to press Republicans on their Abramoff ties on Thursday, however, sending letters to Vice President Dick Cheney and 20 cabinet secretaries and agency heads asking them to disclose any dealings they had with the lobbyist.


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