I understand that the ramifications and fall-out from the Jack Abramoff scandal are far from over. There are a number of persons in Washington who probably wish that it was over. The Bush White House – and even the President himself – claimed not to know very much about Abramoff. They said the man had limited contacts at the White House. A bipartisan congressional report has now documented hundreds of contacts between White House officials and this corrupt lobbyist and his partners. Interestingly, there were a number of direct contacts between Abramoff and Karl Rove, the man who runs the Bush political operations. The House Government Reform Committee report, based on e-mail messages and other records subpoenaed from Abramoff’s lobbying firm, found over 500 contacts between Abramoff’s lobbying team and White House officials from 2001 to 2004. Eighty-two of these contracts were with Rove’s office.
The report suggests that Abramoff’s lobbying resulted in actions by the Bush Administration that benefited Abramoff clients. Included were decisions to distribute millions of dollars in federal money to Indian tribes with large gambling operations. As the result of an aggressive lobbying campaign in 2001 and 2002 involving 73 contacts with White House officials, Abramoff took credit for an Administration decision to release $16.3 million to a Mississippi tribe for jail construction. This came despite strong opposition from the Justice Department, according to the report. Frankly, I really wasn’t at all surprised that Rove and Abramoff were friends. Nor was I surprised that the corrupt lobbyist would attempt to curry favor with Rove. In an e-mail message to a colleague, here is how Abramoff described Rove:
He’s a great guy. Told me anytime we need something just let him know through Susan.
The message was referring to Susan Ralson, Abramoff’s former secretary, who joined the White House in February 2001 as Rove’s executive assistant. Ms. Ralson was lobbied scores of times by Abramoff and his partners, the report found, and she was instrumental in passing messages between Abramoff and senior officials at the White House, including Rove and Ken Mehlman. Mehlman, now chairman of the Republican National Committee, was then a senior White House political strategist.
Disclosure of the report’s findings came as a federal judge in Miami agreed in late September to delay Abramoff’s imprisonment, but not for as long as the Justice Department wanted. The Department asked that Abramoff, who has been sentenced to nearly six years in prison, not have to surrender for three months because of the need for his continued cooperation in the influence-peddling investigation in Washington. Judge Paul C. Huck agreed to allow Abramoff to remain free only until November 15th, saying “there comes a time when people have to pay the piper.” You will probably recall that Abramoff pleaded guilty in Miami as part of an agreement with the Justice Department in which he confessed to corruption charges in Washington, and to fraud charges in Florida involving his purchase of a casino-boat fleet there. Since that time a number of powerful men have fallen, and sources in Washington say there will be lots more before it’s over. My guess is that those who are sweating it out were glad to hear that Abramoff would be sentenced this month.
Source: New York Times
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