Imprisoned former GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff "influenced some White House actions," and the Bush administration "conducted an inadequate and incomplete internal review before making public representations minimizing Mr. Abramoff's access to White House officials," says a new report released by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, chaired by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.).
Abramoff had his photograph taken with President Bush on six different occasions, with four of those taking place at political receptions and the other two coming at an annual White House Hanukkah party and an event in the Old Executive Office Building. The photos took place from May 2001 to Oct. 2002.
Bush said in January 2006 that he "didn't know" Abramoff. "I, frankly don't even remember having my picture taken with the guy," Bush told reporters at the time.
But there is "no evidence that Mr. Abramoff ever personally lobbied the President or the President personally directed an action in response to a request by Mr. Abramoff," the committee's investigators found, despite the Bush-Abramoff photos.
"In addition, the documents provided to the Committee by the White House document over 70 new contacts between Mr. Abramoff and his associates and White House officials," the report states. A Sept. 2006 report by the same committee said Abramoff and his lobbying associates had 485 contacts with White House officials, a figure the White House challenged as inaccurate.
According to Waxman's panel, in addition to the "over 70 new contracts," internal White House documents confirm "over 80 of the contacts" detailed in e-mails and documents turned over to committee investigators by Abramoff's former firm, Greenberg Traurig. "The White House documents and e-mails do not corroborate 401 of the lobbying contacts described in the Greenberg Traurig documents," the report concludes.
Abramoff and his fellow lobbyists "persuaded White House officials to intervene to remove from office a State Department official, who advocated reforms in the Northern Marianas Islands that Mr. Abramoff opposed." The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands was one of Abramoff's most lucrative lobbying clients, paying his firm millions of dollars in fees.
The committee's "proposed report" states that the evidence it examined "contradicts White House claims that with respect to his White House contacts, Mr. Abramoff 'got nothing out of it. Not only did Mr. Abramoff achieve some positive results from his White House lobbying, but White House officials sought out the views of Mr. Abramoff and his colleagues on matters of official business."
Abramoff is currently serving a 70-month prison term for fraud related to a Florida casino ship company. He has not been sentenced in a Washington case involving his lobbying work, and has given extensive information to the Justice Dept.
The Oversight and Government Reform Committee will meet to mark up the report later this week.
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