Friday, January 06, 2006

Abramoffukkah and Cunningham

As noted yesterday in many publications, Scott McClellan said that President Bush doesn't recall meeting Jack Abramoff nor were they friends. Of course, never mind that Abramoff was a leader of the Bush transition team or that he was one of the major fund raisers for the Bush election campaigns. Now comes an article from the Texas Observer that details a lunch meeting between 2 tribal leaders who were paying money to Abramoff and Grover Norquist, President Bush, and Abramoff himself. The Observer has copies of the check plus email documents to back up what they are reporting in The Pimping of the President. Remember when Republicans used to throw fits because Bill Clinton had contributers spend nights in the White House? Remember when they got their panties in a twist over Al Gore's visit to a Buddhist monestary? Wonder what happens now?
In May 2001, Jack Abramoff’s lobbying client book was worth $4.1 million in annual billing for the Greenberg Traurig law firm. He was a friend of Bush advisor Karl Rove. He was a Bush “Pioneer,” delivering at least $100,000 in bundled contributions to the 2000 campaign. He had just concluded his work on the Bush Transition Team as an advisor to the Department of the Interior. He had sent his personal assistant Susan Ralston to the White House to work as Rove’s personal assistant. He was a close friend, advisor, and high-dollar fundraiser for the most powerful man in Congress, Tom DeLay. Abramoff was so closely tied to the Bush Administration that he could, and did, charge two of his clients $25,000 for a White House lunch date and a meeting with the President. From the same two clients he took to the White House in May 2001, Abramoff also obtained $2.5 million in contributions for a non-profit foundation he and his wife operated.

... Norquist has not responded to inquiries about using the White House as a fundraiser. It is, however, a regular ATR practice to invite state legislators and tribal leaders who have supported ATR anti-tax initiatives to the White House for a personal thank-you from the President. A source at ATR said no money is ever accepted from participants in these events. The $25,000 check from the Coushattas suggests that, at least in this instance, Norquist’s organization made an exception. The $75,000 collected from the Mississippi Choctaws and two corporate sponsors mentioned in Abramoff’s e-mail suggests there were other exceptions. Norquist recently wrote to the tribes who paid to attend White House meetings. His story regarding that event is also evolving. The contributions, he told tribal leaders in letters that went out in May, were in no way related to any White House event. That doesn’t square with the paper trail Abramoff and Norquist left behind, which makes it evident that they were selling access to the President.
Really, you should read it all.

And while Republicans are reeling from the Abramoff revelations, Time magazine reports that there is more to be concerned about. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, the indicted former Congressman from San Diego, wore a wire when meeting with fellow Republicans. From the article:

Sources familiar with the situation say Cunningham, a California Republican who pleaded guilty Nov. 28 to taking $2.4 million in bribes — including a yacht, a Rolls Royce and a 19th Century Louis-Philippe commode — from a defense contractor, wore a wire at some point during the short interval between the moment he began cooperating with the feds and the announcement of his guilty plea on Nov. 28.

The identity of those with whom the San Diego congressman met while wearing the wire remains unclear, and is the source of furious — and nervous — speculation by congressional Republicans. A Cunningham lawyer, K. Lee Blalack, refused to confirm or deny the story, and wouldn't say whether Cunningham will implicate any other members of Congress. The FBI is believed to be continuing its probe of defense contractors involved in the Cunningham case. An FBI spokesman declined comment.

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