White House Lashes Out
Congressional Report Finds Convicted Lobbyist Had Contact With Karl Rove, Ken Mehlman
By GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS
Sept. 29, 2006
The White House is lashing out at a new report which says convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his associates had far more extensive contacts with the White House than President Bush's staff ever acknowledged.
Outside his home in Washington, D.C., Karl Rove commented exclusively to ABCNews on his dealings with Jack Abramoff.
In answer to an inquiry on whether he had accepted gifts from Abramoff, Rove simply replied, "afraid not."
The report from the Republican-led House Government Affairs Committee stated that Abramoff had as many as 485 contacts with the White House, and prime among his lobbying targets was former White House political director Ken Mehlman, and Bush's adviser Karl Rove.
Of those 485 contacts, 345 were described as meetings or other in-person contacts; 71 were described as phone conversations and 69 were e-mail exchanges.
The records detailed in the recent report span from Jan. 2001 to Mar. 2004. In Jan. of 2006, Abramoff pleaded guilty to four counts of conspiracy, one count of mail fraud and one count of tax evasion.
Former White House political director Ken Mehlman is now the Chairman of the Republican National Committee, which issued this statement in response to the report: "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."
The investigation is based on a detailed examination of the billing records and the e-mails the committee received from Abramoff and his associates, which indicated far more extensive contacts than investigators were led to believe in the past between the lobbyist and both the White House and the Republican National Committee.
It also presents circumstantial evidence that Abramoff was able to have some action taken on behalf of his clients and details offers from Abramoff and his associates of dinners, concert tickets and other meals and drinks to White House officials.
After Abramoff pled guilty to illegal lobbying, officials at the White House said they barely new him and all they knew was what they read in the papers.
The report finds 485 contacts with White House officials, including nine with the president's chief political adviser, Karl Rove.
It also shows that Abramoff tried to get 19 people hired in the administration, but was only successful once.
The White House admonished his actions and said what this demonstrates is that Abramoff was singularly unsuccessful as a lobbyist, even though he was trying very hard.
"It is shocking and deeply disturbing that this admitted and proven liar ripped off his clients by over-billing and over-selling his supposed influence with any number of policymakers," Dana Perino, deputy White House press secretary, said Thursday.
In response to the apparent gifting of a bottle of wine by Abramoff to Rove, Perino answered, that those "who [know] Rove [know] that he doesn't drink alcohol."
The report also detailed Abramoff's use of conservative activist Ralph Reed to communicate with the Bush administration.
There were opportuntities in which Abramoff could allow clients to meet inside party and White House officials, like Rove. This was usually done through another conservative activist, Grover Norquist, by inviting the client to dinner.
The Associated Press reported last week that Republican activists Norquist and Reed landed more than 100 meetings inside the Bush White House.
The White House also points out that this investigation is largely based on Abramoff's billing records and e-mails and that he's been shown to have lied in the past.
Abramoff and his business partner, Adam Kidan, both pled guilty to conspiracy and wire fraud in March, and were each sentenced to five years and 10 months in federal prison. Abramoff's sentence is scheduled to begin Nov. 15.