September 29, 2006 in Nation/World

Report analyzes Abramoff contacts

Larry Margasak Associated Press
 

WASHINGTON – Convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff’s billing records and e-mails listed 485 lobbying contacts with White House officials over three years, including 10 with top Bush administration aide Karl Rove, according to a congressional report obtained Thursday.

The contacts were from only Abramoff’s records and did not necessarily bring favorable responses for Abramoff’s team. In fact, on numerous occasions the team did not get what it wanted, and results overall were mixed, according to the draft report by the House Government Reform Committee.

The report cited e-mails that Abramoff sent to Rove or calls that Abramoff said he placed to Rove, but there is “no evidence that Rove responded by e-mail or by phone,” the report said.

Abramoff and associates were successful in getting appropriations for some of his Native American clients, but efforts to influence presidential appointments and nominations “were often not successful,” the report said.

The report said that of the 485 contacts listed, 345 were described as meetings or other in-person contacts; 71 were described as phone conversations and 69 were e-mail exchanges.

The White House responded by sharply criticizing Abramoff.

“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.

“The billing records that are the basis for this report are widely regarded as fraudulent in how they misrepresent Abramoff’s activities and level of access. There is no reason why they should suddenly be viewed as credible.”

The records cover the period from January 2001 through March 2004, and included the work of 20 lobbyists. Abramoff in January pleaded guilty to four counts of conspiracy, one count of mail fraud and one count of tax evasion. In his plea agreement, he admitted he defrauded his clients, and some of the contacts in the records could not be verified by the committee, the report said.

According to e-mails, Abramoff and his team offered White House officials tickets to 19 sporting events and concerts. Abramoff maintained season tickets and suites at several venues, including Washington’s football stadium and basketball arena and the Baltimore Orioles’ home field.

Abramoff, according to the documents, offered Rove NCAA basketball tickets, but Rove assistant Susan Ralston told the lobbyist via e-mail that “Karl has to pay for his tickets.”

Abramoff said the cost would be $50 for each ticket, “payable to me personally.”

The report said the most frequent recipient of tickets from Abramoff was Ralston, who worked for the lobbyist before she went to work for Rove.

The records indicated that Abramoff’s team billed clients for 186 breakfasts, lunches, dinners or drinks with White House officials during the three years. These contacts comprised 40 percent of the lobbying contacts, the report said.

Some of the meal and drink contacts could not be corroborated, the report said.

ABC News first reported the committee’s findings Thursday evening.

© Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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