- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 10, 2008

A congressional report released Monday said convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff’s influence at the White House has been confirmed by a new set of official government documents and interviews with former staffers.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will hold a hearing Thursday to approve its follow-up to a 2006 report that found Abramoff to have had influenced the firing of a State Department official and to have given sports tickets and meals to White House officials.

The committee report also found that Abramoff was photographed six times with President Bush at different events in 2001 and 2002, but found no evidence of improper contact between the two men.

Committee staff members reviewed 20,000 pages of documents provided by the White House, in an effort to corroborate records provided by Abramoff’s former firm, Greenburg Traurig.

“The testimony and documents obtained by the committee following the September 2006 committee staff report confirm that Mr. Abramoff had access to the White House,” the report said.

“Further, the record before the Committee 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.”

The White House was dismissive of the report, calling it “warmed up leftovers.”

“There’s nothing new of significance in it,” said White House spokesman Tony Fratto. “If anything, it confirms that Abramoff was decidedly unsuccessful in trying to influence administration policy.”

Committee Chairman Henry A. Waxman, California Democrat, issued the second report because, the report said, the White House had said the first one was based on Abramoff’s “fraudulent” billing records, and that Abramoff “got nothing” from his efforts to influence White House staff.

The White House documents confirmed only 80 of the 485 lobbying contacts reported in the Greenberg Traurig records, but also showed 70 new contacts not previously known.

The new documents also confirmed that the Abramoff team persuaded White House officials to remove from office a State Department official, Alan Stayman, who had advocated labor reforms in the Northern Mariana Islands that were opposed by the local government there, which paid Abramoff to lobby for it in Washington.

During an April 14 deposition with Monica Kladakis, a former deputy associate director at the White House Office of Presidential Personnel (OPP), she “confirmed that OPP became involved in Mr. Stayman’s removal after White House officials were contacted by Mr. Abramoff’s team.”

Karl Rove, then the president’s deputy chief of staff, and Stephen J. Hadley, the president’s national security adviser who was then a deputy, were both informed by staff of the firing, but there is no evidence they played an active role, according to the documents.

The committee still was unable to discern whether White House officials paid for meals they ate with Abramoff or members of his lobbying team. In part, this was because three former White House staff members refused to testify about the matter.

The White House provided the committee with six photos of Abramoff and Mr. Bush, taken on six different occasions. Mr. Abramoff’s children appear in four of the photos with the two men, while first lady Laura Bush and Abramoff’s wife, Pam, are in another photo, taken at a Dec. 10, 2001, White House Hanukkah party.

“The committee obtained no evidence that Mr. Abramoff ever personally lobbied the president or that the president personally directed an action in response to a request by Mr. Abramoff,” the report said.

Abramoff is serving a nearly six-year federal prison sentence for defrauding banks in connection with the purchase of a Florida casino.

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