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Reps. Henry Waxman and Tom Davis have released a draft of the House Oversight Committee's investigation into the Jack Abramoff scandal. Despite facing some restraints in their capacity to gain information (largely in part because the Justice Department is pursuing concurrent investigations), the report offers a few jems to those following the story.
It turns out that Abramoff was indeed fairly friendly with the Bush White House. He was thought well of by senior officials, helped guide the hiring and firing process of federal employees and provided gifts for White House staff (at least one of whom is now an economic adviser to John McCain).
Check out a few experts from the report below, or read the entire thing here. (pdf)
FIRING: The report confirms that Abramoff used the White House to remove a government official that opposed his client:
One action that White House officials took at the request of Mr. Abramoff was to intervene to force the removal of a State Department official, Alan Stayman. In a previous position at the Office of Insular Affairs in the Department of the Interior, Mr. Stayman had advocated positions opposed by the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, then a client of Mr. Abramoff. Mr. Stayman was appointed to his position at the Department of State during the Clinton Administration.
In a recent Committee deposition, Monica Kladakis, then-Deputy Associate Director in the White House Office of Presidential Personnel (OPP), confirmed that OPP became involved in Mr. Stayman's removal after White House officials were contacted by Mr. Abramoff's team.
HIRING: Abramoff had insight into hiring decisions facing the White House, and was able to provide (and in some cases was solicited for) his opinion on nominees:
One of the main Administration offices of interest to the Abramoff team was the Office of Insular Affairs (OIA) at the Department of the Interior, which handles issues relating to Pacific Island territories where Mr. Abramoff had clients. The Greenberg Traurig documents showed and the White House documents corroborate that the Abramoff team succeeded in obtaining information from White House officials regarding the status of the nomination process for OIA posts. In addition, the White House records and testimony of White House officials show that top White House aides solicited and considered the views of Mr. Abramoff and his associates in deliberations over OIA appointments.
One example of the Abramoff team's access to the White House regarding the nomination process is a February 20, 2001, e-mail from Susan Ralston to Matt Schlapp to let him know that Jack Abramoff had called Karl Rove a few days earlier to discuss appointments at OIA. According to this e-mail, Mr. Abramoff had heard that Esther Kia'aina was going to be considered for a position and "wanted to let Karl know that he didn't think this was a good idea." Ms. Ralston continued, "Karl asked that you return his call." Ms. Kia'aina was not appointed to a position at OIA.
POLITICAL APPOINTEES: Abramoff influenced White House decisions on political appointees:
Mr. Abramoff and his team also succeeded in persuading the White House to refrain from issuing a presidential endorsement of Juan Babauta, the Republican gubernatorial candidate in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) in 2001, who was running against a third party candidate favored by Mr. Abramoff. According to the Greenberg Traurig documents, on October 26, 2001, Mr. Abramoff sent a memo to Mr. Mehlman arguing against an endorsement, spoke with Mr. Mehlman over the phone about this issue in the same time frame, and received an e-mail from Susan Ralston on October 31, 2001, stating: "You win :). KR said no endorsement."
GIFTS: As TPMmuckraker points out, at least one White House official who received gifts from Abramoff is now playing a role in the McCain campaign:
On October 18, 2001, Kevin Ring sent an unknown number of tickets to an unknown event to Mr. Bonilla by courier. In addition, in response to an offer from Kevin Ring, Mr. Bonilla requested and was provided with two tickets to sit in the Abramoff suite for the November 20, 2001, Washington Wizards game.
(Late Update: The McCain camp has reported that Mr. Bonilla left the campaign a few weeks ago during the implementation of the campaign's conflict-of-interest policy. The McCain website has now been updated to reflect this.)
TPMmuckraker details several cases of White House staff seeking "fruit," or sporting tickets, for their work with Abramoff:
On December 12, 2002, Ms. Farley asks Mr. Ring, "Do you have any kind of fruit tonight?" Mr. Ring responds, "No games tonight." In another e-mail exchange about an issue of interest to one of Mr. Ring's clients, Ms. Farley stated, "Let me know about the fruit in the middle of the basket." Mr. Ring responded, "The fruit is going to happen. Just trying to make sure it is picked on the right day."
MEETING BUSH: Abramoff met Bush six times, four more than the White House has previously admitted:
President Bush met Abramoff on at least four occasions the White House has yet to acknowledge, according to the draft report by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.