Abramoff’s tentacles entwine the Chimpster.
In President Bush’s first 10 months, GOP fundraiser Jack Abramoff and his lobbying team logged nearly 200 contacts with the new administration as they pressed for friendly hires at federal agencies and sought to keep the Northern Mariana Islands exempt from the minimum wage and other laws, records show.
The meetings between Abramoff’s lobbying team and the administration ranged from Attorney General John Ashcroft to policy advisers in Vice President Dick Cheney’s office, according to his lobbying firm billing records.
The records from Abramoff’s firm, obtained by The Associated Press from the Marianas under an open records request, chronicle Abramoff’s careful cultivation of relations with Bush’s political team as far back as 1997.
In that year, Abramoff charged the Marianas for getting then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush to write a letter expressing support for the Pacific territory’s school choice proposal, his billing records show.
“I hope you will keep my office informed on the progress of this initiative,” Bush wrote in a July 18, 1997, letter praising the islands’ school plan and copying in an Abramoff deputy.
You know Chipmy is deeply involved with Abramoff when one of his spokesman denies they are friends.
White House spokeswoman Erin Healy said Thursday that Bush didn’t consider Abramoff a friend. “They may have met on occasion, but the president does not know him,” she said.
As for the number of Abramoff lobbying team contacts with Bush officials documented in the billing records, Healy said: “We do not know how he defines ‘contacts.'”
The documents show his team also had extensive access to Bush administration officials, meeting with Cheney policy advisers Ron Christie and Stephen Ruhlen, Ashcroft at the Justice Department, White House intergovernmental affairs chief Ruben Barrales, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick, Deputy Interior Secretary Steven Griles and others.
In all, the records show at least 195 contacts between Abramoff’s Marianas lobbying team and the Bush administration from February through November 2001.
At least two people who worked on Abramoff’s team at Preston Gates wound up with Bush administration jobs: Patrick Pizzella, named an assistant secretary of labor by Bush; and David Safavian, chosen by Bush to oversee federal procurement policy in the Office of Management and Budget.
“We have worked with WH Office of Presidential Personnel to ensure that CNMI-relevant positions at various agencies are not awarded to enemies of CNMI,” Abramoff’s team wrote the Marianas in an October 2001 report on its work for the year.
The access of Abramoff and his team to the administration came as the lobbyist was establishing himself as a GOP fundraiser.
Abramoff and his wife each gave $5,000 to Bush’s 2000 recount fund and the maximum $1,000 to his 2000 campaign. By mid-2003, Abramoff had raised at least $100,000 for Bush’s re-election campaign, becoming one of Bush’s famed “pioneers.”
Money also flowed from the Marianas to Bush’s re-election campaign: It took in at least $36,000 from island donors, much of it from members of the Tan family, whose clothing factories were a routine stop for lawmakers and their aides visiting the islands on Abramoff-organized trips.
The Marianas’ lobbying paid off _ it fended off proposals in 2001 to extend the U.S. minimum wage to island workers and gained at least $2 million more in federal aid from the administration.