The Going Rate

From Holden:

The going rate for a private meeting with Chimpy? $25,000. Or at least it was in 2001, I imagine Unka Karl has bumped it up a bit in the interrim.

The chief of an Indian tribe represented by the lobbyist Jack Abramoff was admitted to a meeting with President Bush in 2001 days after the tribe paid a prominent conservative lobbying group $25,000 at Mr. Abramoff’s direction, according to documents and interviews.

The payment was made to Americans for Tax Reform, a group run by Grover G. Norquist, one of the Republican Party’s most influential policy strategists. Mr. Norquist was a friend and longtime associate of Mr. Abramoff.

The meeting with Mr. Bush took place on May 9, 2001, at a reception organized by Mr. Norquist to marshal support for the president’s 2001 tax cuts, which were pending before Congress. About two dozen state legislators attended the session in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House grounds. The meeting was called to thank legislators for support of the tax-cut plan, an issue on which the tribal leader had no direct involvement.


There is only one other documented instance in which Mr. Abramoff was able to obtain a White House meeting for one of his tribal clients through Mr. Norquist, and it occurred the same day of the visit by the Kickapoo leader. On that day, a leader of a Louisiana tribe has said he attended a separate event by Americans for Tax Reform that was also attended by Mr. Bush.

Documents obtained by investigators for the Senate Indian Affairs Committee show that the second tribe, the Louisiana Coushattas, also paid $25,000 to Mr. Norquist’s group shortly before the meeting, although the tribe has been unwilling to say if its chief had the same opportunity as the Kickapoo chief to talk briefly with Mr. Bush and be photographed with him.


A former senior tribal official, Isidro Garza, who is not related to Raul Garza, said the $25,000 donation to Americans for Tax Reform was solicited days earlier by Mr. Abramoff, who often encouraged his clients to donate to Mr. Norquist’s group. Most of the tribe’s money comes from a casino it operates near the Mexican border.


Isidro Garza and Raul Garza are both under indictment in Texas on federal embezzlement charges involving the use of tribal money.

Isidro Garza, who functioned as the chief counselor to Chief Garza, said he was willing to reveal details about the $25,000 payment and the White House meeting in hope of having the government determine whether anyone in Washington manipulated their ouster from the tribe, the act that led to the criminal charges.

Mr. Abramoff might have had reason to want an overhaul of the tribe’s leadership. In 2001, Isidro Garza said, the Kickapoos rejected a proposal from Michael Scanlon, Mr. Abramoff’s business partner, that the tribe pay $2 million in fees for a lobbying campaign on behalf of the tribe’s casino. A lawyer for Raul Garza, Jason Davis of San Antonio, said Chief Garza “got caught in the crossfire of tribal politics” when he was ousted as the tribal leader in 2002, and “the question is whether he also got caught in the crossfire of national politics