George W. Bush and Jack Abramoff

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In correspondence made public February 9, 2006, by the "liberal activist group" American Progress Action Fund, Jack Abramoff said that President George W. Bush "met him 'almost a dozen' times, disputing White House claims Bush did not know the former lobbyist at the center of a corruption scandal," Reuters reported.

"'The guy saw me in almost a dozen settings, and joked with me about a bunch of things, including details of my kids. Perhaps he has forgotten everything, who knows,' Abramoff wrote in an e-mail to Kim Eisler, national editor for the Washingtonian magazine. ... Abramoff added that Bush also once invited him to his [Crawford,] Texas ranch."

On January 8, 2007, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) posted online "a photo of President Bush and Jack Abramoff at a campaign fundraiser in December 2003."

Photographic Evidence

Although President Bush has said that "he doesn't recall meeting convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff, the two have reportedly turned up in photos together," according to the Washingtonian and TIME magazines, which "have reported the existence of about a half-dozen photos showing the two together," the Associated Press reported January 22, 2006.

"But the focus on the photos distracts from a more important question that the president managed to duck in his news conference [January 16, 2006,]: Who in the White House and administration met with Mr. Abramoff, and what were those meetings about? ...

"If there is one thing that is now clear, anything involving Mr. Abramoff is, by definition, fishy." --Editorial, Washington Post, January 28, 2006.

"Meets" and "Greets"

"Team Abramoff" and the Bush administration

In the first ten months that President George W. Bush was in office, "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," the Associated Press reported May 6, 2005.

"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, [when] 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," the AP reported.

"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."

"The documents [obtained by the AP] 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 J. Steven Griles and others.

"Most of the contacts were handled by Abramoff's subordinates, who then reported back to him on the meetings. Abramoff met several times personally with top Interior officials, whose Office of Insular Affairs oversees the Mariana Islands and other U.S. territories.

"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," the AP wrote.

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