Although White House spokesliar Scott McClellan claims lobbyist/crook du jour Jack Abramoff only met with administration staff two or three times, the scandal ridden buyer of influence enjoyed frequent private meetings with President George W. Bush, who referred to Abramoff as “one of this administration’s greatest friends.”
In a town where money buys influence and access, it would have been highly unusual for one of the top fundraisers for the Bush White House to not have had meetings with the President.
McClellan, in a carefully-worded response to reporters Tuesday, said his personal investigation into the matter revealed that Abramoff may have had two “private staff level meetings” at the White House. This is the same Scott McClellan who claimed he investigated the Valerie Plame leak and told reporters that neither Vice President Dick Cheney nor anyone on his staff had any involvement in that scandal. Then Cheney’s chief of staff, Scooter Libby, got slapped with an indictment for giving the info to the press.
McClellan, as skilled a liar as anyone who has stood before the press and misled reporters on behalf of a President, fails to mention Abramoff’s frequent visits to the President’s ranch in Crawford, Texas, the private meetings that the lobbyist arranged with the President on the 2004 campaign trail and at the Republican National Convention that year.
White House visitor logs are not public record and the Bush administration keeps separate logs of visitors to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and other locations like Camp David or the President’s home. In addition, logs can – and often are – revised when scandal erupts.
But Abramoff, who raised more than $100,000 for Bush in the last campaign, promised big time donors face time with the President and delivered on those promises during the convention. In addition, he traveled to Bush’s ranch in Texas with his co-conspirator in crime, former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay.
A former DeLay staffer who is cooperating with the investigation into both Abramoff and the disgraced GOP leader’s activities, has told investigators that Abramoff and DeLay visited Bush at his ranch on at least four occasions in 2003 and 2004.
It is common for big money contributors to get personal meetings with the President. At the GOP’s annual Presidential Dinner in Washington, those who pony up at least $25,000 are hustled into a room before the dinner for time and photo ops with the President.
Abramoff kept a photo of himself with Bush, shot at the Crawford ranch, in his office in Washington. The autograph from Bush said “to my great friend Jack.”
Dale Knally, a campaign worker in the 2004 Bush-Cheney re-election campaign, recalls a meeting between Bush and Abramoff during a campaign stop in Florida.
“He put his arm around Abramoff and told us that ‘this man is one of this administration’s greatest friends,’” Knally recalls. Knally declined a job in the Bush administration and returned to school after the election and remembers some in the campaign privately calling Abramoff a “sleazeball.”
“That campaign taught me that I never wanted anything to do with the Bush administration or politics again,” Knally said. “No matter how many showers I took, I couldn’t wash away the stench.”