President George W. Bush’s ability to lie his way out of trouble is failing him as the White House tries unsuccessfully to hide the truth about the President’s close relationship to scandal-scarred lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
Nobody – Republican or Democrat – buys Bush’s ludicrous claims that he didn’t know Abramoff, the well-connected GOP lobbyist who raised more than $100,000 for his campaign, served on his transition team and whose lobbying logs listed more than 200 contacts a year with the White House.
Even Republican now publicly say Bush must come clean on just how many times he and his administration met with Abramoff and what White House action were affected by the influence peddler’s money.
“I’m one who believes that more is better, in terms of disclosure and transparency,”said Sen. John Thune, R-S.Don Fox News Sunday. “So I’d be a big advocate for making records that are out there available.”
And while Republicans publicly still support Bush, privately they admit the White House and the party are in serious trouble from the Abramoff affair.
“We came into town promising to clean up the system,” says one GOP Congressman elected in the Republican takeover of Congress in 1994. “Now we’re the very problem we promised to fix.”
Republican attempts to spin the Abramoff scandal as a bi-partisan problem where Democrats also took money from the tainted lobbyists have failed to sell with a public fed up with GOP corruption and abuse of power on Capitol Hill.
Abramoff was a product of a determined GOP effort to put more lobbyists on K Street, the stretch of Washington real estate that is home to many of the rich and powerful sellers of influence. That was former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay’s job and DeLay is as crooked as Abramoff.
“Fuck the law,” Delay told me in a meeting in 1990. “I don’t give a rat’s ass about the law.” I met with Delay through my role as Vice President for Political Programs for the National Association of Realtors. DeLay wanted us to hire more Republicans.
When I told Delay that I didn’t care whether the folks I hired were Republican or Democrat as long as they did the job, he got mad.
“Listen you cocksucker,” he said, his eyes narrowing. “I’m tired of mealy-mouthed assholes like you kowtowing to the Democrats. We’re keeping a list and you’re on it. Either start supporting Republicans or you’ll find yourself out in the cold.”
I kept good notes on that meeting so I could report back to my boss, Realtor chief lobbyist Stephen Driesler, who laughed and shook his head.
“Yeah, that’s Tom,” he said, “but we have to listen to him because he will be a power someday.”
DeLay became even more of a power when Republicans took control of Congress in 1994. That power intensified with his political buddy George W. Bush took office in 2001 and both DeLay and Bush gladly accepted political largesse from their good buddy Jack Abramoff.
Bush introduced Abramoff to a campaign gathering in Florida in 2004, calling the lobbyist “a great friend to this administration.” Capitol Hill Blue first revealed on January 18 that the lobbyist kept pictures of he and the President today at his office, including one taken at the President’s ranch in Crawford, Texas, and autographed to “My great friend Jack.” Other news sources quickly followed with reports of the photos but the White House refused to release them.
Bush also faces damaging new information that his former chief procurement officer, David Safavian provided “sensitive and confidential information” about four subsidiaries of Tyco International to Abramoff, warning the lobbyist of pending government actions against his clients.
Court records in a pending criminal case against Safavian also show a tight relationship between Abramoff and David Flanigan, a lawyer for Tyco who was nominated by Bush last October to be assistant attorney general under Alberto Gonzales. Bush later withdrew the nomination when questions surfaced over his relationship with Safavian and Abramoff.