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The New York Times tries mightily to attach Jack Abramoff to George Bush in today's paper but misses wildly. Despite headlining Philip Shenon's report with "$25,000 to Lobby Group Is Tied to Access to Bush", the money never went to Bush or any funds connected to him, and all it got was an invitation to an event in which George Bush gave a speech:
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.
Mr. Norquist attended the meeting, along with Mr. Abramoff and the tribal leader, Raul Garza of the Kickapoo Traditional Tribe of Texas. It is not clear what role, if any, Mr. Norquist played in getting Chief Garza into the meeting, and there is no suggestion that the White House was aware of the $25,000 payment.
It's this last paragraph that makes the story and the headline a lesson in half-truth and deceptive writing. Abramoff did not direct the money to the White House, but an independent advocacy group for tax relief. The Times can't even connect the payment to any explicit action on the part of Grover Norquist, let alone the Bush administration. And the "meeting" that Chief Garza attended turns out to be a large gathering for a Bush speech, not some policy-setting tete-a-tete where Garza could influence national policy.
Even the Times seems to understand the flimsiness of this attack. Shenon writes that the episode "adds new details" to how Abramoff impressed his clients. It proves more that Abramoff's clients were not terribly sophisticated in politics or in lobbying. The Times shows no government action in return for this very expensive ticket to a speech, but it does mention that Garza managed to get a photograph taken with the President -- along with most of the other people at the event, presumably. That's the one where people had to play "Where's Waldo?" in order to find Abramoff in the background, a picture that people claimed to prove Abramoff's influence at the White House.
In the meantime, the New York Times has yet to cover the much-closer connection between Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, his four interventions on behalf of Abramoff clients, and the donations made directly to Reid. The AP revealed this over a month ago:
Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid wrote at least four letters helpful to Indian tribes represented by Jack Abramoff, and the senator's staff regularly had contact with the disgraced lobbyist's team about legislation affecting other clients.
The activities _ detailed in billing records and correspondence obtained by The Associated Press _ are far more extensive than previously disclosed. They occurred over three years as Reid collected nearly $68,000 in donations from Abramoff's firm, lobbying partners and clients. ...
Abramoff's records show his lobbying partners billed for nearly two dozen phone contacts or meetings with Reid's office in 2001 alone.
Most were to discuss Democratic legislation that would have applied the U.S. minimum wage to the Northern Mariana Islands, a U.S. territory and Abramoff client, but would have given the islands a temporary break on the wage rate, the billing records show.
Reid also intervened on government matters at least five times in ways helpful to Abramoff's tribal clients, once opposing legislation on the Senate floor and four times sending letters pressing the Bush administration on tribal issues. Reid collected donations around the time of each action.
Instead of perusing the guest book for people that Grover Norquist invited to a speech, perhaps the Times might be interested in how direct donations bought government action. Its silence on Reid speaks just as loudly as its dishonest and deceptive report here on George Bush.Sphere It View blog reactions
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