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White House review on lobbyist criticized as inadequate in proposed US House panel report

White House review on lobbyist criticized as inadequate in proposed US House panel report

The White House conducted an inadequate and incomplete internal review of its involvement with convicted influence peddler Jack Abramoff and his lobbying team, a US House of Representatives' committee draft report says.
Abramoff is serving prison time for a fraudulent Florida casino deal and faces sentencing in his scheme to bribe public officials in Washington. He agreed to become a witness against Washington officials he treated to lavish meals, golf vacations and money when he was one of the most powerful lobbyists in the capital.
The report was compiled by the staff of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, chaired by Rep. Henry Waxman, a Democrat. The report will be considered at a committee meeting Thursday.
The draft report says that as White House officials were telling the public it was undertaking a thorough review of contacts with Abramoff, they failed to question five former officials who were key points of contact for the Abramoff lobbying team.
For example, the report says, Matt Schlapp, a former White House director of political affairs, did not recall any consultation from White House officials before they made public statements about Abramoff's contacts with the White House.
In an interview with Waxman's investigators, Schlapp estimated that he had monthly contact with Abramoff on subjects that often involved official government business.
Questioned by Waxman's investigators, Schlapp, who worked for top Bush political adviser Karl Rove, described Abramoff as a "point of information" because of his knowledge and his experience and his judgment on issues surrounding politics and policy "and how the town works."
In response, White House spokesman Tony Fratto noted the "difficulty of conducting in-house investigations while there are other ongoing investigations outside the White House." The Justice Department has been investigating the Abramoff scandal since 2004.
The White House investigation resulted in the resignation of Rove executive assistant Susan Ralston, who left after Waxman's committee reported that she had accepted tickets to sporting events and concerts from Abramoff.
The House committee report said it had corroborated findings from a September 2006 report by the committee staff that the Abramoff lobbying team offered White House officials expensive tickets and meals, at least some of which were accepted.
Fratto, the White House spokesman, called the House report "warmed-up leftovers. There is nothing significantly new in the report. If anything it confirms that Abramoff was decidedly unsuccessful in his attempts to influence administration policy."


Updated : 2021-02-27 09:45 GMT+08:00