A Slick Oil Offer

By Al Kamen
Friday, December 16, 2005

Gerhard Schroeder, German chancellor just the other day, raised eyebrows last week when he announced he has taken a job with Gazprom, a huge state-controlled Russian energy company.

Now there's chatter that former commerce secretary Donald L. Evans , who headed President Bush 's campaigns going back to Texas gubernatorial races and the 2000 presidential contest, also got a fine job offer when he was in Moscow recently for a meeting of the American Chamber of Commerce in Russia.

Seems Evans, a Texas oilman, met with former KGB thug and now Russian President Vladimir Putin , and Putin offered him the job of chairman of the board of Rosneft, the country's third-largest oil company. Rosneft is a state-owned operation run by the guys who destroyed Yukos, which was run by Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky .

A source close to Evans has confirmed there was a meeting with Putin and didn't deny the job was offered, which set off a flurry of speculation. But Evans is said to have told friends he's not interested.

It's not clear what compensation package was dangled. Obviously we're talking a seven-figure salary, lots of fine perks and, of course, in the finest Soviet tradition, the right to steal as much as you can. Tough to turn that down.

The downside, though, is that Putin can always send you to a very, very cold place if you irritate him.

All Is Calm, All Is Bright at Interior

Imagine the joy at the Interior Department Christmas party when guests were greeted by Secretary Gale A. Norton and her former No. 2, J. Steven Griles , who left to work as a lobbyist and is under a bit of a cloud because of his connections to former crack lobbyist Jack Abramoff .

Documents released by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and the Senate Finance Committee reportedly reflect more than half a dozen contacts Griles had with Abramoff or with a woman working as the lobbyist's go-between. The contacts concerned gambling-related issues affecting four tribal clients who were paying Abramoff tens of millions of dollars to represent them.

Abramoff, who once owned a positively dreadful kosher deli on Pennsylvania Avenue NW called Stacks, is under a criminal investigation and Michael Scanlon , his partner, has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to bribe lawmakers.

But all that was put aside in the spirit of the season as Griles stood next to Norton, warmly greeting his former underlings, and everyone wished everyone a happy holiday.

That's News to Her

White House communications director Nicolle Wallace , interviewed by Fox News's Bill O'Reilly on Wednesday: "Thank God 65 to 70 percent of the American people don't get their news from any of those places," referring to the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Boston Globe. "They get their news from the local paper that they look at."

Maybe she forgot most of those local papers pick up our wire services?

Iraqi Voting System Is an Oldie but Goodie

The Iraqi elections have been big news, including articles about early voting by Iraqis living in the Washington area. Qubad Talabani , son of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and Washington representative of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, was spotted at Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice 's holiday party Wednesday night, proudly displaying an ink-stained index finger showing he voted. Many less technologically advanced countries use paper ballots for voting and then ink stains to prevent anyone from voting more than once. But Talabani had nothing but praise for the old-fashioned Iraqi system, hailing the paper ballots and ink as more accurate and effective than depending on, say, hanging chads. Well . . .

Why One Word When 15 Will Do?

Speaking of Iraq, the administration's effort to find words other than "insurgents" to describe the bad guys there kicked into high gear yesterday. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld hailed the Iraqi elections as a "defeat for the people who have been doing the beheadings and conducting the suicide raids," or PWHBDBACSRs, and for the "enemies of the legitimate Iraqi government," or ELIGs.

Schumer's Day Off(line)

THIS JUST IN! From Israel Klein , spokesman for Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.): Our office e-mail systems will be undergoing maintenance that will keep us COMPLETELY off-line tomorrow and possibly into the weekend. . . .

A day without a Schumer e-mail? What will the press do? As Robert J. Dole said: "The most dangerous place in Washington is between Charles Schumer and a television camera."


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