Bush to Give Up $6,000 In Abramoff Contributions

By Jonathan Weisman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 5, 2006

Republican Party officials said yesterday that President Bush will give up $6,000 in campaign contributions connected to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, joining an expansive list of politicians who have shed more than half a million dollars in tainted campaign cash.

The announcement came as Abramoff pleaded guilty in a second criminal case, acknowledging that he conspired to defraud lenders in the purchase of a fleet of Florida casino boats five years ago. The court appearance in Miami came a day after Abramoff pleaded guilty before a federal judge in Washington to defrauding Indian tribe clients of millions of dollars, conspiring to bribe members of Congress and evading taxes.

Under plea agreements negotiated in the two federal cases, the once-powerful lobbyist promised to provide evidence and testimony in a wide-ranging Justice Department investigation of the lobbying of Congress and of federal agencies.

Fearful of the adverse political fallout from the expanding corruption investigation, Republicans in both houses of Congress moved forward with face-saving legislation to tighten lobbying regulations and to discourage dealings between lawmakers and influence-peddlers.

Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) called again for a limit on "pork-barrel" projects in annual spending bills, which Abramoff himself has called "favor factories."

And the conservative National Review -- a staunch defender of Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) in his fight against campaign finance charges in his home state -- urged the lawmaker to give up his bid to return to the GOP leadership, citing his close connections to Abramoff.

Republican leaders in Washington hope the legislative moves and campaign refunds will insulate their party as Abramoff begins cooperating with one of the largest congressional corruption investigations in decades.

"The problem is that power corrupts, and we simply have too much of it," Flake said.

White House press secretary Scott McClellan said that Bush does not know Abramoff personally, although the two may have met at holiday receptions.

Abramoff raised more than $100,000 for the Bush-Cheney reelection campaign, making him an honorary Bush "Pioneer." But the campaign is giving up only $6,000, which came directly from Abramoff, his wife and one of the Indian tribes the lobbyist represented. The money will be donated to the American Heart Association.

The gesture was criticized by the watchdog group Public Citizen, which called for an accounting of all the money that Abramoff had raised for the campaign.

"President Bush needs to . . . reveal just how much money Abramoff raised for him and who that money came from," said Frank Clemente, director of Public Citizen's Congress Watch.

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