Abramoff Lobbying of White House Probed
Saturday, July 15, 2006
The House Government Reform Committee has subpoenaed the former law firm of convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff for records of any contacts he or members of his lobbying team had with the Bush White House.
Chairman Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.) authorized a subpoena weeks ago to Greenberg Traurig, according to several of the law firm's former clients who have been notified that it is turning over billing records, e-mails, phone logs and other material that reflects efforts to lobby the White House.
Representatives of four of Abramoff's former tribal clients said they have been notified by Greenberg Traurig that the firm is turning over records. In some cases, there were scores of phone calls or other contacts with the White House. It is not known whether any of those contacts resulted in improper aid to Abramoff. Several tribal representatives said they believe many contacts were with staff members at the White House office of intergovernmental affairs.
The subpoena -- read to The Washington Post by a former client who received a copy from Greenberg Traurig -- seeks all firm billing records "referring or relating to matters involving Jack Abramoff or any person working with Jack Abramoff," as well as all records reflecting any contacts those lobbyists had with the White House. The subpoena seeks records from Jan. 1, 1998, to the present, though Abramoff did not begin work at Greenberg Traurig until early 2001.
J. Keith Ausbrook, chief counsel to the Government Reform Committee, yesterday declined to discuss the scope of any investigation. "We're not commenting at this point on the existence of a subpoena," he said. The panel is charged with oversight of the executive branch.
Abramoff has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to bribe government officials. To date, most of those implicated in the wide-ranging criminal probe of his activities have been members of Congress and their aides. It is a group that has largely escaped scrutiny on Capitol Hill, though the House ethics committee announced in May that after many months of inactivity it was looking into bribery allegations involving two lawmakers, one of whom had dealings with Abramoff.
A spokeswoman for Greenberg Traurig declined to discuss what the firm has turned over to the committee. But she said in a statement that "consistent with our ethical obligations to clients, our firm has cooperated fully with ongoing government investigations, and refrains from commenting on matters that are the subject of such investigations."
Abramoff, a major fundraiser for George W. Bush in the 2000 election, had a half-dozen appointments at the White House in the early months of the administration, according to logs released this month by the U.S. Secret Service. Some were social events, others were group events involving tribal officials. On one occasion, Abramoff unsuccessfully sought presidential adviser Karl Rove's assistance in placing associates at the Interior Department.
The Senate Indian Affairs Committee has already subpoenaed Greenberg Traurig for material relating to Abramoff's dealings with Indian tribes. The firm produced a trove of embarrassing e-mails between Abramoff and his lobbying team that received wide attention in hearings in 2004 and 2005.
Because of that panel's limited jurisdiction, the committee largely steered clear of examining Abramoff's dealings with the White House and Congress, although it spotlighted his lobbying team's contacts with Rep. Robert W. Ney (R-Ohio) on behalf of a Texas tribe.
The Justice Department's investigation is scrutinizing Ney and several other lawmakers. It has led to guilty pleas from three former congressional aides who went to work for Abramoff -- two of them former aides to Tom DeLay (R), who stepped down as House majority leader and resigned from Congress this spring.