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Abramoff Associates, Bush Aides Met Often

Associated Press
Thursday, September 21, 2006

Former associates of disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff had dozens of appointments with Bush administration staff members, according to Secret Service visitor logs the White House released yesterday to settle a lawsuit by the Democratic Party and an ethics watchdog group.

Republican activists Grover Norquist and Ralph Reed, political allies of President Bush and longtime Abramoff associates, totaled more than 100 visits to the Bush White House. Abramoff, a former GOP lobbyist, has pleaded guilty to fraud and is cooperating with prosecutors in an influence-peddling investigation. White House officials said they believe all their meetings that included Bush were group events, such as Christmas parties or policy briefings for GOP supporters.

Among others who visited White House staff members are two former Abramoff lobbying associates who have also pleaded guilty in the ongoing lobbying probe. Neil Volz, an aide to Rep. Robert W. Ney (R-Ohio) before joining Abramoff's lobbying team, had 18 appointments with White House aides. Tony Rudy, an aide to then-Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), visited the Bush White House 13 times.

Former Abramoff lobbying associate Kevin Ring, a former aide to Rep. John T. Doolittle (R-Calif.), had 21, and lobbyist Shawn Vasell had 18 -- two this year.

White House officials said Norquist, who runs the nonprofit Americans for Tax Reform, was cleared for 97 visits to the White House complex from 2001 to this year, half a dozen including Bush. Reed, former executive director of the Christian Coalition and an unsuccessful candidate for lieutenant governor in Georgia this year, got 18 meetings, including two events with Bush.

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