Papers Show Bush Allies' Inside Access

The Associated Press
Thursday, September 21, 2006; 7:20 PM

WASHINGTON -- The White House acknowledged Thursday it has more records that may show visits by GOP activists Grover Norquist and Ralph Reed but has no plans to disclose them.

The Bush administration on Wednesday provided more than 1,000 pages of Secret Service visitor logs showing appointments at the White House complex by Norquist, Reed and several others who were involved with disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

The records showed Reed and Norquist had extensive access to presidential aides, with at least 115 appointments at the White House since 2001. In some instances, Norquist stayed inside the White House for between eight hours and 12 hours at a time, the documents show.

The release settled an open records lawsuit by the Democratic National Committee.

The government watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington also sued for the records. The group disclosed Thursday that it was told during settlement discussions that the actual number of meetings for Reed and Norquist was much higher _ closer to 200.

Executive director Melanie Sloan said her group was not satisfied with the release of the documents so far and intends to continue pursuing its case.

"We believe there are more records out there," Sloan said, adding that her group will ask permission from the court to interview officials and gather documents on the administration's recordkeeping practices. "Mere documents won't settle our questions."

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino declined a request by The Associated Press for access to any additional White House records showing visits by Reed and Norquist.

Perino said the administration will ask the court to dismiss the suit.

Questions about Norquist's and Reed's access to the Bush White House surfaced after congressional and criminal investigations of Abramoff found evidence suggesting the lobbyist and his team gained White House access through the conservative activists.

Abramoff, who charged Indian tribes millions of dollars to lobby on behalf of their casino interests and other issues, has pleaded guilty to fraud.

He is cooperating with prosecutors who are trying to piece together the extent of his influence-peddling on Capitol Hill. The scandal ensnared Ohio Republican Rep. Robert Ney, who agreed this month to plead guilty to corruption charges.

Norquist founded the nonprofit Americans for Taxpayer Reform and developed it into a major force inside the Republican Party. He also helped facilitate some lobbying contacts for Abramoff, a longtime friend.

Reed was a former head of the Christian Coalition who ran unsuccessfully for Georgia's lieutenant governor this year. He did work for Abramoff's clients, earning more than $4 million for various interests Reed controlled.

© 2006 The Associated Press