|Page 4 of 4 <|
Foreign Lobbies Took the Guise Of Nonprofits
When Mahathir arrived that spring for a visit with President Bush, he was welcomed on Capitol Hill. The prime minister met with then-Senate Majority Leader Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.), DeLay and Hastert, among others. And Meeks and Sessions announced the creation of a congressional caucus on Malaysia Trade, Security and Economic Cooperation.
Amid Scandal, One Last Trip
By the beginning of 2006, Alexander Strategy Group had shut down the Korea and Malaysia nonprofits -- just before the lobbying firm itself went out of business because of its links to the Abramoff scandal. Buckham is referenced in the plea agreement of his former colleague, Tony Rudy, who admitted to corruption charges stemming from his work as a lobbyist and as deputy chief of staff to DeLay.
The FBI has questioned witnesses in recent months about Alexander Strategy's use of nonprofits and its hiring of congressional spouses, including Julie Doolittle and Christine DeLay, wife of the former House majority leader.
Alexander Strategy paid Julie Doolittle about $30,000 to do bookkeeping for the Korea nonprofit. Other contracting work by Julie Doolittle, for one of Abramoff's charities, has led investigators in the Abramoff probe to scrutinize John Doolittle's activities, sources have told The Post.
Blackann, John Doolittle's spokeswoman, did not respond to a question about whether the congressman knew that the Korea nonprofit, which helped pay for his February 2005 trip to Asia, was funded by a foreign corporation.
The Doolittle trip was the last one sponsored by the nonprofits as a wave of controversy about overseas junkets and lobbying abuses swept the Capitol. Also on the trip, which cost more than $80,000, were congressmen Wicker and Pomeroy, Wicker's wife, and a Wicker aide.
The contingent spent four days in Korea before flying to Kuala Lumpur for two days, where they met the Malaysian prime minister. Pomeroy flew home, and Doolittle and his daughter, Wicker and his wife, and the aide spent three days at a resort hotel in Langkawi, an island whose beaches are rated among the world's 10 best by a National Geographic Society publication.
Accompanying the congressmen were three Belle Haven representatives, Malaysia politician Jarjis and three lobbyists -- Wallop, Alexander Strategy's Stewart and Johnson, who by then had moved from the Harbour Group to the Glover Park Group.
Doolittle, Wicker and Pomeroy said the trip had been approved in advance by the ethics committee. But House ethics rules leave it up to individual members to determine whether a trip meets the standard of official duties.
"I was disappointed to learn -- upon returning -- that the groups in question had failed to properly file their status," Pomeroy said in a statement. "Knowing what I know now, I would not have gone on these trips."
Doolittle spokeswoman Blackann said that the first six days involved official meetings and briefings and that Doolittle paid for the recreational activities, which took place on the weekend. Doolittle declined to make available the receipts, kept in Washington, because he was campaigning in California.
Blackann also said Doolittle returned gifts received on the trip, which people familiar with the details of the trip said included a hand-tailored Korean suit for the congressman and a stylish equestrian outfit for his daughter from the Royal Polo Club in Kuala Lampur.
The spokeswoman said the congressmen also took a boat ride "to visit areas that had been ravaged by the tsunami" that had hit the South Pacific two months earlier.
A news report days after the tidal wave said Langkawi received comparatively minimal damage and "remained normal with hordes of tourists going about their holiday without any worry."
Wicker, in an interview, acknowledged that the island visit was meant for relaxation. He said he and his wife also got massages.
The itinerary for Langkawi was to look at tsunami damage and "to have a little downtime," Wicker said. "But the logistics of getting to the tsunami became a problem. It did become a couple of days of downtime."
Research editor Alice Crites contributed to this report.