Correction to This Article
ยท In A-section articles June 10 and June 19, the first name of former State Department official Allen Stayman was misspelled.
PULLING STRINGS

Abramoff Used White House To Help Get Rid of Roadblock

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By R. Jeffrey Smith
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 19, 2008

If lobbyists find the path to their clients' riches obstructed by an implacably hostile federal official, they might achieve success by an end run or an appeal to more senior authorities. But a more extreme solution -- if the foe has high-level support -- is to pull strings at the White House and orchestrate the official's removal.

That option was chosen by Jack Abramoff and his colleagues at the Washington office of Greenberg Traurig in the Bush administration's early days, to oust Alan Stayman from a State Department negotiating job. Stayman had earned their ire by advocating labor reforms in the Northern Mariana Islands, a U.S. protectorate where Abramoff's clients wanted to keep paying immigrants less than the federal minimum wage to work in textile factories.

Stayman was supported by James A. Kelly, who was a White House aide to President Ronald Reagan and served as the State Department's assistant secretary of state for East Asia and the Pacific from 2001 to 2005. Kelly, citing ongoing negotiations with Micronesia and the Marshall Islands, told his department's personnel office on May 1, 2001, that he wanted Stayman to remain for two more years.

But Abramoff's path to success in what an aide called "the Stayman project" is spelled out in a set of internal White House, State Department and Greenberg Traurig e-mails provided to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and made public last week.

Providing a rare glimpse of high-level, behind-the-scenes string-pulling, they show how Abramoff, now serving a prison term for fraud, tax evasion and conspiracy, relied on key White House contacts, including Susan Ralston, executive assistant to political adviser Karl Rove; Monica Kladakis, then deputy White House personnel chief; and Ken Mehlman, then the White House political director.

Each had ties to Abramoff and his aides. Ralston was an Abramoff assistant at Greenberg before joining Rove's staff in February 2001, Kladakis had worked in the House Republican whip's office with Abramoff aide Tony Rudy, and Mehlman went to Abramoff's house for a Sabbath dinner and saw him at Republican events. Another key participant was Matt Schlapp, then Mehlman's deputy.

Here is a sampling of their 2001 e-mail traffic:

Jan. 29: Rudy to a Greenberg colleague: "We need to get the background material on stayman to ken mehlman. . . . He said he would kill him."

Colleague to Rudy: "What???"

Rudy to colleague: "Mehlman said he would get him fired."

Colleague to Rudy: "Excellent."

May 9: Kladakis to Rudy: "I have not forgotten your concern about Alan Stayman -- we just have had to work on filling our top positions before focusing on the possibly problematic people."


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