White House Fails Self-Examination

By Dan Froomkin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Tuesday, June 10, 2008; 1:14 PM

A glimpse of what "internal review" means to this White House supports the theory that top Bush aides have little interest in self-examination or public disclosure.

After a Sept. 2006 Congressional report based on records from convicted influence peddler Jack Abramoff's lobbying firm revealed 485 contacts between Abramoff and his associates and White House officials, then-press secretary Tony Snow promised White House lawyers would take a "good hard look" at the relationship with Abramoff. "We'll let you know what they found out," Snow said. "That's an important concern, and it's worth looking into."

Four days later, an assistant to political guru Karl Rove was jettisoned from the White House. Susan Ralston, who had worked for Abramoff before Rove, had accepted tickets to nine events from her old boss while providing him information and access.

And with that, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino announced: Our review of the House Government Reform Committee's report is complete. . . . We expect nothing more after our thorough review."

How thorough was that review? A new Abramoff report released by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee yesterday -- this one based on documents and testimony from White House officials -- finds no evidence of any review at all.

"The Committee asked several former White House officials interviewed or deposed by the Committee whether the White House contacted them to inquire about their contacts with Mr. Abramoff. None of the White House officials who spoke with the Committee had any recollection of White House officials asking them about their contacts with Mr. Abramoff or his associates," the report states.

"[T]he White House never questioned five former White House officials who were key points of contact for the Abramoff team. For example, [Matt Schlapp, a former White House director of political affairs] who testified that Mr. Abramoff was a resource for him and was known and respected at the White House while he was serving there, did not recall any consultation from White House officials before they made public statements about Mr. Abramoff's minimal contacts with the White House." And so on.

"This evidence suggests that the White House failed to conduct even the most basic internal investigation of the White House relationship with Mr. Abramoff before making public statements characterizing the connection between Mr. Abramoff and the White House."

Pete Yost writes for the Associated Press: "In response, White House spokesman Tony Fratto noted the 'difficulty of conducting in-house investigations while there are other ongoing investigations outside the White House.' The Justice Department has been investigating the Abramoff scandal since 2004."

The Coverage

Marisa Taylor writes for McClatchy Newspapers: "Convicted superlobbyist Jack Abramoff influenced White House actions while his firm wooed administration officials over expensive meals and plied them with box tickets to sporting events, according to a House of Representatives committee report released Monday.

"The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform said Monday that it had received new White House documents and testimony that confirmed 80 White House contacts with Abramoff and uncovered 70 others despite White House assertions that Abramoff had vastly overblown his administration connections. Abramoff, who's cooperating with federal prosecutors after pleading guilty in an expanding corruption investigation, previously reported that his former firm had more than 400 contacts with White House officials.

"The House report obtained photos of Abramoff meeting President Bush on six occasions, including political receptions. Bush has said he doesn't remember Abramoff, and the White House has refused to release the photos. The committee posted low-quality versions of them on its Web site Monday after receiving them from the White House."

CONTINUED     1                 >

© 2008 The Washington Post Company