Members of Congress who accompanied former K Street lobbying powerhouse Jack Abramoff on golf trips to Scotland in the summer of 2003 might have looked for another junket instead if they had seen this three-page pitch letter Abramoff wrote on July 28 that year to Gabonese President Omar Bongo.
Abramoff's lobbying activities for his firm Greenberg Traurig LLP, including trips he arranged for members of Congress, are the subject of a criminal investigation as well as an inquiry by the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, which included this letter in documents released last week.
-- Sue Schmidt
Excerpts from Abramoff's letter:
Dear Mr. President,
. . . Our firm is one of the very top lobbying and public affairs law firms in the nation. We have a wealth of powerful corporate and government clients who keep our team of lobbyists very active. Our success rate is exceptional.
. . . I have been cautiously working to obtain a visit for the President . . . to see President Bush, the Congress and policy and opinion makers in the United States. As you know, we were, in advance of the war in Iraq, able to secure a tentative date for this meeting, however, the war cancelled all such scheduled visits, with the exception of the critical US war allies.
Since the time of the war, we have been discussing a rescheduling of the meeting. . . .
Our firm was approached by a neighboring nation which also desired such a meeting, and indeed much more than a meeting. Of course, our firm's main strength is not in just setting up meetings, but in changing and impacting US policy, so to the neighbor, the meeting is important, but merely the tip of the iceberg.
The neighbor has offered to put up the resources which are necessary to not only secure a meeting, but more importantly, to commence a policy effort in Washington which could impact America's Africa policy in limited ways. These resources are substantial and would be used to build a support network for the neighbor which would enable the decision makers to move the neighbor up on the priority list. . . .
Roger [an unidentified friend who suggested this letter] told me not to make a decision yet. . . . [He] told me that Gabon still wished our services and would match the offer of the neighbor. I told him that I am being called incessantly by the neighbor so, if this was a real offer, we needed to confirm it quickly. I have a fiduciary obligation to the firm to confirm possible representations with great certitude.
. . . I suggested that I visit Gabon after my trip to Scotland in mid August, but that in order for me to preserve this and be able to turn down the neighbor's offer, we had to commence the representation, even in small part, perhaps ten percent . . . . Please bear in mind that the neighbor's proposal was to pay the entire amount up front.
. . . [As] with all my clients around the world, if I am required to travel, it must be on the basis by which I travel anywhere, being in a private aircraft, which bears a substantial cost unfortunately. . . . I have always insisted -- even to clients whom I have represented for many years -- that the costs are covered in advance. . . .
. . . I would be quite unpopular at my firm if I were to forego a multi-million dollar firm offer on the hope of a similar opportunity elsewhere.
I suggested again that we commence with a small amount, so that I can secure the firm, and we can commence what will be a very difficult task of achieving the meeting. . . .
I am willing to visit after my visit to Scotland with the Congressmen and Senators I take there each year. It is possible that they will want to join me in Gabon, which would be an extra bonus. . . . [In] order to do this, we must commence the effort as soon as possible and I must know that the extra costs of prolonging my trip can be covered in advance.
I am sorry for all of these logistical details, but we are a firm in high demand and it is my responsibility to ensure that our business approach is prudent. I am confident that we will have a long, productive and warm relationship, but good relationships are built on firm understandings at the outset.
. . . I do need to resolve this one way or another with the neighbor by next week. At that time, I will have delayed them for almost three weeks beyond when they wished to commence the representation. . . .
With high regard and much admiration, I am
Senior Director, Government Affairs