18 January 2006

Did Democratic Leadership Get The Memo?

Clean Harry is at it again, this time pressuring the White House to disclose information about Jack Abramoff's visits and meetings. The letter, in full, via TalkLeft:
Dear Mr. President:

The Justice Department is currently investigating the web of corruption surrounding lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Even at this early stage of the investigation, there is reason to believe that Mr. Abramoff may have had undue and improper influence within your Administration. There is no reason to wait for indictments or convictions before the American people learn of the role Mr. Abramoff played in the Bush White House. We therefore call on you to make public as soon as possible an accounting of Mr. Abramoff’s personal contacts with Bush Administration officials and the official acts that may have been undertaken at his request.

Some of Mr. Abramoff’s ties to the White House have already been reported in the press. For example, it is well known that Mr. Abramoff was a prodigious Republican fundraiser who attained the rank of “Pioneer” after raising over $100,000 for the 2004 Bush-Cheney reelection campaign. You have returned $6,000 of that money, but have not answered the question of what benefits, if any, were extended to Mr. Abramoff on account of his Pioneer status.

It has also been reported that Mr. Abramoff served as an adviser to your transition team and that you met with him personally. The American people have a right to know how many times you and senior staff met with Abramoff, and what benefits, if any, Abramoff received from this high degree of access.

In addition, it has been reported that your Administration removed a federal prosecutor who was investigating Mr. Abramoff’s secret lobbying contract with court officials in the U.S. territory of Guam. Indeed, the prosecutor was replaced only one day after he issued a subpoena for records, and the case was subsequently dropped. The Guam public auditor has since concluded that territory officials paid Mr. Abramoff, via a third party, a total of $324,000 in smaller increments in an effort to circumvent the requirement of a sealed bid. Did the White House exert any improper influence on behalf of Mr. Abramoff in this case?

Finally, David Safavian, who served as the chief procurement officer in your Administration, was recently charged with obstructing Senate and executive branch investigations into whether he aided Mr. Abramoff in efforts to acquire property controlled by the General Services Administration. Were other White House officials aware of Mr. Safavian’s ties to Abramoff, and did those ties play a role in Safavian’s appointment to a high-ranking Administration position?

While the above-described connections between Abramoff and the Bush Administration have been reported, others remain unknown. For example, Americans have a right to more information about Abramoff’s role in the “K Street Project,” the initiative launched by Republicans in the1990’s to link lobbyists to Republican officials in Congress and the executive branch. What role did your Administration play in the K Street Project, and did White House officials have direct contact with Abramoff in this regard?

In the upcoming State of the Union address, you will presumably call for reforms to address lobbying abuses. But such rhetoric will ring hollow until you reveal the ways in which Jack Abramoff himself may have improperly influenced your Administration over the past five years. As the leader of your party, you have the opportunity to set an example and call for openness and accountability from your fellow Republicans. The American people need to be assured that the White House is not for sale.

Sens. Durbin, Stabenow and Schumer also signed on. In addition, Durbin has proposed legislation concerning the cell phone privacy issue that raised some dust of late. Congratulations, Senate Democrats, you're on your way to becoming relevant again.


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