Thursday, November 10, 2005

Bongo Goes to Washington

From the New York Times:

The lobbyist Jack Abramoff asked for $9 million in 2003 from the president of a West African nation to arrange a meeting with President Bush and directed his fees to a Maryland company now under federal scrutiny, according to newly disclosed documents.

The African leader, President Omar Bongo of Gabon, met with President Bush in the Oval Office on May 26, 2004, 10 months after Mr. Abramoff made the offer. There has been no evidence in the public record that Mr. Abramoff had any role in organizing the meeting or that he received any money or had a signed contract with Gabon.

White House and State Department officials described Mr. Bush’s meeting with President Bongo, whose government is regularly accused by the United States of human rights abuses, as routine. The officials said they knew of no involvement by Mr. Abramoff in the arrangements. Officials at Gabon’s embassy in Washington did not respond to written questions.

[…]

A document from Mr. Abramoff’s files that was released last week by a Senate committee shows that in the summer of 2003 he pushed to sign President Bongo as a client, even offering to travel to Gabon immediately after an August golfing vacation to Scotland “with the congressmen and senators I take there each year.”

The documents also show that Mr. Abramoff and his colleagues drew up a draft contract that called for $9 million in fees to be paid to GrassRoots Interactive, the small Maryland lobbying company that his former colleagues say he controlled.

Documents, including copies of canceled checks, show that millions of dollars flowed through the company’s accounts in 2003, the year it was created, including at least $2.3 million to a California consulting firm that used the same address as the law office of Mr. Abramoff’s brother, Robert. A separate check for $400,000 was made out to Kay Gold, another Abramoff family company.

Mr. Abramoff, a Republican fund-raiser who once was one of the most powerful lobbyists in Washington, has been indicted in Florida on federal fraud charges. He is also under investigation by a federal grand jury in Washington and two Senate committees.

Oh, if there’s a connection between Bush and Abramoff…

In the hyperbolic chamber inside the Beltway this sort of stuff may be de riguer, but if this was the Clinton administration, you can bet there would be a lynch mob in Brooks Brothers suits on Capitol Hill just going nuts.