Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The plot thickens

Remember, the White House is clinging to the claim that Bush "doesn't know Abramoff personally." Which, like most things the White House says when defending the president's wrongdoing, means nothing. It doesn't mean the Bush and Abramoff haven't met, and it apparently doesn't mean Bush didn't benefit from Abramoff's activities.

President Bush's re-election campaign is giving up $6,000 in campaign contributions connected to lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who faced more guilty pleas as part of a broad-ranging political corruption investigation.

Bush joined several lawmakers, including House Speaker Dennis Hastert and former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who have announced plans to donate Abramoff's campaign contributions to charity.

Abramoff raised at least $100,000 for the Bush-Cheney '04 re-election campaign, earning the honorary title "pioneer" from the campaign. But the campaign is returning only $6,000 directly from Abramoff, his wife and one of the Indian tribes that he worked to win influence for in Washington.

Abramoff, his wife and the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan each donated $2,000 to the Bush campaign, said Republican National Committee spokeswoman Tracey Schmitt.

"As it stands, this is what we are returning," Schmitt said.

White House press secretary Scott McClellan said Wednesday that Bush does not know Abramoff personally, although it's possible that the two met at holiday receptions. Abramoff attended three Hanukkah receptions at the Bush White House, the spokesman said.
Frankly, I don't care if Bush ever met Abramoff. The fact that Bush benefitted from Abramoff's activities to the tune of at least $100,000 is more important to me than whether the dirty lobbyist ever had any face time inside the bubble.

If you're wondering why the Bush campaign is returning only $6,000, you're not alone. But I would suggest that the campaign soon may be returning contributions from another "pioneer" in trouble with the law: Ohio's Tom Noe.

Remember what I said about how you could identify the guilty parties in this case? That they would be the ones dissembling to distance themselves from Abramoff. Well, I think "White House press secretary Scott McClellan said Wednesday that Bush does not know Abramoff personally, although it's possible that the two met at holiday receptions. Abramoff attended three Hanukkah receptions at the Bush White House" qualifies as distancing.

Also scrambling away from Abramoff these days are Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, former Speaker of the House Tom DeLay and Rep. Bob Ney. Do you know what they have in common? Of course you do, but I need a segue: They're Republicans.

The fact is that this is almost entirely a Republican scandal. Those who benefitted from Abramoff's activities are almost exclusively Republicans. But any lobbyist worth his salt is going to make connections in both parties because, unlike the current GOP majority, he realizes that sooner or later the balance of power is going to shift. From the Washington Post:

Most lobbying firms here are bipartisan, to give their clients access to key lawmakers of both major parties. Abramoff's group was no exception. Although he was recognized as a Republican lobbyist who was close to DeLay and other party leaders, Abramoff was careful to add at least two Democratic lobbyists to his group during his five years at Greenberg Traurig. By the end, seven of his lobbyists were Democrats.

"Lobbying shops typically direct contributions to both parties because they want contacts on both sides of the aisle," said David M. Hart, a professor of public policy at George Mason University. "Lawmakers in the minority can also have a lot of clout."

Because of the makeup of his team and the composition of Congress, the Abramoff lobbyists channeled most of their clients' giving to GOP legislators, according to a review of public records.
In other words, the Democrats had little clout to sell, so Jack wasn't buying.

Still, the MSM strives for "balance," the journalistic principle that there are two sides to every story, therefore every story should reflect both sides. That's fine, but you shouldn't create a false impression to satisfy the need to create balance. There's no value in balancing truth with lies.

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