DNC: I Don't Recall": Mehlman's Abramoff Defense
Outstanding Questions For Ken Mehlman
Washington, DC - Yesterday on CNN, Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman gave evasive explanations on whether, while he served as Political Director in the Bush White House, he helped the clients of convicted former GOP superlobbyist Jack Abramoff by having a State Department employee fired. Three times during his interview, Mehlman said "I don't recall." [CNN, 10/15/06] Despite Mehlman's statement yesterday on CNN that he "let the decision makers make the decisions" on issues important to Abramoff's clients while he was White House Political Director, hundreds of pages of recently released emails tell a different story. In fact, Mehlman worked so closely with Abramoff that other White House staff asked Abramoff to "contact Ken only" when he needed assistance.
The fact is Mehlman met with Abramoff on at least six occasions, and he may have delivered for his clients at least three times. Abramoff and his associates claimed that Mehlman got a State Department employee that Abramoff didn't like fired; Mehlman allegedly "took care" of getting $16 million released for one of Abramoff's tribal clients; and there are questions about whether Mehlman got the White House to weigh in on behalf of Abramoff's chosen candidates in an upcoming election in Guam.
Outstanding Questions For Ken Mehlman
1) What exactly did you do on behalf of Abramoff's clients while you were one of President Bush's top political strategists?
2) What meetings did you set up for Abramoff's clients?
3) What, if anything, did you receive in return from Abramoff for your assistance?
4) Did you authorize or know about the leaking of top secret information relevant to Guam to Jack Abramoff?
5) Did you free up millions for a jail for Abramoff's clients in return for RNC campaign cash?
"Ken Mehlman's faulty memory leaves more questions than answers about his dealings with convicted former Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff," said Democratic National Committee Press Secretary Stacie Paxton. "Mehlman's refusal to be honest with the American people is one more example of the GOP leadership putting their party before the American people and refusing to deal with their ever-growing Republican culture of corruption. Democrats remain committed to a new direction for America that includes honesty and ethics in government."
Commonwealth Of The Northern Marianas Islands
Abramoff's CNMI Lobbying Team Had "Extensive Access" to Bush Administration Officials. According to his lobbying firm's billing records, Jack Abramoff and his Marianas Islands lobbying team had almost 200 contacts with Bush Administration officials. The records include meetings with Cheney policy advisers Ron Christie and Stephen Ruhlen, Attorney General Ashcroft at the Justice Department, White House intergovernmental affairs chief Ruben Barrales, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick, Deputy Interior Secretary Steven Griles and others. While records show that many of the meetings were handled by Abramoff's lieutenants, Abramoff personally with Top Interior Department officials, "whose Office of Insular Affairs oversees the Mariana Islands and other U.S. territories." [AP, 5/6/05]
Abramoff Had At Least Six Direct Contacts With Ken Mehlman. "The lobbying of Mehlman...includes a dinner...at Signatures Restaurant, a discussion between Abramoff and Mehlman regarding political appointments at a White House reception, and a meeting with Tony Rudy regarding efforts to secure Federal funds for the Mississippi Band of the Choctaw Indians, an Abramoff client." There is a possibility that Mehlman also attended a U2 concert in Abramoff's suite at the MCI Center. [House Government Reform Committee, 9/29/06; Los Angeles Times, 10/15/06]
* Mehlman Delivers: Mehlman, Abramoff, and CNMI. Former State Department Official Allen Stayman, was a particular target of Abramoff's because of his work advocating labor changes in the CNMI. Abramoff worked for months to get Stayman replaced. "State Department officials resisted the dismissal, and negotiations dragged on for months. In May 2001, one of Mehlman's deputies assured Abramoff's team that, ‘Obviously, this guy cannot stay'...That July 9, Ralston e-mailed Abramoff with news of a deal on Stayman: ‘He'll be out in four months.'" [Report by the House Government Reform Committee and Emails Released, 9/29/06; Los Angeles Times, 10/15/06]
Mehlman: I Don't Recall. On CNN this weekend, Mehlman was asked about an article in the Los Angeles Times which asserted that he helped get a State Department official fired, at the request of convicted former Republican Lobbyist Jack Abramoff. The official, Allan Steyman, was working on issues relating to one of Jack Abramoff's clients, the Northern Marianas Islands. On three different occasions, Abramoff said could not remember the affair: "... I also don't recall the specifics of this matter involving Mr. Stayman. But as a matter of course, and certainly the first term, I had, frequently, people come to see me with political issues they wanted talked about. ... I don't recall that specific matter that he came to me for, but I had a way of dealing with all these matters, which is to let the policy-makers or the personnel deciders know exactly what people said. And they made the decisions. What's interesting about this, though, Wolf, while I don't recall it specifically ..." [CNN, Late Edition, 10/15/06, emphasis added]
The Mississippi Choctaws
Norquist and Abramoff Arranged For Pay-To-Play Meetings For Bush And The Choctaw. "An arrangement involving two Indian tribes, the head of an anti-tax organization and a lobbyist now under criminal investigation - plus $50,000 - secured Indian leaders a private audience with President Bush. ... At the behest of Abramoff, two Indian tribes - the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana and Mississippi Band of Choctaw - paid $25,000 each to Norquist's group to underwrite a 2001 event that included a private meeting with Bush. Two other entities, which the group declined to identify, also helped underwrite the event." [AP, 6/8/05]
* After $15,000 Contribution To The RNC, Mehlman Delivers. Abramoff was working to free up $16.3 million for a jail that his Choctaw Indian clients were planning to build in Mississippi. After meeting with Mehlman about the Choctaw request for Federal funds, Rudy wrote Abramoff: "Mehlman said he would ‘take care of this.' He was a rock star." Shortly after that meeting, Rudy recommended a $15,000 contribution to the Republican National Committee. "Let's give the check to Ken Mehlman at the White House," Rudy said. Two weeks after the RNC received their donation, a staff member for Representative Chip Pickering, a Mississippi Republican whose district includes the Choctaws, e-mailed Rudy to say that she had discussed the issue with Mehlman and that they had "promised to work with us on it." DOJ eventually released the funding for the jail. [Report by the House Government Reform Committee, 9/29/06; Time, Sunday 10/23/05; Los Angeles Times, 10/15/06]
Abramoff Lobbied for Guam. Abramoff received about $400,000 for his work lobbying against a "judicial bill" in Guam and asked Tony Rudy, Rep. Tom DeLay's deputy chief of staff, to see if he could garner any assistance in helping the 1998 gubernatorial candidacy of former Gov. Joseph Ada and then Sen. Felix Camacho in an effort to land a larger lobbying contract. [Pacific Daily News, 4/3/06]
* Mehlman Delivers: Mehlman, Abramoff, and Guam. "On October 9, 2002, Abramoff e-mailed Mehlman to seek an endorsement from President Bush for Republican candidates running in Guam. Within two weeks, Susan Ralston e-mailed Abramoff with a message from Mehlman: "Ken asked me to let you know that he has the quote to be approved for your Guam candidates." [Report by the House Government Reform Committee and Emails Released, 9/29/06; Los Angeles Times, 10/15/06]
DOJ Suspicious of Abramoff and Mehlman; Abramoff Was Provided with Top Secret FBI Report on Homeland Security and Guam. The lobbying of Mehlman by Abramoff and his colleagues has also been examined by the Inspector General at the Department of Justice. According to the IG, an official in the White House Office of Political Affairs, Leonard Rodriguez, "kept Abramoff aware of information relevant to Guam...at the behest of Ken Mehlman, the White House political director, who ‘recommended or suggested that I reach out to make Jack aware' of issues related to Guam.'" The Inspector General's concerns were sparked by the fact that Abramoff was given access to a top-secret FBI report on security concerns in the Pacific, including the possibility of attacks on Guam and the Northern Marianas. It is currently unclear who leaked the document to Abramoff and whether it was provided to him at Mehlman's direction. [Report by the House Government Reform Committee and Emails Released, 9/29/06; Salon 7/6/06]