Matt Margolis & Mark Noonan

Last week, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), a liberal-leaning ethics watchdog group that calls itself nonpartisan claimed to have “proved” that President Bush and lobbyist Jack Abramoff had a strong relationship – and by extension tar President Bush with the corruption Abramoff is undoubtedly guilty of.

On January 8, 2007, CREW posted on their blog a photo of George W. Bush with Jack Abramoff. They pretentiously wrote, “the Bush Administration has gone to great lengths to prevent any access to information documenting a relationship with Jack Abramoff. But that relationship exists.” In their minds, they had found the smoking gun they’d been looking for.

But did the photo published by CREW justify such an authoritative declaration of guilt?

The photo in question was taken during a campaign fundraiser in December 2003, and shows Abramoff and President Bush standing in front of a blue curtain and in between the American flag and the flag of the President of the United States. What CREW didn’t explain was that if you had helped raise $10,000 for President Bush’s reelection effort you probably have the exact same photo, the only differences being you’d be in the picture instead of Abramoff, the media wouldn’t be interested it, and CREW wouldn’t be claiming that the photo was proof you had a relationship with the President.

Abramoff himself said that his contact with the President was much ado about nothing. In an interview with Vanity Fair last year, Abramoff said, “[m]y so-called relationship with Bush, Rove, and everyone else at the White House has only become important because, instead of just releasing details about the very few times I was there, they created a feeding frenzy by their deafening silence.” It is quite unfortunate that the Bush Administration resisted releasing this photograph, yet considering the political climate in 2006, their actions are understandable. The last thing they needed during an already tough election year for Republicans was a photo of Bush and Abramoff to float around the internet and be exploited by media, who would have undoubtedly reached the same baseless conclusion as CREW did. The explanations of the origins of the photo would have fallen on deaf ears.

In reality, the Bush/Abramoff photo is about as significant as receiving the annual White House Christmas card. Be that as it may, the delay in releasing the photo has added a “What else are they hiding?” element to an already frenzied and mendacious MSM/Democratic storyline about alleged Republican corruption.

Matt Margolis & Mark Noonan

Matt Margolis and Mark Noonan are authors of the new book, Caucus of Corruption

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