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.

Nevertheless, if a receiving-line photo of President Bush and Jack Abramoff proves that there was a relationship, then we have much more solid indications that many Democrats had “relationships” with Jack Abramoff as well.

Several Democrats have participated in trips paid for and/or accompanied by Abramoff, including Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC), Rep. Michael McNulty (D-NY), and Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY). Do they all have relationships with Jack Abramoff?

Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA), Max Baucus (D-MO) and Byron Dorgan (D-ND) each held fundraisers in Jack Abramoff’s skybox at Washington’s MCI Center, and have also received thousands of dollars from Abramoff’s tribal clients. Do they all have relationships with Jack Abramoff?

Charlie Rangel (D-NY) also must know Jack Abramoff. He received more Abramoff-connected cash than former Rep. Tom DeLay (D-TX) or George W. Bush.

But, our new Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid (D-NV), must know Jack Abramoff better than all of them. A former top aide to Senator Reid, Edward “Eddie” Ayoob, also worked for Abramoff and was allegedly a part of Abramoff’s influence-buying scheme with the American Indian tribes he lobbied for. In fact, Reid only started receiving thousands of dollars in donations from various American Indian tribes after Jack Abramoff started representing them. Reid also wrote a total of four letters helpful to Abramoff’s tribal clients over a period of three years, and received $68,000 in donations from Abramoff’s firm, partners, and clients in return. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but Harry’s Reid’s connections to Abramoff are apparently worth $68,000.

Despite these examples of “relationships” between Jack Abramoff and a few select Democrats, the MSM continues to play the Abramoff story as entirely one of Republican corruption. Americans should want the book thrown at anyone who attempts to corrupt our political process; the plain fact of the matter is that only one side – the Republican side – ever faces any serious scrutiny over the matter of political corruption. For the general health of our political system, the burning light of truth must be turned on everyone who is betraying the public trust.


Matt Margolis & Mark Noonan

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

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