Robert Novak

WASHINGTON -- Disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff has advised friends that he has no derogatory information about former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and is not implicating him as part of his plea bargain with federal prosecutors.

 Abramoff's guilty plea on fraud, tax evasion and conspiracy charges requires him to provide evidence about members of Congress. That led to speculation that this would mean trouble for DeLay, who faces money laundering and conspiracy charges in Texas. 

 However, Abramoff has not given a clean bill of health to any other congressman -- including Rep. Robert Ney, who has stepped down as chairman of the House Administration Committee. Ney was the only member of Congress named in court papers connected with Abramoff's guilty plea Jan. 4.


 While President Bush hits the road to build support, his spring offensive is bringing conservative activists and businessmen into the White House for briefings in small groups.

 "I've been in the White House more in the last two weeks than I was in the last two years," Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform told this column. Norquist and conservative theoretician Jeffrey Bell were called into a meeting on the administration's embattled immigration bill. Also attending were representatives of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers and the National Federation of Independent Business.

 Bush has been criticized for being reclusive as he and the Republican Party tumble in the polls.


 Al Gore's withdrawal from consideration for another presidential try in 2008 is viewed by Democratic insiders as strengthening Sen. John Kerry's bid for a second straight nomination, running to the left of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.

 Even before Gore's surprising decision, Kerry political operatives were telling Democrats that the senator was a likely candidate. Kerry's 2004 running mate, John Edwards, is also inclined to run. But his campaign is menaced by a possible candidacy by Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, who would block Edwards in the Iowa caucuses.

 A footnote: Democratic politicians were surprised by the message from Sen. Clinton's camp that she henceforth would censor Bill Clinton's comments to prevent recurrence of their heavily publicized disagreements over Dubai Ports. While such restraint on the former president was considered desirable, it was viewed as something that should not be talked about publicly.


Robert Novak

Robert Novak (1931-2009) was a syndicated columnist and editor of the Evans-Novak Political Report.

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