By Ginger Gibson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Jack Abramoff, a high-profile American lobbyist who served four years in prison after pleading guilty to charges related to bribing U.S. government officials, has officially returned to lobbying, according to documents he filed with the Justice Department.
Abramoff's filing, saying that in December he worked to set up a meeting between Republic of Congo President Denis Sassou Nguesso and then-President-elect Donald Trump, was the first to show that he has resumed work as a lobbyist.
Federal law requires Americans acting on behalf of a foreign entity - either as a lobbyist or doing other messaging work - to register with the Department of Justice. While Abramoff told Justice that he accepted no payment for his work on behalf of Nguesso, the filings are a clear indication that he believes he met the legal definition of lobbying.
Had Abramoff done lobbying work for domestic companies before December, he would have had to disclose that to Congress. He has made no such disclosures.
In his filing with the Justice Department, Abramoff said he did not succeed in arranging a meeting between Nguesso and Trump in Palm Beach, Florida.
Abramoff in 2006 pleaded guilty to felony counts of conspiracy, fraud, and tax evasion. His name became synonymous with government corruption, and Democrats attacked their Republican opponents who had ties or had received campaign donations from him.
In addition to bribing government officials, Abramoff was accused of defrauding clients who were Native American tribes lobbying about reservation casinos. Abramoff was released from federal prison in 2010 and was then subject to three years on probation.
The work that Abramoff did for Nguesso is described by the former lobbyist as a one-off incident.
According to Abramoff, Congo officials enlisted Iancu Costel, a consultant in Romania, with the goal of improving U.S. relations, expanding trade, getting help fighting Boko Haram and stemming illegal immigration to the U.S. In turn, Costel asked Abramoff to help.
Abramoff said in the filing that he contacted Republican U.S. Representative Dana Rohrabacher for assistance in trying to arrange the meeting. According to Abramoff, Rohrabacher was the only government official he spoke with while helping Nguesso.
In his disclosure, Abramoff said he did not plan to work with Costel again.
An Abramoff attorney pointed to the filings when asked for comment. Neither Costel nor a spokesman for Rohrabacher could immediately be reached for comment.
(Reporting by Ginger Gibson; Editing by Leslie Adler)