This morning opens with three BIG stories on the growing Abramoff Affair. It is time to demand a Special Prosecutor.

The LA Times and the NYT add new scandal details from the Saipan. And the AP adds to those details connecting the dots between Bush and Abramoff:

In President Bush's first 10 months, GOP fundraiser Jack Abramoff and his lobbying team logged nearly 200 contacts with the new administration as they pressed for friendly hires at federal agencies and sought to keep the Northern Mariana Islands exempt from the minimum wage and other laws, records show. [snip]

"Our standing with the new administration promises to be solid as several friends of the CNMI (islands) will soon be taking high-ranking positions in the Administration, including within the Interior Department," Abramoff wrote in a January 2001 letter....

There is more (much more)...

The Abramoff Affair is a big and growing scandal. There seems to be another story tied to every dollar Jack has touched over the last 25 years as a GOP bagman/activist.

The AP  story also had these gems:

The records from Abramoff's firm, obtained by The Associated Press from the Marianas under an open records request, chronicle Abramoff's careful cultivation of relations with Bush's political team as far back as 1997.

In that year, Abramoff charged the Marianas for getting then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush to write a letter expressing support for the Pacific territory's school choice proposal, his billing records show.

"I hope you will keep my office informed on the progress of this initiative," Bush wrote in a July 18, 1997, letter praising the islands' school plan and copying in an Abramoff deputy.

White House spokeswoman Erin Healy said Thursday that Bush didn't consider Abramoff a friend. "They may have met on occasion, but the president does not know him," she said.

As for the number of Abramoff lobbying team contacts with Bush officials documented in the billing records, Healy said: "We do not know how he defines 'contacts.'"

Sound like Jack is now in "Kenny-Boy-Land", but there was more:

The documents show his team also had extensive access to Bush administration officials, meeting with Cheney policy advisers Ron Christie and Stephen Ruhlen, 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.

Most of the contacts were handled by Abramoff's subordinates, who then reported back to him on the meetings. Abramoff met several times personally with top Interior officials, whose Office of Insular Affairs oversees the Mariana Islands and other U.S. territories.
In all, the records show at least 195 contacts between Abramoff's Marianas lobbying team and the Bush administration from February through November 2001.

At least two people who worked on Abramoff's team at Preston Gates wound up with Bush administration jobs: Patrick Pizzella, named an assistant secretary of labor by Bush; and David Safavian, chosen by Bush to oversee federal procurement policy in the Office of Management and Budget.

"We have worked with WH Office of Presidential Personnel to ensure that CNMI-relevant positions at various agencies are not awarded to enemies of CNMI," Abramoff's team wrote the Marianas in an October 2001 report on its work for the year.

The AP disclosed a jaw-dropping $50,000 contribution from Sweatshops to the National Republican Senatorial Committee:

Money also flowed from the Marianas to Bush's re-election campaign: It took in at least $36,000 from island donors, much of it from members of the Tan family, whose clothing factories were a routine stop for lawmakers and their aides visiting the islands on Abramoff-organized trips.

Two Tan family companies gave $25,000 each to the National Republican Senatorial Committee for the 2002 elections...

And who actually paid for Jack's lobbying on Saipan? You did:

Abramoff's team bragged to the cash-strapped Marianas government that the taxpayer money would cover its lobbying bill: "We believe that this additional funding - along with other funds we expect to secure by the end of the year - will make clear to even our biggest critics that we pay for ourselves," Abramoff teammate Kevin Ring wrote in October 2001, copying in Abramoff.

Both the the LA Times and the NYT have reporters on Saipan and mountains of documents to review. There are many new scandal details in both of their stories.

The LA Times adds new scandal details to tie DeLay, Abramoff and Sweatshops together. Like how Ed Buckham and Mike Scanlon traveled to the island to trade our money for votes:

Two former top aides of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's brokered a political deal here five years ago that helped land island government contracts worth $1.6 million for a Washington lobbyist now the target of a federal corruption probe.

Using promises of U.S. tax dollars as bartering chips, Edwin A. Buckham and Michael Scanlon traveled to these remote Pacific islands in late 1999 to convince two local legislators to switch their votes for speaker of the territory's 18-member House of Representatives. They succeeded.

And the NYT details how Abramoff's long-time GOP activism helped him land work with Saipan back in 1995:

Mr. Abramoff won his contract with a long letter that noted his ties to power in Washington.

"Yesterday I had the opportunity to meet privately with Speaker Newt Gingrich and was able to raise the issue of the desire of the C.N.M.I. [Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands] for more latitude in dealing with its own affairs," he wrote in his sales pitch to Governor Tenorio. "The speaker responded favorably to the C.N.M.I.'s position, in keeping with his own belief in stronger local control."

"I had a direct role in shaping much of the agenda which ultimately brought the Republican Party to control of the Congress last year," Mr. Abramoff said in his proposal. "I have longstanding relationships with many of the Republican members of Congress."

With news organization in hot competition for new scandal details, the Abramoff Affair will continue to grow. I mean, they haven't even reported the Abramoff-Chinese connection yet.

Originally posted to dengre on Fri May 06, 2005 at 05:50 AM PDT.

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