The House Government Reform Committee is seeking e-mails, billing records and other documents from several firms tied to former lobbyist Jack Abramoff, searching for contacts between employees of those firms and high-ranking White House officials, including President Bush, Karl Rove and dozens of other current and former administration aides.
The panel has requested documents from the now-defunct Alexander Strategy Group, a lobbying firm that had deep ties within the House GOP leadership, particularly to former Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), according to sources close to the probe. The ASG, founded by Ed Buckham, a former DeLay aide, folded in January due to the bad publicity it was receiving as the Abramoff scandal came to light.
Preston Gates & Ellis, where Abramoff worked until January 2001, also has been asked to turn over documents and other materials, the sources said.
The Government Reform Committee, chaired by Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), issued a subpoena on May 2 to Greenberg Traurig, another of Abramoff’s former employers, and already has begun reviewing documents and other materials turned over by that firm. The Washington Post first reported the Greenberg Traurig subpoena on Saturday. The other firms involved in the probe have not been subpoenaed, according to sources on and off Capitol Hill.
At this time, no hearings by the panel on the Abramoff scandal have yet been scheduled, Davis said in a brief interview on Wednesday. Davis declined to offer any further information on what the committee plans to do with the information it is assembling.
The committee, according to a copy of a March 2 letter sent to Kevin Downey, an attorney who is representing Greenberg Traurig in the investigation, is seeking “to understand the nature and extent of Jack Abramoff’s interactions with public officials in the executive branch, including the White House, and the legislative branch.” Government Reform’s jurisdiction includes the White House and executive branch agencies, but it does not extend to the legislative branch.
Davis and Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), ranking member on Government Reform, are seeking “all documents that reflect contacts by Mr. Abramoff or his associates” with a number of White House officials, starting with Bush and Rove, and extending into the political, legislative, and intergovernmental affairs offices at the White House, according to a copy of the subpoena reviewed by Roll Call. The committee is seeking information on contacts beginning in 1998 and running until the present date.
Records recently released by the Secret Service under pressure from watchdog groups indicate that Abramoff attended at least a half-dozen meetings or social events at the White House, including at least one with Bush himself.
Other current or former White House aides from whom the committee wants information on any Abramoff-related contacts include: Ken Mehlman, now Republican National Committee chairman; Susan Ralston, Rove’s assistant who had worked for Abramoff before going to the White House; Nick Calio and David Hobbs, both former heads of the White House legislative affairs shop; Jack Oliver, one of Bush’s top fundraisers; Jack Howard, a former deputy assistant to the president for legislative affairs; Barry Jackson, one of Rove’s top aides; Eric Pelletier, deputy assistant to president for legislative affairs; Ziad Ojakli and Matt Kirk, both of whom worked in the legislative affairs office; and dozens of others.
Davis and Waxman initially were told that their document request to Greenberg Traurig was too broad. The firm said it would have to turn over more than 2 million pages of documents to comply with the Government Reform request, according to a March 2 letter from the panel to Downey.
Greenberg Traurig also was concerned about the attorney-client privilege it has with its clients, including a number of Indian tribes that Abramoff and his business partners ripped off for tens of millions of dollars.
In response to those concerns, Government Reform agreed to issue a subpoena to Greenberg Traurig. “As a result of our discussions, we concluded that issuance of a subpoena would be appropriate to permit you to satisfy your professional obligations with respect to the requested documents,” Davis and Waxman wrote in a May 2 letter to Downey.
Davis and Waxman also noted that “the subpoena is not intended to suggest in any way that you or your client is not cooperating with the Committee’s inquiry.”
Greenberg Traurig was given until June 2 to comply with the subpoena, and sources close to the probe said it did.
Downey did not return a call or e-mail message seeking comment for this article.
The Senate Indian Affairs Committee, which conducted its own probe into the Abramoff scandal during 2004-05, also subpoenaed Greenberg Traurig as part of its investigation, and the firm provided thousands of e-mails and other documents to the panel, chaired by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). Greenberg Traurig has not been charged with any wrongdoing by the Justice Department, although it did shell out millions in compensory payments to the Indian tribes harmed by Abramoff’s activities, as well as those of his former business partner, Michael Scanlon.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.