Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company The New York Times November 10, 2005 Thursday Late Edition - Final SECTION: Section A; Column 3; National Desk; Pg. 1Message 1 of 12 , Nov 10, 2005View SourceCopyright 2005 The New York Times Company
The New York Times
November 10, 2005 Thursday
Late Edition - Final
SECTION: Section A; Column 3; National Desk; Pg. 1
LENGTH: 1361 words
HEADLINE: Lobbyist Sought $9 Million to Set Bush Meeting
BYLINE: By PHILIP SHENON
DATELINE: WASHINGTON, Nov. 9
The lobbyist Jack Abramoff asked for $9 million in 2003 from the
president of a West African nation to arrange a meeting with
President Bush and directed his fees to a Maryland company now under
federal scrutiny, according to newly disclosed documents.
The African leader, President Omar Bongo of Gabon, met with
President Bush in the Oval Office on May 26, 2004, 10 months after
Mr. Abramoff made the offer. There has been no evidence in the
public record that Mr. Abramoff had any role in organizing the
meeting or that he received any money or had a signed contract with
White House and State Department officials described Mr. Bush's
meeting with President Bongo, whose government is regularly accused
by the United States of human rights abuses, as routine. The
officials said they knew of no involvement by Mr. Abramoff in the
arrangements. Officials at Gabon's embassy in Washington did not
respond to written questions.
''This went through normal staffing channels,'' said Trent Duffy, a
White House spokesman, who said the meeting was ''part of the
president's outreach to the continent of Africa.''
A document from Mr. Abramoff's files that was released last week by
a Senate committee shows that in the summer of 2003 he pushed to
sign President Bongo as a client, even offering to travel to Gabon
immediately after an August golfing vacation to Scotland ''with the
congressmen and senators I take there each year.''
The documents also show that Mr. Abramoff and his colleagues drew up
a draft contract that called for $9 million in fees to be paid to
GrassRoots Interactive, the small Maryland lobbying company that his
former colleagues say he controlled.
Documents, including copies of canceled checks, show that millions
of dollars flowed through the company's accounts in 2003, the year
it was created, including at least $2.3 million to a California
consulting firm that used the same address as the law office of Mr.
Abramoff's brother, Robert. A separate check for $400,000 was made
out to Kay Gold, another Abramoff family company.
Mr. Abramoff, a Republican fund-raiser who once was one of the most
powerful lobbyists in Washington, has been indicted in Florida on
federal fraud charges. He is also under investigation by a federal
grand jury in Washington and two Senate committees.
The grand jury inquiry initially centered on accusations that Mr.
Abramoff had defrauded a group of Indian tribes out of tens of
millions of dollars in lobbying fees connected to their gambling
operations, including steep fees for work that was never performed.
But federal law enforcement officials say that inquiry has
broadened, with prosecutors examining other issues, including Mr.
Abramoff's relationship with GrassRoots and other small consulting
firms and charities he controlled. Congressional investigators have
questioned whether he used them to hide income to avoid paying taxes
and to evade disclosure rules for lobbyists. Federal law requires
lobbyists for foreign governments to register with the Justice
A spokesman for Mr. Abramoff had no comment on GrassRoots or the
lobbyist's contacts with President Bongo. Robert Abramoff did not
return repeated phone calls. GrassRoots has no listed telephone
number in Silver Spring, Md., where it had been based.
In a draft agreement with Gabon dated Aug. 7, 2003, Mr. Abramoff and
his associates asked that $9 million in lobbying fees be paid
through wire transfers -- three of them, each for $3 million -- to
GrassRoots instead of the Washington offices of Greenberg Traurig,
the large lobbying firm where he did most of his work. The agreement
promised a ''public relations effort related to promoting Gabon and
securing a visit for President Bongo with the president of the
In seeking meetings at the White House or on Capitol Hill, foreign
leaders, especially those from small nations, regularly turn to
Washington lobbyists, especially those who claim connections to the
government because of political or family ties.
Billy Carter, President Jimmy Carter's brother, was a registered
agent for Libya during his brother's presidency. During the Clinton
administration, Anthony Rodham, whose sister, Senator Hillary Rodham
Clinton, was the first lady, acknowledged that he had been offered a
six-figure payment by supporters of the president of Paraguay to
arrange a meeting with President Bill Clinton.
GrassRoots Interactive came under scrutiny on Capitol Hill in recent
months when the Senate Judiciary Committee considered President
Bush's nomination of a senior lawyer at Tyco International, a former
lobbying client of Mr. Abramoff, as the No. 2 official at the
The lawyer, Timothy E. Flanigan, told the committee that at Mr.
Abramoff's suggestion he had directed $2 million to GrassRoots from
Tyco for lobbying on the company's behalf.
Instead, Mr. Flanigan said he learned last year that Mr. Abramoff
had directed the money to ''entities'' that the lobbyist controlled
and that Tyco was the victim of a ''major fraud.'' After weeks of
controversy over his ties to Mr. Abramoff, Mr. Flanigan withdrew his
nomination as deputy attorney general last month.
Mr. Abramoff's ties to Gabon were first revealed in a letter that
was among hundreds of pages of documents from Mr. Abramoff's files
that were released last week by the Senate Indian Affairs Committee,
which has conducted a yearlong investigation of his lobbying for
When he first approached Gabon, Mr. Abramoff was not new to issues
involving West Africa.
He had been a Washington lobbyist for President Mobutu Sese Seko,
the repressive leader of neighboring Congo, called Zaire at the
time. He also had connections to Gabon through a former business
partner, David Safavian, who was a registered agent in Washington
for President Bongo. Mr. Safavian, a former White House budget
official, was arrested in September on charges of lying about his
ties to Mr. Abramoff.
The three-page letter released by the Senate panel was written to
Mr. Bongo on Greenberg Traurig stationery and dated July 28, 2003;
Mr. Abramoff suggested that he had unusual influence to arrange a
meeting with President Bush.
''Without advance resources, I have been cautiously working to
obtain a visit for the president to Washington to see President
Bush,'' Mr. Abramoff wrote. ''As you know, we were, in advance of
the war in Iraq, able to secure a tentative date for this meeting;
however, the war canceled all such scheduled visits.''
Mr. Abramoff said he was willing to travel to Gabon to meet with Mr.
Bongo to discuss the contract if the government would arrange for a
''It must be on the basis by which I travel anywhere, being in a
private aircraft, which bears a substantial cost unfortunately,'' he
said. ''I am confident that we will have a long, productive and warm
relationship, but good relationships are built on firm
understandings at the outset.''
Other documents obtained by The New York Times show that Mr.
Abramoff and his colleagues prepared two draft agreements, both
dated Aug. 7, 2003, that outlined the lobbying plan for Gabon.
One called for GrassRoots to receive $9 million in lobbying fees;
the other called for Greenberg Traurig to receive $1 million, all of
it in 2003.
A spokeswoman for Greenberg Traurig said the firm had no
comment. ''We don't comment on whom we do or don't represent,'' said
Jill Perry, a spokeswoman for the firm, which forced Mr. Abramoff to
resign last year.
Maryland state records show that GrassRoots were established in 2003
by Edward B. Miller, a Republican lawyer who is now deputy chief of
staff to Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. of Maryland. Samuel Hook, a
former partner of Mr. Abramoff from Greenberg Traurig, took over it
in September 2003.
Mr. Ehrlich's office has said that Mr. Miller is cooperating in the
Justice Department investigation. Aron Raskas, a lawyer speaking for
Mr. Miller, said Mr. Miller had no knowledge of any project
Mr. Hook's lawyer, Alyza D. Lewin, said that ''Mr. Abramoff solely
controlled G.R.I.,'' a reference to GrassRoots Interactive.
GRAPHIC: Photo: President Omar Bongo of Gabon met with President
Bush in 2004. (Photo by Shawn Thew/European Pressphoto Agency)(pg.
LOAD-DATE: November 10, 2005
Pelosi and Waxman Request Documents Relating to Abramoff s Request for $9 Million to Arrange Meeting with Bush WASHINGTON, Nov. 11 /U.S. Newswire/ -- HouseMessage 1 of 12 , Nov 13, 2005View SourcePelosi and Waxman Request Documents Relating to Abramoff's Request
for $9 Million to Arrange Meeting with Bush
WASHINGTON, Nov. 11 /U.S. Newswire/ -- House Democratic Leader Nancy
Pelosi and Rep. Henry Waxman, ranking member on the Government Reform
Committee, sent a letter this morning to Harriet Miers, counsel to
the President, requesting that she provide Congress with documents
relating to lobbyist Jack Abramoff's request for $9 million to
arrange a meeting between President Bush and Omar Bongo, president of
Gabon. ((Note: Bush and Bongo met in the White House in 2004 as
pictured on this site))
Below is the text of the letter:
November 11, 2005
Ms. Harriet Miers
Counsel to the President
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20500
Dear Ms. Miers:
Yesterday's New York Times reported that President Bush met with
Gabon's President Omar Bongo in May 2004, ten months after lobbyist
Jack Abramoff asked President Bongo for $9 million to arrange such a
meeting. Mr. Abramoff's offer and the size of the requested payment
raise questions about what role Mr. Abramoff may have played in the
scheduling of this meeting between President Bush and President Bongo.
We are writing to request that you provide us with all White House
and State Department documents and correspondence regarding the
arrangement of the meeting.
According to the Times, a draft agreement between Mr. Abramoff and
Gabon dated August 7, 2003, asked for $9 million in lobbying fees to
pay for a "public relations effort related to promoting Gabon and
securing a visit for President Bongo with the President of the United
States."(See note 1) The Times reports that this draft agreement came
just 10 days after Mr. Abramoff wrote to President Bongo on July 28,
2003, suggesting that "he had unusual influence to arrange a meeting
with President Bush." In that letter, Mr. Abramoff noted: "Without
advance resources, I have been cautiously working to obtain a visit
for the president to Washington to see President Bush."
White House spokesman Trent Duffy told the Times that arrangements
for the visit by the President of Gabon were not unusual and went
through "normal staffing channels." However, it is impossible for
Congress and the public to assess this assertion without access
further documentation from the White House.
We therefore request the following documents:
-- All records relating to any contacts or communications between
White House staff and Jack Abramoff, the firm Greenberg Traurig, and
the firm GrassRoots Interactive regarding a visit by representatives
-- All records relating to any contacts or communications between the
State Department and Jack Abramoff, the firm Greenberg Traurig, and
the firm GrassRoots Interactive regarding a visit by representatives
-- All records relating to any direct contacts or communications
between White House staff and representatives of Gabon.
-- All records relating to any direct contacts or communications
between the State Department and representatives of Gabon.
We request that you provide these materials by November 30, 2005.
Nancy Pelosi, House Democratic Leader
Henry A. Waxman, Ranking Member, Government Reform Committee
http://allafrica.com/stories/200511160140.html Interesting that the US is kicking in an additional $10 million grant to the $15 million World Bank loan. SeeMessage 1 of 12 , Nov 17, 2005View Sourcehttp://allafrica.com/stories/200511160140.html
Interesting that the US is kicking in an additional $10 million grant
to the $15 million World Bank loan. See last sentence.
Also, recall that Wolfowitz (one of the chief architects of the Iraq
war) is the new World Bank leader. Did Cheney order Wolfie to loan
Bongo another $15 million to keep Bongo quiet and then kicked in
another $10 million of US taxpayer money to seal the deal?
Actually the 10 million does NOT come from US taxpayers. As the article correctly mentions it comes from Global Environmental Facility (www.gefweb.org). GEFMessage 1 of 12 , Nov 18, 2005View SourceActually the 10 million does NOT come from US taxpayers. As the
article correctly mentions it comes from Global Environmental
Facility (www.gefweb.org). GEF gets its funding from the
international donors that care about the environment (and we all
know how high that is on the list of Bush's priorities).
The World Bank loans have to get approved by the board which is all
the member countries. As much as Wolfowitz would like to he has
absolutely no clout to "push" anything through the board. The US
has 16 percent of the votes (based on its shareholding). Case in
point, the US regularly votes "NO" to loans to Iran and the World
Bank board does indeed approve the loans. Someone not knowing how
it is done could argue that the US is giving loans to Iran because
Wolfowitz is American. They would be wrong.
Luckily the World Bank is neither the US government where a few can
derail the system and push their own agenda nor the UN Security
Council where Wolfowitz would have had a veto to use as a weapon.
--- In email@example.com, "bobutne" <bobutne@y...>
> Interesting that the US is kicking in an additional $10 million
> to the $15 million World Bank loan. See last sentence.Iraq
> Also, recall that Wolfowitz (one of the chief architects of the
> war) is the new World Bank leader. Did Cheney order Wolfie to loan
> Bongo another $15 million to keep Bongo quiet and then kicked in
> another $10 million of US taxpayer money to seal the deal?
Good points but bottom line is that Gabon/Omar Bongo is receiving $25 million of foreign funds that are partially controlled by the US, at a time when Bush andMessage 1 of 12 , Nov 18, 2005View SourceGood points but bottom line is that Gabon/Omar Bongo is receiving $25
million of foreign funds that are partially controlled by the US, at a
time when Bush and Bongo most need support. Bush for current political
reasons and Bongo for the upcoming election. I don't buy the
proposdition that the US wasn't instrumental in pushing thorough the
loans and grants, at this particular time.
http://www.fpif.org/briefs/vol3/v3n39glob.html According to the above, 1. The World Bank oversees GEF investment projects and the administration of the GEFMessage 1 of 12 , Nov 18, 2005View Sourcehttp://www.fpif.org/briefs/vol3/v3n39glob.html
According to the above,
1. The World Bank oversees GEF investment projects and the
administration of the GEF trust fund. The UN agencies are junior
partners in this tripartite structure in deference to the belief of
the U.S. and its Northern allies that the World Bank can manage the
large amount of GEF funding more efficiently than the cooperating UN
2. Unlike the voting structure in the UN's General Assembly, where
every country has one vote, voting shares in the World Bank (and
initially in the GEF) are proportional to a nation's financial
contribution. As a result, the U.S. and other wealthy industrial
countries have preponderant influence in the GEF.
If the Bush administration really wanted to send Bongo money for the elections using the World Bank and GEF then they really screwed it up. It is going to beMessage 1 of 12 , Nov 20, 2005View SourceIf the Bush administration really wanted to send Bongo money for the
elections using the World Bank and GEF then they really screwed it
up. It is going to be way after the elections are over when a
single cent of this money starts to trickle down into Gabon. And
when it does you would need Houdini to make a dollar disappear from
the projects and reappear in Bongo's coffer. As luck would have it
Houdini is dead. :-)
What the White House should do next time is to withdraw the 25 mil
from one of the CIA secret international accounts, convert it to 500
Euro notes so it would fit in a laptop case. Then they can have
someone hand-deliver it in person and no one would be the wiser for
--- In firstname.lastname@example.org, "bobutne" <bobutne@y...>
> Good points but bottom line is that Gabon/Omar Bongo is receiving
> million of foreign funds that are partially controlled by the US,at a
> time when Bush and Bongo most need support. Bush for currentpolitical
> reasons and Bongo for the upcoming election. I don't buy thethe
> proposdition that the US wasn't instrumental in pushing thorough
> loans and grants, at this particular time.
There are three different implementing UN agencies that help with the GEF, each according to their expertise. The World Bank s expertise happens to beMessage 1 of 12 , Nov 20, 2005View SourceThere are three different implementing UN agencies that help with
the GEF, each according to their expertise. The World Bank's
expertise happens to be administration of funds so it makes sense to
me that that is what they do. Does that make them the "senior"
agency? I don't know but what does it matter anyway? Without the
other two and their related expertise nothing would get done. In my
view that does not detract form what they are trying to do. So
what? Someone has to administer the funds so why not the one UN
agency that is the expert at handling money?
On the voting issue, I don't know about how it works with GEF
projects, but with the World Bank like I said, the US has 16 percent
of the votes based on their shareholding. Anyway, what is wrong
with wealthy industrial countries to have a preponderance of
influence in the GEF? It is THEIR money, so they should have the
say on how it is spent and who gets these grants. Does politics
play a role in the decision making process? At a certain level and
on very particular projects maybe I frankly don't know but on
the whole I highly doubt it. I am sure politics plays a bigger role
at the World Bank though, like it does at ALL other UN agencies. I
would not be surprised.
On this particular 15+10 million however, I doubt even if a junior
staff member at the White House is aware of it if anyone at all.
On the important side of this whole issue though is the future of
the Congo Basin. This is the second largest rain forest on Earth
and with the way things are going I wouldn't be surprised if it
became THE largest in our lifetime. This money is a start but it is
not even going to scratch the surface of what is needed. Should
nothing be done just because Bongo is in office has been for 38
years and might be for another 38? Of course not. We have to start
somewhere and sometime and the best time is yesterday. There will
never be a perfect time, as at any given moment someone will not be
happy with the politics of a donor country and/or the receiving
country. Can't be helped but it shouldn't stop things from moving
--- In email@example.com, "bobutne" <bobutne@y...>
> According to the above,
> 1. The World Bank oversees GEF investment projects and the
> administration of the GEF trust fund. The UN agencies are junior
> partners in this tripartite structure in deference to the belief of
> the U.S. and its Northern allies that the World Bank can manage the
> large amount of GEF funding more efficiently than the cooperating
> 2. Unlike the voting structure in the UN's General Assembly, where
> every country has one vote, voting shares in the World Bank (and
> initially in the GEF) are proportional to a nation's financial
> contribution. As a result, the U.S. and other wealthy industrial
> countries have preponderant influence in the GEF.
The US, in 2002, pledged $53 million towards The Congo Basin Initiative to be spent by 2005. The additional funding from the World Bank may be for followupMessage 1 of 12 , Nov 21, 2005View SourceThe US, in 2002, pledged $53 million towards "The Congo Basin
Initiative" to be spent by 2005. The additional funding from the World
Bank may be for followup program funding.
What I question is the timing of the World Bank announcement, in this
critical period of presidential campaigning within Gabon.
The campaigning period for the five approved president candidates began
November 15 and the election runs from 25-27 November.
I believe it highly unlikely that Wolfowitz didn't OK the release of
the announcement at this particular time to assist the Bongo campaign.
LIBREVILLE, Gabon (Reuters) -- Gabon has banned campaign marches ahead of a weekend presidential poll following several disruptive incidents, Interior MinisterMessage 1 of 12 , Nov 21, 2005View SourceLIBREVILLE, Gabon (Reuters) -- Gabon has banned campaign marches
ahead of a weekend presidential poll following several disruptive
incidents, Interior Minister Clotaire Ivala said in comments
published Monday. Gabon heads to the polls Sunday when Africa's
longest serving leader, President Omar Bongo, will run for another
seven-year term. Bongo has ruled the oil-producing central African
country since 1967.
"Following certain authorized public meetings, organizers have staged
improvised marches which led to the obstruction of traffic ... and
the destruction of private and public property," Ivala said in a
statement printed in state newspaper L'Union. "The minister of the
Interior ... bans all marches before and after election-related
The move follows an order from Bongo in September to stop opponents
leaving the country after an opposition politician criticized his
government during a foreign trip. Bongo ordered the temporary ban
after rival candidate Zacharie Myboto, a former Bongo ally, said in
interviews with French media that the electoral register for this
weekend's presidential poll had been fraudulently inflated.
Bongo also was believed to have been irritated by a protest organized
outside the United Nations in September, staged as he was addressing
a summit, by a U.S.-based group of Gabonese exiles. The longtime
leader changed the constitution to remove any limits on presidential
terms, a move also attempted by other African presidents that has
been criticized by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan among others.
The opposition has complained of harassment in the run-up to Sunday's
poll. Myboto's campaign team said government loyalists pelted him
with stones during a visit to a market in the capital of Libreville
Ambassador Wilson s The Politics of Truth is an excellent/enjoyable read that briefly covers his tenure as Ambassador of Gabon and San Tome in the earlyMessage 1 of 12 , Nov 23, 2005View SourceAmbassador Wilson's "The Politics of Truth" is an excellent/enjoyable
read that briefly covers his tenure as Ambassador of Gabon and San Tome
in the early 90's. The rest of the book is insightful, too.
Gabon s President Omar Bongo Ondimba prepares to cast his vote ©AFP - Desirey MinkohLIBREVILLE (AFP) - The oil-rich west African state of Gabon has gone toMessage 1 of 12 , Nov 27, 2005View SourceGabon's President Omar Bongo Ondimba prepares to cast his vote
©AFP - Desirey MinkohLIBREVILLE (AFP) - The oil-rich west African
state of Gabon has gone to the polls to elect a new president, with
incumbent Omar Bongo -- in power since 1967 -- widely expected to win
amid opposition complaints of fraud.
There were delays in the opening of some polling booths, set to open
at 7:00 am (0600 GMT) Sunday, in Libreville, as well as in the
economic capital of Port Gentil and Franceville in the east,
representatives of both the ruling party and the opposition told AFP.
Polls are set to close at 6:00 pm (1700 GMT).
During the first few hours, voter turnout was low, especially in the
capital Liberville where in 2002 voter abstention was nearly 80
percent in local elections. However, by late morning, turnout was
picking up in Port Gentil, the traditional base of the opposition, an
AFP correspondent reported.
Gabon election officials declared the vote was "proceeding normally"
and that "no incidents" had been reported, said Gilbert Ngoulakia of
the National Election Commission (CNE).
Some 570,000 people are eligible to participate in the single-round
presidential poll with four main candidates vying for a seven-year
The two main challengers are Pierre Mamboundou, 59, head of the
Gabonese People's Union (GPU), and Zacharie Myboto, 67, a former
information minister who was once close to the president.
But Bongo, Africa's longest ruling head of state, shows little sign
of giving up power. The 69-year-old, who vote late Sunday morning in
Libreville, is supported by a political coalition of more than 40
parties and maintains an iron grip on the media.
Opponents, pointing among other things to the evidence of a recent
census, claim the authorities are preparing a massive vote rigging
They claim that some members of the 20,000-strong security forces
including police and soldiers, who voted on Friday, have not been
ticked off the electoral rolls of those entitled to vote Sunday.
"All this leads us to believe there is an intent to commit fraud,"
said GPU secretary general Richard Moulomba Mombo.
Ngoulakia has insisted there is nothing to worry about while
conceding that "we still don't know the exact number of voters."
On election day a security contingent has been deployed with dozens
of armed men guarding each polling station. "It's impressive, perhaps
even a bit of a deterrent for the voter," said a Senegalese election
observer, Babacar Toure.
Other opposition complaints levelled at the president over recent
weeks include claims that he has monopolised advertising space and
all available aircraft.
Bongo has used his substantial financial clout to flood the country
with campaign T-shirts and posters, while his campaign team has criss-
crossed the land handing out sweeteners to potential voters. Among
other incentives, the president has issued a decree giving students
free education for the current academic year and free water and
electricity to more than 100,000 households.
However Anaclet Bissielo, a sociologist, believes there is widespread
disillusionment with Bongo's leadership over high unemployment,
poverty, and a poor education system, but little expectation of
"The Gabonese don't believe any more in a political system that has
become totally artificial," Bissielo said. "The risk of a massive
stay-away cannot be discounted."