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Old 03-10-2006, 06:01 PM   #1
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$25,000 to Lobby Group Is Tied to Access to Bush

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$25,000 to Lobby Group Is Tied to Access to Bush
Published: March 10, 2006

WASHINGTON, March 9 The chief of an Indian tribe represented by the
lobbyist _Jack Abramoff_
( was admitted to a meeting with
President Bush in 2001 days after the tribe paid a prominent conservative
lobbying group $25,000 at Mr. Abramoff's direction, according to documents and

_Skip to next paragraph_

Theresa Scarbrough for The New York Times
Raul Garza, the Kickapoo chief, left, with Isidro Garza on Tuesday. They
figure in the Abramoff investigation.

_Jack Abramoff's Car: How a Big Wheel Outfitted Four of Them_
( (March 10, 2006)
_Abramoff Says Top Republicans Were Allies_
( (March 9, 2006)
_Complete Coverage: Jack Abramoff_

The payment was made to Americans for Tax Reform, a group run by Grover G.
Norquist, one of the Republican Party's most influential policy strategists.
Mr. Norquist was a friend and longtime associate of Mr. Abramoff.
The meeting with Mr. Bush took place on May 9, 2001, at a reception organized
by Mr. Norquist to marshal support for the president's 2001 tax cuts, which
were pending before Congress. About two dozen state legislators attended the
session in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House
grounds. The meeting was called to thank legislators for support of the tax-cut
plan, an issue on which the tribal leader had no direct involvement.
Mr. Norquist attended the meeting, along with Mr. Abramoff and the tribal
leader, Raul Garza of the Kickapoo Traditional Tribe of Texas. It is not clear
what role, if any, Mr. Norquist played in getting Chief Garza into the
meeting, and there is no suggestion that the White House was aware of the $25,000
But the transaction adds new details to what is known about how Mr. Abramoff
used his links to well-connected conservatives to establish himself among his
lobbying clients as having access to the highest levels of power in
Washington. Mr. Abramoff has pleaded guilty to conspiring to corrupt public officials
and is cooperating with the Justice Department investigation.
The transaction could also focus further attention on Mr. Norquist's group,
which is already under scrutiny by the Justice Department and Congressional
investigators over its ties to Mr. Abramoff. On being presented with a copy of
a letter dated May 10, 2001, in which one of its officials acknowledged
receipt of the $25,000 donation, Americans for Tax Reform responded that it did
not seek money for White House access.
John Kartch, the group's communications director, said, "No money was ever
collected for admission to these events."
Mr. Kartch described the reception as one of several gatherings with
President Bush sponsored by Americans for Tax Reform in support of his economic
policies. "No lobbying occurred at these events, which were similar in nature to
a bill-signing, with people listening to the president speak," he said.
Mr. Kartch said the anti-tax group "did not want liberals unfairly smearing
tribes that supported the president's agenda."
There is only one other documented instance in which Mr. Abramoff was able to
obtain a White House meeting for one of his tribal clients through Mr.
Norquist, and it occurred the same day of the visit by the Kickapoo leader. On
that day, a leader of a Louisiana tribe has said he attended a separate event by
Americans for Tax Reform that was also attended by Mr. Bush.
Documents obtained by investigators for the Senate Indian Affairs Committee
show that the second tribe, the Louisiana Coushattas, also paid $25,000 to Mr.
Norquist's group shortly before the meeting, although the tribe has been
unwilling to say if its chief had the same opportunity as the Kickapoo chief to
talk briefly with Mr. Bush and be photographed with him.
The May 9 reception attended by Chief Garza was photographed by a White House
photographer. One of the photographs became public last month, and showed
Mr. Abramoff in the far background as Mr. Bush greeted Chief Garza. It was the
first picture showing Mr. Abramoff in the same setting with Mr. Bush, who has
said he does not remember meeting the lobbyist.
A former senior tribal official, Isidro Garza, who is not related to Raul
Garza, said the $25,000 donation to Americans for Tax Reform was solicited days
earlier by Mr. Abramoff, who often encouraged his clients to donate to Mr.
Norquist's group. Most of the tribe's money comes from a casino it operates
near the Mexican border.
Isidro Garza said Mr. Abramoff did not say directly that the $25,000 was the
price of admission to the meeting with Mr. Bush.
Mr. Abramoff, he said, described the donation to Mr. Norquist's group as a
"good investment" in the tribe's lobbying efforts in Washington. Mr. Garza said
he arranged for the payment although he saw little direct connection between
the tribe's interests and those of Americans for Tax Reform.
A White House spokesman, Dana Perino, said that White House officials were
"absolutely not" aware of the Kickapoos' $25,000 payment to Americans for Tax
Reform and that the May 2001 reception was an effort to thank "people who had
expressed support for the president" on the tax cuts.
Isidro Garza and Raul Garza are both under indictment in Texas on federal
embezzlement charges involving the use of tribal money.
Isidro Garza, who functioned as the chief counselor to Chief Garza, said he
was willing to reveal details about the $25,000 payment and the White House
meeting in hope of having the government determine whether anyone in Washington
manipulated their ouster from the tribe, the act that led to the criminal
Mr. Abramoff might have had reason to want an overhaul of the tribe's
leadership. In 2001, Isidro Garza said, the Kickapoos rejected a proposal from
Michael Scanlon, Mr. Abramoff's business partner, that the tribe pay $2 million
in fees for a lobbying campaign on behalf of the tribe's casino. A lawyer for
Raul Garza, Jason Davis of San Antonio, said Chief Garza "got caught in the
crossfire of tribal politics" when he was ousted as the tribal leader in 2002,
and "the question is whether he also got caught in the crossfire of national
Through his lawyers, Mr. Abramoff had no comment on the White House meeting
with the Kickapoos. A lawyer for Mr. Scanlon, who has also pleaded guilty in
the case, did not return telephone calls.
In a letter dated May 10, 2001, the day after the White House reception,
Americans for Tax Reform acknowledged the contribution from the Kickapoos, who
had sought help from Mr. Abramoff in lobbying on behalf of its casino. "Thank
you for your generous support of our work," wrote Jennifer Kuhn, the tax
group's vice president for finance. "I have received your contribution for
A copy of the letter was provided to The New York Times by Isidro Garza and
was then forwarded to Americans for Tax Reform for comment. The group did not
comment on the document or explain the detailed circumstances of the
Kickapoo's invitation to the White House.
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