Disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff expressed regret for paying columnists on multiple occasions to write articles favorable to his clients.
During a recent interview with Media Matters while promoting his new book, Capitol Punishment: The Hard Truth About Washington Corruption From America's Most Notorious Lobbyist (WND Books 2011), Abramoff said in the past he would find columnists who agreed with his positions and pay them to "place" articles in newspapers.
"Normally what that means in a lobbying context is that you have a friendly writer who is somebody that the major papers are willing to publish and you get them to focus on your issue and write a piece about it," Abramoff said in a phone interview, later adding, "It just happened when it had to happen. When it did, we would find somebody who agreed with us, a writer, and we'd usually pay them to do it, but they would be in charge of getting it placed. And that probably still goes on. I can't imagine it doesn't go on."
Abramoff said he paid for columns on maybe a half-dozen occasions in several major newspapers. He also said the newspapers themselves were likely unaware of the financial arrangement.
He said the media "was a tool in lobbying, and that's the way lobbyists view the media. That you try as best you can to keep them out of your hair, use them where you can to spin your issue, and otherwise keep them at a distance."
Abramoff also stressed that the writers paid to push his agenda were always columnists or op-ed writers, never reporters:
"I'd find a writer who was sympathetic to the issue, I wouldn't approach a writer who disagreed with me or was neutral. I'd find somebody who was passionate about this and we'd try to get them focused on it, get them some money if they needed money or they wanted to be paid for it," Abramoff explained. "A lot of these writers write for pay, they write columns and get paid by their papers. ... So we would pay them, and their job would be to get the article placed. Rather simple. It didn't always work, by the way. They weren't always able to get them placed. But generally they could."
Asked if he ever tried to pay a news reporter to write something sympathetic, he said, "Nah. Most of the time we stayed away from reporters. Lobbyists don't like to hang out with reporters, at least lobbyists who are prudent."
Abramoff confirmed two specific monetary relationships involving writers Doug Bandow and Peter Ferrara, who were quoted in a 2005 BusinessWeek story as having been paid by Abramoff.
A Wall Street Journal Washington Wire blog post reported that Rep. Tom Feeney, who, in a new ad, apologizes for a 2003 trip he took to Scotland financed by Jack Abramoff, "re-paid the $5,643 cost of the trip to the U.S. Treasury." But the blog post did not note that, according to a plea agreement by another trip attendee, the trip had "costs exceeding $160,000" for Abramoff and the seven other participants, or at least $20,000 per person.
Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman has been inconsistent in his public statements about his relationship to disgraced GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff. In recent interviews, CNN's Wolf Blitzer and U.S. News & World Report staff writer Will Sullivan passed up the opportunity to challenge Mehlman about these inconsistencies.
Articles by the AP and the Los Angeles Times reported on White House senior adviser Karl Rove's trips to support Republican candidates in the upcoming congressional elections, but none of the articles mentioned that Susan Ralston, a "key aide" to Rove, had resigned after a congressional report disclosed Ralston's alleged connections to the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal.
Despite front-page coverage in The Washington Post and The New York Times, the resignation of Susan Ralston, a key aide to White House senior adviser Karl Rove, soon after a congressional report disclosed Ralston's extensive connections with Jack Abramoff, has gone unreported on ABC, NBC, and CBS.
CBS and NBC have almost completely ignored Roll Call's revelation that a House committee is preparing to release a bipartisan report documenting closer ties to convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff than the Bush White House previously acknowledged.
On ABC's World News Tonight, George Stephanopoulos falsely claimed that 33 members of Congress "got campaign contributions from [former lobbyist] Jack Abramoff" and "wrote letters to the interior secretary" that were helpful to Abramoff's clients. In addition, by not noting that all the members of Congress who received contributions from Abramoff were Republicans, Stephanopoulos misleadingly implied that Abramoff gave money to members of both parties. In fact, Democrats received contributions from Abramoff's clients and associates but none from Abramoff directly.
New York Times columnist David Brooks claimed that Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff visited the White House only "twice, in 2001 and 2004," citing recently released Secret Service visitor logs. But as Media Matters for America previously noted, the White House has acknowledged several Abramoff visits not mentioned in the logs, and the White House and the Secret Service have both admitted that the records released "would not present a complete picture of Abramoff's" visits.
Fox News' Brit Hume misleadingly reported that after "allegations" that "President Bush had closer ties with the discredited lobbyist Jack Abramoff than the White House had admitted, the Secret Service today released records showing only two White House visits by Abramoff in the past five years." In fact, the White House has already acknowledged several Abramoff visits not mentioned in the logs released by the Secret Service, and both the White House and the Secret Service have acknowledged that the records release "would not present a complete picture of Abramoff's" visits.
On Fox News Sunday, NPR's Mara Liasson again falsely claimed that Democrats received money from disgraced former lobbyist Jack Abramoff. As the weblog Think Progress first noted, she claimed on the May 7 show that "it's Democrats, not just Republicans, taking money from Abramoff." In fact, Democrats received contributions from Abramoff's clients and associates, but none from Abramoff directly.
On Meet the Press, Tim Russert cited a flawed AP article, which omitted key facts that undermined its suggested connection between Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid and disgraced former lobbyist Jack Abramoff, in order to link Reid to "money from Jack Abramoff."
NPR's Andrea Seabrook reported that one of Democrats' "big problems right now" is "convincing voters that the so-called 'culture of corruption' is a Republican thing." According to Seabrook, "there's a growing list of ethics allegations against Democrats in Congress," and as examples, she noted: "Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid [D-NV], Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow, and others took campaign contributions from Indian tribes that were associated with [disgraced former lobbyist] Jack Abramoff." In fact, neither Reid nor Stabenow are facing allegations of ethical misconduct regarding Abramoff contributions, and the mere receipt of contributions from Abramoff clients is not an indication of corruption.