Group: Abramoff-implicated Norquist visited White House 155 times

Published: Thursday September 21, 2006

Documents still held at the White House contain records of visits from key figures in the Abramoff scandal that were not included in a Secret Service disclosure yesterday, the group that sued for the information is alleging.

The Secret Service revealed yesterday, as a result of a suit brought on by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), that Grover Norquist, former associate of Jack Abramoff, had been cleared to visit the White House 97 times in the five-year period leading up to the scandal, including 6 meetings with President Bush himself.

Records relating to the case indicate that Norquist, through the group Americans for Tax Reform, channeled money between Abramoff clients and grassroots campaigns, skimming hundreds of thousands of dollars off the top in the process.

CREW insists that during settlement discussions with the Secret Service, it was revealed that records destroyed by the Secret Service--but still retained by the White House--show that Norquist visited the White House a minimum of 155 times.

Another key figure, former Christian Coalition chief Ralph Reed, visited the White House 49 times, according to the group. Records maintained by the Secret Service confirm 18 of these visits.

Reed's attempt to secure the Republican nomination for Lieutenant Governor of the state of Georgia was thwarted after emails revealed he had secretly lobbied on behalf of gaming interests and suggested he wanted the money laundered through another organization to avoid accepting the cash directly.

"Why is the White House stonewalling?" Melanie Sloan, CREW's executive director, asked in a statement today. "What are they trying to hide? The American people deserve to know the truth about who has been peddling influence at the White House."

The Secret Service maintains that the remaining records are not under their control. CREW contends that this contradicts the position taken by the agency when they provided such records to Judicial Watch in litigation involving the Clinton administration.

The group vows to continue litigation until it is revealed "what records have been destroyed as well as why and at whose direction they were destroyed."

The Democratic National Committee has also sued, requesting a narrower range of materials.