ABC Resurrects Abramoff Scandal...Day Before Rest of Media Will Likely Pile On

Citing a report to be released on Friday, ABC's World News uniquely led Thursday night by resurrecting the Abramoff scandal. Anchor Charles Gibson promised that the report, from a House committee, “will be something of a bombshell in Washington tomorrow,” a forecast the news media can make come true. Gibson asserted that the report will “show White House contacts with now-convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his associates were far more extensive than the White House has ever acknowledged. And the report will state that prime among Abramoff's lobbying targets, were the man who is now Chairman of the Republican National Committee and Karl Rove.”

George Stephanopoulos related how the report will “detail offers from Abramoff and his associates of dinners and concert tickets and other kinds of meals and drinks to White House officials” and provides “circumstantial evidence that Abramoff did get what he wanted on behalf of his clients." But while there “were 450 contacts with White House officials, including nine contacts” with Rove, the report “also shows that Abramoff tried to get 20 people hired in the administration,” yet “he was only successful, though, once.” Five percent success hardly demonstrates inordinate political pull.

The top story on the September 28 World News on ABC:
Charles Gibson: “We have late news, tonight, about a congressional report coming out tomorrow that will show White House contacts with now-convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his associates were far more extensive than the White House has ever acknowledged. And the report will state that prime among Abramoff's lobbying targets, were the man who is now Chairman of the Republican National Committee and Karl Rove, the President's top political adviser. It will be something of a bombshell in Washington tomorrow and out Chief Washington Correspondent, George Stephanopoulos, is joining us.”

Gibson to Stephanopoulos, in DC: “George, I know this report comes from the House government affairs committee (sic), which, of course, is led by Republicans. What do we know about what's in it?”

George Stephanopoulos: “That's right. Its Chairman is Congressman Tom Davis of Virginia, Charlie. It's the House Government Reform Committee. And it's an investigation based on a detailed examination of the billing records and the e-mails they received from Jack Abramoff and his associates at his firm. What it's going to show, as you suggested, is far more extensive contacts than we've been led to believe in the past with the White House and the Republican National Committee. It also has some circumstantial evidence that Abramoff was able to get some action on behalf of his clients from the administration. It also will detail offers from Abramoff and his associates of dinners and concert tickets and other kinds of meals and drinks to White House officials. Again, far more extensive than we've heard about in the past.”

Gibson: “But George, after Jack Abramoff pled guilty to illegal lobbying, officials at the White House said they barely new him, that he had come to a couple of receptions and that all they knew was what they read in the papers. So, how, have we been able to quantify how many contacts he had with White House officials?”

Stephanopoulos: “We're starting to. According to the report, from what I've been told is there were 450 contacts with White House officials, including nine contacts with the President's chief political adviser, Karl Rove. It also shows that Abramoff tried to get 20 people hired in the administration. In this case, it shows he was only successful, though, once.”

Gibson: “And does it allege any illegal contacts or any illegal lobbying?”

Stephanopoulos: “That's going to be the fight. There will be some questions about whether or not these concert tickets, meals, drinks, offered to White House officials violated the gift ban. That's going to be something at issue. There does seem to be, as I said, circumstantial evidence that Abramoff did get what he wanted on behalf of his clients. I should say though that the White House says what this shows is that Abramoff was singularly unsuccessful as a lobbyist, even though he was trying very hard. They also point out that this investigation is largely based on his billing records, his e-mails. And that he's been shown to have lied in the past.”

Gibson: “All right. George Stephanopoulos reporting from Washington. This obviously will be a major subject of debate tomorrow in Washington when the report is released.”
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center