Wednesday, April 13, 2005

The Jewish Forward: Lobbyist Denies Newsweek Story on DeLay


Lobbyist Denies Newsweek Story on DeLay
By E.J. Kessler
April 12, 2005

Embattled Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff is denying Newsweek’s story that he told a lunch companion that House Majority Leader Tom DeLay knew about the financing for several trips abroad that have raised ethical questions.

DeLay, a Texas Republican, has been taking fire in the press and from Democrats over three trips abroad that allegedly were paid for by lobbyists, which would violate House ethics rules. At least two of the trips, a 1997 visit to Russia and a 2000 trip to England and Scotland, allegedly were financed by entities with links to Abramoff, according to press reports. DeLay has denied knowing that any lobbyists funded the trips.

He has said the trips were sponsored by a Washington-based conservative think tank, the National Center for Public Policy Research. Abramoff served on the center’s board.

Abramoff is being investigated by the FBI, the IRS, the Senate Indian Affairs Committee and a federal grand jury over alleged fraud and overcharges in $66 million in fees he was paid by Indian tribes involved in casino gambling. A story in the April 18 edition of Newsweek quotes an upset Abramoff railing at DeLay and his aides for maintaining that they did not know about Abramoff’s "behind the scenes” financing role in regard to the trips.

"Those S.O.B.s,” Newsweek quotes Abramoff as saying about DeLay and his staffers. "DeLay knew everything. He knew all the details.”Newsweek sourced the remark to an unnamed companion with whom Abramoff lunched last week. Abramoff, however, is denying the story.

"Mr. Abramoff strongly denies making the comments attributed to him in the April 18 issue of Newsweek,” Abramoff spokesman Andrew Blum wrote in an e-mail to the Forward. "He is furious that in the media’s latest attempt to create a story where none exists, it now seeks to pit him against those that he has known and supported for years. Even Mr. Abramoff’s unidentified lunch companion referred to in the Newsweek article has flatly denied ever stating that Mr. Abramoff said these things. He can only hope that those who know him best know better than to believe everything they read.”

Newsweek counterpunched.

"We stand behind our story,” said Newsweek spokesman Ken Weine.

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