As the scandal swirling around Jack Abramoff begins to mount, the White House made it clear this morning it was standing behind the four Republican members of Congress most closely linked with the disgraced Washington “superlobbyist.”
At the Monday briefing for reporters at the White House, I reminded Press Secretary Scott McClellan how, when President Bush campaigned for moderate Sen. Arlen Specter (R.-Pa.) against a strong primary opponent last year, he (McClellan) explained that the President always supports Republican incumbents in Congress who support his policies.
Asked if that policy still stands and whether the President supports the so-called “Abramoff Four” — Republican Reps. Tom DeLay (Tex.), John Doolittle (Calif.), and Bob Ney (Ohio) and Sen. Conrad Burns (Mont.) — McClellan replied that he would “check on each” for me but he “thinks it’s yes to all four of them.”
In negotiating a plea bargain with Abramoff, federal prosecutors have confirmed that alleged bribery of House Administration Committee Chairman Ney is one of their principle goals in probing what could mushroom into the biggest Capitol Hill scandal since the congressional check-kiting affair of 1992.
DeLay’s ties with Abramoff and the lobbyist’s employment of Doolittle’s wife in one of his enterprise have also been repeatedly highlighted in news reports. Burns, so far the only senator to be tied to Abramoff, has returned six-figure donations generated from Indian interests represented by the former embattled lobbyist, has been dropping recently in statewide polls to the point where he is in a virtual stand-off with State Auditor John Morrison, his likely Democratic opponent in ’06.