Abramoff pled guilty to charges of mail fraud, tax evasion and conspiracy earlier in January. He served on the 2001 Bush transition team as an advisor to the Department of Interior and was a Bush “Pioneer,” the designation for fundraisers who generate at least $100,000 in bundled contributions to the presidential campaign.
The White House has stonewalled requests to release information about Abramoff's connection to the president, and there are news reports of photographs that show the lobbyist with the president. According to the Texas Observer, "Abramoff was so closely tied to the Bush Administration that he could, and did, charge two of his clients $25,000 for a White House lunch date and a meeting with the President. From the same two clients he took to the White House in May 2001, Abramoff also obtained $2.5 million in contributions for a non-profit foundation he and his wife operated."
And Newsweek reports that "Bush tapped Abramoff as member of his Presidential Transition Team, advising the administration on policy and hiring at the Interior Department, which oversees Native American issues."
Capital Hill Blue reports: "public lobbying records filed by Abramoff’s firm show the lobbyist made 195 lobbying contacts with the administration on issues for the Marianas islands alone during Bush’s first 10 months in office. " In addition, Capital Hill Blue has unearthed connections between Abramoff and then-Governor of Texas Bush. In 1995, Grover Norquist, a "Bush confidant, told The National Journal" that "What the Republicans need is 50 Jack Abramoffs."
In 2001, Abramoff recommended one of his key assistants, Susan Ralston, to Rove, who was looking for a new key advisor. She is still with Rove.
In 2003, Rabbi Daniel Lapin, a Seattle radio host and activist, urged friends and colleagues to send campaign contributions to Bush via Abramoff, often praising the lobbyist on his show as “a good and personal friend of the President.”
The Voice of America reports " 76 percent of the 1,000 people surveyed say President Bush should release lists of all meetings between Abramoff and his staff. Broken down by party lines, two-thirds of Republicans favored disclosure, as well as eighty percent of Democrats and independents."