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Bush nominated Abramoff associate same day Abramoff visited the White House in 2001

Ron Brynaert
Published: Wednesday May 10, 2006

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(UPDATE: Washington Post reports Abramoff visited with Karl Rove on March 6, 2001 'seeking to place two allies in agency jobs')

Convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff went to the White House on the same day President Bush nominated one of Abramoff's former colleagues to be Assistant Secretary of Labor, RAW STORY has found.

President Bush announced his intent to nominate Patrick Pizzella, who worked with Abramoff at his former lawfirm Preston Gates Ellis & Rouvelas Meeds, the same day Abramoff made a visit to the White House, according to Secret Service records released today.

On Mar. 6, 2001, Abramoff entered at 4:23 p.m. and left at 4:49 p.m., according to Cox News Service, which obtained the records from the government watchdog Judicial Watch today (Article).

A White House press release shows that Bush nominated Patrick Pizzella the very same day.

"The President intends to nominate Patrick Pizzella to be Assistant Secretary of Labor for Administration and Management," the release says. "He is presently the Acting Chief of Staff at the Office of Personnel Management and previously was a government affairs representative with the law firm of Preston Gates Ellis & Rouvelas Meeds in Washington, D.C. From 1990 to 1995 he served as the Director of the Office of Administration at the Federal Housing Finance Board and he served in a variety of positions at the U.S. Department of Education, the Small Business Administration and the General Services Administration during the Reagan and Bush administrations. He is a graduate of the University of South Carolina in Columbia."

Pizzella is the only Abramoff associate to remain in a senior Bush Administration post. David Safavian, who also worked with Abramoff, was arrested last year after allegations that he was obstructing the government's investigation of the Abramoff case. Safavian had been Bush's top procurement officer, overseeing $300 billion annually in federal spending. His lawyer has previously told RAW STORY he will be cleared of the charges.

Thursday's Washington Post reported that on March 6, 2001 Abramoff met with presidential adviser Karl Rove to discuss getting agency jobs for two of his cronies (link).

"At that time of his visit with Rove, according to former associates and e-mails released in the course of a Senate investigation, Abramoff was attempting to leverage his role as a major Bush fundraiser to place a close ally, Mark Zachares, into the position of head of the Interior Department's Office of Insular Affairs," wrote James V. Grimaldi and Susan Schmidt for the Post.

"Abramoff and Zachares had been allies when Zachares served as labor secretary for the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas, a U.S. territory overseen by Insular Affairs," reports the Post. "The lobbyist helped the island territory, a client of his, fight off U.S. efforts to impose minimum-wage laws on its textile plants."

"Zachares received $20,000 from Abramoff's charity, the Capital Athletic Foundation, in two payments -- one before and one just after he left the Marianas job -- according to a ledger for the group released by the Senate Indian Affairs Committee last year," wrote Grimaldi and Schmidt.

Abramoff was unsuccessful in helping Zachares land the Interior Department job, and Zachares later became a legislative assistant to Congressman Don Young (R-ALASKA), who serves on the House Resources Committee. As the Post notes, Zachares accompanied Abramoff on a golfing trip to Scotland in 2002.

(Editor's Note: RAW STORY originally reported that Abramoff may have met President Bush on March 6, 2001 when he visited the White House but the president was in Chicago, Illinois that day: link.)