Reuters’ Marcus Stern and Kristina Cooke write this evening about how the previously under the radar Rick Santorum is about to have his past thrust right into the political media scrum in the wake of his Iowa caucus near-win. Stern and Cooke note that Santorum is likely to be hit over his deep ties to lobbyists and the efforts he made as a senator to meld Republican interests with business interests.
Beginning in 2001, as Stern and Cooke point out, “Santorum was also holding one-hour breakfast meetings with lobbyists on alternating Tuesday mornings at 8:30 a.m.” But in 2006, following the major lobbying scandals surrounding Jack Abramoff, Santorum denied he ever had a program for working lobbyists into the GOP fold. He also fraudulently claimed that he was ending the meetings. Abramoff, for his part, says he never attended Santorum’s meetings:
In 2006, as the influence-peddling scandal that sent lobbyist Jack Abramoff to jail unfolded, Santorum said he was ending the breakfasts in his conference room. However, his staff confirmed to Washington newspapers that they resumed almost immediately, on the same day and at the same time, at a location off the Capitol grounds.
Abramoff never attended Santorum’s breakfasts. “I was focused on the House,” he told Reuters. Yet the mushrooming scandal about Abramoff’s activities cast a harsh light on all aspects of the lobbyist huddles on Capitol Hill.
But did Abramoff really never attend a Santorum meeting? A Roll Call article from March 2001 (accessed via LexisNexis) says that he did:
Santorum has assembled a virtual Who’s Who of Republican lobbyists, including a number of prominent ex-lawmakers, to advise him on how to improve communications and coordination between K Street and Capitol Hill as the GOP leadership seeks to push Bush’s agenda.
Among those attending the first meeting of the group last Tuesday were former GOPReps. Bob Livingston (La.), Bob Walker (Pa.), Rod Chandler (Wash.) and Paxon, as well as former Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.). […]
Lobbyists who participated in the meeting include Jack Abramoff of Greenberg Traurig, David Carmen of the Carmen Group, Dan Meyer of the Duberstein Group, Dan Cohen of Arter & Hadden, Peter Terpeluk of American Continental Group, Dan Mattoon of Podesta-Mattoon, Don Fierce of Fierce and Isakowitz, Tom Korologos of Timmons and Co., Ed Gillespie of Quinn/Gillespie & Associates, and David Bockorny of Bergner Bockorny Inc. [John Bresnahan. “GOP Tightens Grip on K Street; Leaders Send Message To Associations.” Roll Call. 3/12/2001]
A National Journal article from May 2001 (accessed via LexisNexis) reports the same thing:
Finally, both Santorum and Hutchison are hosting twice-monthly, informal conversations with lobbyists. Santorum is meeting with contract lobbyists; Hutchison is talking to representatives of trade associations.
Santorum held his first meeting in early March with such K Street heavy hitters as Jack Abramoff of Greenberg Traurig; Donald Fierce of Fierce and Isakowitz; Ed Gillespie of QuinnGillespie & Associates; Dan Meyer of the Duberstein Group Inc.;and Dan Mattoon of Podesta/Mattoon. Former Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., and former Reps. Bob Livingston, R-La., and Paxon also attended. [Louis Jacobson and Brody Mullins. “The GOP’s New Bridge To K Street.” National Journal. 5/5/2001]
So, what’s the truth? What is a more reliable source: Abramoff’s contemporary post-jail memory or the real-time reporting of well-sourced DC publications?