Wednesday, February 15, 2006

What Cheney's blast revealed: A new White House lobbying scandal?

''I'm going to have lunch with Secretary of State Rice, talk a little business; Mrs. Bush, talk a little business; we've got a friend from South Texas here, named Katharine Armstrong; take a little nap. I'm reading an Elmore Leonard book right now, knock off a little Elmore Leonard this afternoon; go fishing with my man, Barney; a light dinner and head to the ballgame. I get to bed about 9:30 p.m., wake up about 5 a.m. So it's a perfect day.''
-- President George W. Bush, as quoted in the Aug. 22, 2005, New York Times.

For months now, reporters and bloggers have been digging for a picture that would show President Bush with disgraced lobbyist and felon Jack Abramoff. Maybe they've been looking for the wrong picture. Because there's a lobbyist out there who has access to both Bush and Dick Cheney that Abramoff (or at least his pals in Queens) might kill for.

Her name is Katharine Armstrong -- whose family owns the Texas ranch where Cheney shot his 78-year-old friend, Harry Whittington, on Saturday. What has received virtually no attention in all the shooting hoopla is that the wealthy ranch heiress is also a lobbyist -- a lobbyist who goes quail hunting with the vice president and spends leisurely summer days with the leader of the free world at his ranch in Crawford.

Armstrong became a lobbyist just three short years ago. She had no prior experience in lobbying, nor does she have a law degree. Her recent governmental experience consists of her recent stint as chair of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission. In recent years, the divorcee has been raising her three kids and been involved in philanthropic causes around Dallas.

So how's Armstrong doing in her new career?

Quite well, thank you.

In fact, companies are paying big bucks for the Texas-based Armstrong to lobby the federal government in Washington -- including, yes, the White House. NBC News' Aram Rostom is reporting tonight that Houston law firm Baker Botts -- the favorite American law firm of the Saudi royal family, among many international clients -- paid Armstrong $160,000 in 2004 to lobby the Bush White House:

The records indicate she was paid the money after she "communicated with the White House on behalf of Baker Botts clients."

Read On

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