In a tersely worded statement to RAW STORY late Thursday, a spokesman for fallen lobbyist Jack Abramoff hinted that he did indeed have the photos of himself with President Bush and said that he would not release or sell the images.
"To the extent that Mr. Abramoff has possession of any of these photos, he will not be releasing them, nor is he seeking to sell them or use them for any other purpose," spokesman Andrew Blum said in an email.
Asked if Abramoff actually had the photos in a followup call, Blum declined to comment.
"I've been asked a lot of questions about the photos in the last few days, and that's the comment I have about the photos," he said.
The White House is also believed to have some images of the President with Abramoff, which they have similarly declined to release. A spokesman said Monday the photographs mean nothing.
"Trying to say there's more to it than the president taking a picture in a photo line is just absurd," White House spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters Monday. McClellan said Bush does not remember meeting Abramoff and asserts that the President did nothing to favor the disgraced lobbyist.
Democrats plan strategy to force release
RAW STORY reported earlier today that Democrats are preparing to stage a move that would attempt to force the White House to turn over photographs of the President with his onetime fundraiser and now-guilty lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
House Democratic insiders, saying they were reticent to tip their hand, were quiet on the specifics of the effort or when it would occur. But indications suggest that the move is being coordinated with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and the ranking Democrat on the Government Reform Committee, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA).
As the leading Democrat on Government Reform, Waxman has had significant success in the past in forcing the Bush Administration to turn over documentation that sheds unfavorable light on Administration activities, and has been ardently critical of government waste.
"They have to come clean on who was there and what was discussed," one aide remarked.
Abramoff recently pled guilty to influence-peddling and other charges with regard to members of Congress. At one time, he was a $200,000-level fundraiser for President Bush.
Democrats will stress that they are seeking the photographs -- and other documents related to Abramoff and his associates' work -- in the efforts of government transparency. They will try to duck charges that they are aiming at the photos for political gain.
RAW STORY has already requested all Secret Service logs of Abramoff's entrances and exits to and from the White House under the Freedom of Information Act. To date, nothing has been received in response.
The photographs of President Bush with Abramoff and his family may come out regardless. Both Time Magazine and the Washingtonian say they have seen the photos, and Newsweek reporter Michael Isikoff said earlier this week that he knew Abramoff had shown the images to at least one of the magazines.
Seek information on pharmaceutical lobbying
One aide said Democrats have particular interest in what role former DeLay aide and Abramoff partner Tony Rudy may have had in orchestrating the Medicare reform bill, which was cheered by the pharmaceutical industry.
Alexander Strategy Group, the lobbying firm where Rudy worked, lobbied on behalf of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. The firm collected $720,000 for lobbying on the 2003 Medicare bill alone -- more than any other lobbying group in Washington (View list).
Prosecutors are trying to convince Rudy to cooperate, the Washington Post reported earlier this month.
Sarah Feinberg, a spokesperson for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said there were no campaign-related efforts afoot to procure the photographs. A spokeswoman for Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chair Rahm Emmanuel (D-IL) said that the congressman plans no effort on the photos.
Aides say their efforts come out of frustration that the Republican-led Congress is unwilling to investigate Administration activities.
"It's part of a pattern of the unwilling to scrutinize any of its activities [with] oversight," the aide said. "Whether you're seeing Katrina, or the war, or energy policy. They're just not willing to take a look at it."
Liberal lobby groups are also angling for the images, presumably for use in campaign ads. A staffer at one leading group compared the photographs to the image of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld shaking hands with Saddam Hussein.
"They're priceless," the staffer said.
Correction: Newsweek reporter Michael Isikoff said that Abramoff had "shown" the photographs, not "shopped" the photographs.