I'll Take Thirty Alex . . .

Jack in Pakistan

Lobbyist Paid by Pakistan Led U.S. Delegation There


NY Times

Mr. Hilton said that one of the luncheons he arranged for the delegation included representatives from NaftaSib, a Russian oil company that has come under scrutiny after revelations that it sought to cultivate ties with Mr. DeLay during a trip he took to Russia in 1997. A firm with connections to NaftaSib reportedly made indirect payments to help cover his trip, although he had listed a nonprofit group as the sponsor.

Mr. Abramoff, who accompanied Mr. DeLay on the trip to Russia, was not at the luncheon with NaftaSib, Mr. Hilton said.

Lobbyists for foreign governments are required to register with the Justice Department. Disclosure statements filed by Mr. Abramoff and his former firm, Preston Gates & Ellis, show that the firm was retained by Pakistan in May 1995 to lobby to overturn sanctions barring delivery of American weapons to Pakistan if its government continued to pursue a nuclear weapons program. The initial six-month lobbying contract paid the firm a retainer of $165,000, plus expenses. A spokesman for Preston Gates had no comment.

Later disclosure forms show that Mr. Abramoff and the firm lobbied aggressively on Pakistan's behalf, including repeated contacts with the offices of Mr. DeLay, a close friend of Mr. Abramoff. Mr. DeLay, now the House majority leader, has asked the House ethics committee to resolve accusations involving his overseas travels with Mr. Abramoff.

Mr. Hilton provided a number of descriptions of Mr. Abramoff's role with the National Security Caucus Foundation, at one point denying that the lobbyist had a formal role and suggesting that the trip to Pakistan had never happened. Provided evidence to the contrary, he acknowledged that he had hoped Mr. Abramoff would donate money and join the board, but that he never did.

Some of the dignitaries listed on the letterhead of the foundation, including Henry A. Kissinger, Elie Wiesel and George P. Shultz, said they had never heard of the group or agreed to have their names used by it. Mr. Hilton said they were actually affiliated with a sister organization.

Preston Gates's disclosure statements with the Justice Department show that the firm largely ended its lobbying activity for Pakistan after Prime Minister Bhutto's government was ousted in 1996. The firm was on record as Pakistan's foreign agent, however, until April 1997.