CREW demands to know why Abramoff was kept from reporters

Matthew Boyle Investigative Reporter
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Left-wing watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) is calling on the Department of Justice to explain why disgraced former lobbyist Jack Abramoff has been kept away from media.

CREW alleges that Abramoff “had agreed to cooperate with a documentary filmmaker who then was making a movie about Mr. Abramoff, but the Bureau of Prisons exerted pressure to dissuade him from granting media interviews.”

CREW’s complaint contests the DOJ’s rejection of a Freedom of Information Act request for documents pertaining to Abramoff’s communication with media. CREW executive director Melanie Sloan told The Daily Caller the DOJ cited Abramoff’s privacy as the reason behind not fulfilling the FOIA request.

Sloan said the documentary filmmaker the allegations reference is Alex Gibney, who directed “Casino Jack,” a film about Abramoff’s unethical dealings with politicians for years in Washington, D.C. Gibney, who is readying for the release of his new film on former Democratic New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, called “Client 9,” was not available for comment.

Sloan, however, said Gibney is not named in the complaint and that he did not ask her to file the FOIA request or the follow-up complaint.

Sloan added that, though there is now a new administration in the White House, it has not been any easier getting in touch with Abramoff.

“I’ve found there to be no change in the Justice Department between the Bush and Obama administrations,” Sloan said.

She said CREW, however, has not tried to contact Abramoff directly, nor have any journalists come to her with complaints. Sloan did send Abramoff’s lawyer an e-mail, though, requesting he waive his privacy concerns to get around the Justice Department’s reasoning. Sloan said Abramoff’s lawyer has not responded to the e-mail.

Abramoff was released from a minimum-security federal prison in western Maryland earlier this year and is currently living, under prison supervision, in a halfway house in Baltimore. Abramoff is developing marketing strategies for a Baltimore pizzeria, Tov Pizza, as a part of his parole.

Ron Rosenbluth, the owner of Tov Pizza, told TheDC reporters from media outlets all over the country call “every day” trying to talk to Abramoff, but that “he’s definitely choosing not to.”

Rosenbluth said Abramoff has been working on some advertising projects for Tov Pizza – something he can’t have other halfway house employees do. They’re usually line cooks or maintenance workers, Rosenbluth said.

“It’s certainly been advantageous with him being here,” Rosenbluth said. “He’s the first guy that we’ve looked for for marketing.”