HIGHTOWER: Bribery in Dubya's House

Well isn't this special? Karl Rove, the political operative who developed George W's campaign theme of restoring "a new ethical tone" in the White House, now works as Bush's top White House advisor ... and guess who has his butt caught in a tight ethical crack?

Yes, Karl! In March, Rove had a private meeting in the White House with the CEO and the chief lobbyist for Intel Corporation. These two high-tech executives didn't come calling simply to exchange pleasantries with the president's senior advisor -- they were there to get the White House to push for federal approval of a corporate merger that Intel wanted. The Intel honchos had no trouble getting access to the highest-level of White House officials because they knew the secret password: Money. Intel had put more than $300,000 into Bush's presidential run.

Intel's lobbyist says the meeting was "quite useful." I'll say. Less than two months after meeting with Rove -- Bingo! -- the merger was approved. But Rove's ethical problem is about more than doing a government favor for a big campaign contributor. It seems that he owned as much as $250,000 worth of Intel stock at the time, meaning he could personally profit if the merger deal boosted Intel's stock price.

Of course, Karl has had a memory lapse about all this. His spokesperson told The New York Times that Rove "did not recall" whether or not he discussed Intel's visit with President Bush. He also asserts that he was out of the loop and not involved in the decision. The Times, however, reports that Rove continued to get correspondence from Intel about the merger until it was approved.

This is Jim Hightower saying ... In a speech that Rove might have helped write, Bush said on his first day in office that he expected everyone working with him to behave ethically, "avoiding even the appearance of problems." For Karl, though, it seems that "ethics" is just a word to put in a soundbite.


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