Shot in the Dark: The Deeper Murk Behind Cheney's Gunplay

What Cheney's blast revealed: A new White House lobbying scandal
Some important digging by Will Bunch at Attywood on the scandal behind the scandal of Shotgun Dick's shooting spree: the intimate White House connection of a swanky lobbyist with access that Jack Abramoff could only dream of. Below are some excerpts, but do read the whole piece.

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." In a phone interview, she told NBC News that in return for the money in one case, she set up a meeting at the White House for a Baker Botts client, although she said she felt she could not release the client’s name.

"A meeting for doing something with one of their clients," she said, describing the event. "I’m not at liberty to say which." She says she cannot remember which White House official the meeting was with. She also said that during the inauguration proceedings, she got Karl Rove to speak at a Baker Botts function. "I got them Karl Rove," she said…

What kind of access does Armstrong enjoy? Well, you already know about her "face time" -- oops, poor choice of words -- hunting with the vice president at her family's other ranch in South Texas, and we told you about her visit to Crawford last August. In November, Armstrong attended the official White House state dinner for Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, and she was also on the list of overnight guests who visited the Bush family at either the White House or Camp David. That's a lot more than Hannukah rope-line access.

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