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December 29, 2005

The Skinny on Abramoff

'The Enron of Lobbying' is what a colleague says about Team Abramoff, the gang of former Republican staffers that helped Abramoff build what the WAPO says could become 'the biggest congressional corruption scandal in generations'.  An article in today's Washington Post by Susan Schmidt and James Grimaldi is the best all-round account of Jack Abramoff's career - from its shady beginnings with his pals Ralph Reed and Grover Norquist in the College Republicans to his totally unscrupulous dealings with foreign governments and corporations, Indian tribes and Congressmen. 

Above all it is a story of hubris and greed:

For a time, all things seemed possible. Abramoff's brash style often clashed with culturally conservative Washington, but many people were drawn to his moxie and his money. He collected unprecedented sums -- tens of millions of dollars -- from casino-rich Indian tribes. Lawmakers and their aides packed his restaurants and skyboxes and jetted off with him on golf trips to Scotland and the Pacific island of Saipan.

Abramoff offered jobs and other favors to well-placed congressional staffers and executive branch officials. He pushed his own associates for government positions, from which they, too, could help him.

<snip>

"Everybody lost their minds," recalled a former congressional staffer who lobbied with Abramoff at Preston Gates. "Jack was cutting deals all over town. Staffers lost their loyalty to members -- they were loyal to money."

While we now associate Abramoff with domestic scandals, he cut his teeth on serving dicey international masters for great sums of money.  He worked with Oliver North, lobbying Congress for the Nicaraguan contras; he worked for Jonas Savimbi, the murderous Angolan rebel leader, to organize anticommunist guerrillas from around the world; he lobbied Congress on behalf of the apartheid South African government. 

A man with no moral compass, this guy.  No wonder there is great hope that he will turn over the goods on Tom DeLay, Conrad Burns and a host of sleazy Republican Congressmen to lessen his own time behind bars.

Posted by Lynn Allen on December 29, 2005 at 10:01 AM in National and International Politics | Permalink

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