Thursday, December 29, 2005

Abramoff Scandal: "The Enron of Lobbying"

The Washington Post tries to provide an overarching story on the scandals that are rapidly closing in on Jack Abramoff. They do a pretty good job.

The article traces Abramoff's rise and fall. It somewhat understates a key fact: Abramoff is a product of the Republican Party. He, Ralph Reed and Grover Norquist came up through the party at the same time, starting with College Republicans (and apparently playing fast and loose with money in those days, too, according to the story).

In the 1980s, Abramoff was at least peripherally involved in the Iran-Contra Scandal. He made a political friendship with Tom DeLay back in the mid 1990s and that opened some significant doors. He's been involved with gambling interests for quite some time and his involvement in the Bush/Cheney transition team at the Department of the Interior provided him the access and influence that he turned into rivers of cash from various Indian casinos.

The paper provides a helpful chronology of Abramoff's career. And, a graphic that ties together some of the activities and some of those with whom he worked most closely.

Yeah, this is a Democratic blog and there can be no doubt that most Democrats think that the corruption exemplified by Abramoff is closely tied to the attempt of DeLay, Bush, Cheney and Karl Rove to grab all of the power in Washington.

But, the Post does a great service by providing quotes from two Republicans that confirm what we've been saying here: that this is a huge scandal that is quantitatively and qualitatively different from anything seen before in American politics.

Here's the first:
Alan K. Simpson (R), the former Wyoming senator who was in Washington during the last big congressional scandal -- the Abscam FBI sting in the late 1970s and early 1980s, in which six House members and one senator were convicted -- said the Abramoff case looks bigger. Simpson said he recently rode in a plane with one of Abramoff's attorneys, who told him: "There are going to be guys in your former line of work who are going to be taken down."
Here's the second:
Former Republican congressman Mickey Edwards (Okla.), usually a defender of lobbying and Congress, said there have always been members who get caught "stuffing money in their pants." But he said this is different -- a "disgusting" and disturbingly broad scandal driven by lobbyists whose attitude seemed to be "government to the highest bidder."

"This is at a scale that is really shocking," said Edwards, who teaches public and international affairs at Princeton. "There is a certain kind of arrogance that in the past you might not have had. They were so supremely confident that there didn't seem to be any kind of moral compass here."
Abramoff and his team are the poster boys for the Culture of Greed that has come to define Republican operations in Washington.

These people came to power claiming they would 'clean up the mess' and demanding accountability. They've created a much bigger mess, but the demand for accountability is now more important than ever.

While the Post points out that some congressmen and senators who received money from Abramoff and his clients and associates are returning that money, no Louisiana legislator has done so. Many of them have taken that money. Their silence on what will be one of the largest corruption scandals ever to strike the national government is deafening!

How about it Congressman Boustany?

How about it Senator Vitter?

How about Congressman McCrery?

How about it Congressman Jindal?

Yes, How about it Senator Landrieu?

An accountability moment is fast approaching. Who's going to respond?

UPDATE (Wednesday afternoon): The Post includes this story naming those who've drawn the interest of investigators who are looking at various aspects of Abramoff's operation.

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