"That giant sucking sound," as Ross Perot used to say, was the collective gasp emanating from congressional districts across the country today as Indian Scammer extraordinaire and now admitted felon Jack Abramoff copped a plea in federal court.
Abramoff and the scandal that emerged from his dealings with Indian tribes owning casinos, has deep roots in Louisiana. And, while Slate lists a number of prominent Republicans (and one Democrat) who have a lot to be worried about, Louisiana Senator David Vitter will no doubt have to pony up with more detailed and more believable explanations of how it came to be that Abramoff hosted a fund-raiser for the then-Congressman in appreciation for Vitter's helping one of Abramoff's clients. After all, before today, Abramoff was just alleged to be dirty. Now, he's confessed that his operation was corrupt and that it had very long tentacles.
Vitter's defense, thus far, is that he was a rube. That is, Abramoff and Ralph Reed 'played' him by using his strong anti-gambling sentiments to oppose an Indian casino license in Louisiana in a way that benefited their clients.
The fund-raiser that Abramoff hosted at his restaurant in 'appreciation' for Vitter's loyalty was legitimate, Vitter claims — except that Abramoff's restaurant never billed the Vitter campaign for the food, beverages and service. It wasn't until the scandal took on serious implications last year that Vitter got around to insisting that the bill be paid.
Turns out that hosting fund-raisers at his restaurant and not making the politician pay the bill was part of Abramoff's modus operandi.
What's that old rule? 'Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me?' Well, Senator, what is it?
Charlie Boustany's recent partner in Operation Essential Campaign Photo-Op, Ohio Republican Bob Ney, is in water so hot that all its missing is the salt, pepper, potatoes and corn to be officially declared a "boil."
Boustany's own patron, Congressman Tom DeLay, figures to be next in line behind Ney in terms of being a target. The mess DeLay is in with Abramoff in Washington makes his troubles in Texas seem trifling. The Texas indictment only cost DeLay his majority leadership. Abramoff may have the information that puts DeLay in prison.
Bobby Jindal's ideological patron, Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform is also in trouble, thanks to his years of close dealings with Abramoff. If Norquist goes to jail, Jindal will have to come up with another grandstand type ploy to win attention when he runs for governor next time — unless Norquist will run his no-tax pledge operation from prison. Maybe a green palm for having been so close to so corrupt a figure?
Louisiana Republican Fourth District Congressman Jim McCrery was the 11th largest congressional beneficiary of campaign contributions from Abramoff and his clients. No word tonight on whether McCrery is going to try to give the money back or not.
The facts will show that the vast majority of Abramoff's money went to Republican members of congress and their campaigns, and to causes tied to Republicans. Some Republicans are trying to distance themselves from Abramoff now, but it appears to be several years too late. I forget: does the white smoke mean a congressman is burning the money or does it signal he/she is giving it to charity?
For full reports on Abramoff's plea and its implications, look here, here, here, and here.
This scandal is about greed, sure. But it is also about the corruption that dominant power brings with it. Republicans, remember, won control of the House of Representatives running against the corruption of the Democratic majority in that chamber. That corruption of a couple of leaders of that body looks pretty venal when compared to this. Their corruption today is as complete as their hold on the levers of power in the federal government: the House, Senate and White House all under the control of a party that committed itself to trying to change the game so that they would retain power for decades to come.
The corruption that will be uncovered in the Abramoff operation is systemic. It is the logical result to a system where big money dominated everything: the election process (it costs at least a million dollars to run for — and win — a seat in Congress these days); the legislative process (lobbyists have been writing laws in Congressional committees since 1995 when Newt Gingrich became Speaker), and the traditional media (Peter Jennings left a $50 million estate to his family when he died; wonder what circles he ran in?).
All of which is to say that if there is any doubt as to why government does not work for the people who work in this country, grab a newspaper account of this scandal and read it. Politicians of all stripes want your vote, but they don't want — and can't hear — your voice because money doesn't talk, it screams. And it's been absolutely wailing in Washington.
Jesus threw the money changers out of the temple. If we want our government to work for us again, we — your and I — must throw out of the Capital the lobbyists and the politicians who are in their pockets!
THROW THE BUMS OUT!