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Jack Abramoff to Plead Guily, Cooperate With DOJ:
The latest news is here. Now things get really interesting:
  Any such plea agreement likely would secure the Republican lobbyist's testimony against several members of Congress who received favors from him or his clients. The Justice Department is believed to be focusing on as many as 20 lawmakers and aides. . . .
  Abramoff's cooperation would be a boon to an ongoing Justice Department investigation of congressional corruption, possibly helping prosecutors build criminal cases against up to two-dozen lawmakers of both parties and their staff members.
Bob Bobstein (mail):
20 lawmakers and their aides, or a group of 20 people, comprised of both lawmakers and aides???

I never knew that Abscam was so big. This person's point, that the DOJ might back off the Abramoff investigation because of concerns of messing up the whole Legislative branch, seems overheated, does it not, even if we are talking about 20 Congressmen?
1.3.2006 12:21pm
Medis:
Talk about someone who knows were the bodies are buried ...

Anyway, as an independent who is generally not favorably disposed to politicians, the more--on both sides of the aisle--the merrier as far as I am concerned.
1.3.2006 12:24pm
cathyf:
This is just a note of amusement... Notice how AP characterizes Abromoff as a "Republican lobbyist" (not defined) while the story says "lawmakers of both parties" are targets of the investigation?

cathy :-)
1.3.2006 12:38pm
Steve:
Apparently "lawmakers of both parties" simply said "lawmakers" in the original story. Someone must have gotten a late-night call from the RNC.
1.3.2006 12:51pm
Bob Bobstein (mail):
Abramoff was a Republican lobbyist. He was close to DeLay, Norquist, and others at the center of the party. Ney, the only Congressman "named" in the plea deal, is a Republican.

None of this means that Abramoff rendered the party totally and thoroughly corrupt. But Abramoff himself was a Republican activist and past head of the Young Republicans.

Here are some empirics on where his money went; about 1/3 went to Dems.
1.3.2006 12:55pm
Cornellian (mail):
Abramoff concentrated on Republicans because Republicans are in power. I wonder how many Congressmen, having heard of the plea deal, are renewing their passports and wondering how much it cost Mark Rich to buy his pardon from the Clinton administration. I'd be happy to see Congressmen getting rounded up and sent off to jail as a result of this. Ten would be great. Twenty would be even better. And when their seats free up we can ponder what gerrymandering has done to our political system in that Abramoff will have single handedly doubled the number of open seats in Congress.
1.3.2006 12:58pm
anonymous coward:
I've been confused by the same thing, Bob, but "up to two-dozen lawmakers of both parties and their staff members" sounds like two dozen lawmakers, which is awesome.

Abramoff was definitely a Republican lobbyist, in the sense that he was an active promoter of Republican politics and a lobbyist. As the article notes that he gave money to Democrats as well, I don't think the term is misleading, though it is arguably confusing. E.g., from wikipedia (which has much more supporting the point):
Abramoff joined the law firm of Greenberg Traurig, which once described him as "directly involved in the Republican party and conservative movement leadership structures and is one of the leading fund raisers for the party and its congressional candidates."
1.3.2006 1:00pm
Medis:
I doubt there is a single word which would accurately describe the political affiliations of someone like Abramoff. I guess it is somewhat fair to say Abramoff was a "Republican lobbyist" in the sense that he seemed to market himself as particularly influential with Republicans. But in general, obviously lobbyists will try to influence any lawmaker who will listen--and corrupt lobbyists will try to bribe any lawmaker who will take a bribe--regardless of party affiliation.
1.3.2006 1:05pm
Brogie62:
If he was a Republican lobbyist, why did he give 1/3 of his money to Democrats? He is a lobbyist who does the natural thing, give more money to the party in power than the party out of power. If the Democrats were in charge it would have been reversed.
1.3.2006 1:06pm
Bob Bobstein (mail):
Cornellian: Abramoff concentrated on Republicans because Republicans are in power.

No. Abramoff was a committed Republican, a former head of Young Republicans, a longtime friend and partner of uberlobbyist Grover Norquist. Again, that doesn't inherantly make Republicans bad, but this was one bad Republican.

wondering how much it cost Mark Rich to buy his pardon from the Clinton administration.

Well, maybe they can ask Rich's lawyer. What's that guy up to these days, anyway?
1.3.2006 1:07pm
David Pittelli (mail) (www):
The debate (Abramoff is a true Republican vs. Abramoff happened to give mostly to Republicans because they are in power) is somewhat of a false dichotomy. "Abramoff" would give somewhat more to Dems if Dems were in power, but then Abramoff would not be Abramoff exactly. Abramoff would be a smaller fish, and also probably less corrupt (since power corrupts). And someone else with a past that Dems are confortable with would likely be making bigger payoffs to Dems, and perhaps under DOJ investigation. None of this is to argue that we should avert our gaze because "everyone does it." Corruption is at least as unacceptable when it is widespread.
1.3.2006 1:16pm
anonymous coward:
"If the Democrats were in charge it would have been reversed."

Not quite. He was a Republican in the 80's, he was a Republican in the 90's, and he's a Repubican today. It's very important to the current Republican leadership that interest groups are represented by Republicans, even though they will not give 100% of their money to the GOP.

If the Democrats were in power, he couldn't have been as powerful a lobbyist--but would undoubtedly have been replaced by sleazeballs playing for the other team (Abramoff is in a class of his own of course).
1.3.2006 1:20pm
Bob Bobstein (mail):
Dunno if I can agree with you, David Pitelli. The scale of what Abramoff, Delay, Norquist, et al are doing had never been matched by Dems. But, maybe that was just for lack of imagination, rather than any scruples.

Apologies for the lengthy quote, but it seems like it's necessary to establish the background fact that Abramoff is a Republican:

Abramoff came into politics by way of the campus-based, student-run College Republicans, where he served with future party big shots such as Ralph Reed and Grover Norquist. While running the College Republicans, he said: "It is not our job to seek peaceful coexistence with the left. Our job is to remove them from power permanently."

The apotheosis of this mentality was something Republicans called the "K Street Project." The idea was that, once Republicans had won control of Congress in 1994, they would not permit the business lobbies centered on K Street in Washington to split their loyalties between the two parties, as they had always done. Henceforth they had to employ, and donate funds to, Republicans, mostly if not exclusively.

Abramoff was a key figure in this project. "It was my role to push the Republicans on K Street to be more helpful to the conservative movement," Abramoff recalled to Michael Crowley in a recent New York Times Magazine profile. Republicans concurred at the time.

"He is someone on our side," Tom DeLay's chief of staff, Ed Buckham, explained to National Journal magazine in 1995. "He has access to DeLay." DeLay once called Abramoff "one of my closest and dearest friends." Abramoff hired multiple DeLay staffers as lobbyists, and his assistant later went to work for Karl Rove.

Abramoff epitomized the new breed of partisan lobbyist who advanced the GOP cause even as he enriched himself. As Norquist enthused at the time: "What the Republicans need is 50 Jack Abramoffs. Then this becomes a different town."
1.3.2006 1:28pm
Noah Klein (mail):
Orin:

I was hoping that you had some sense of the timing of the plea deal. The MSM has been reporting for weeks that Abramoff is close to a plea deal, yet I have not seen it. Have you seen or heard something that would indicate that he is going to plea today or tommorrow.

Noah
1.3.2006 1:38pm
Bob Bobstein (mail):
Noah-- he pled today.
1.3.2006 1:40pm
John Lederer (mail):
Looking at the Washington Post chart, it occurs to me offhand (meaning that I am too lazy to count) that the contributions are a little heavily weighted towards Westerners. That, it seems to me, would be consistent with where most tribes are.
1.3.2006 1:43pm
cathyf:
The point of my comment was more about AP's choice of wording than its accuracy. Several studies of the media have noticed a statistically significant effect -- when journalists identify members of Congress who are Democrats, they are more often called "representative" or "senator" or "congressman" (or "congresswoman") from some state, while members of Congress who are Republicans are more often called "Republican representative" or "Republican senator" or "Republican congressman" (or "Republican congresswoman") from some state.

Perfectly accurate in all cases, but the contrast is striking...

cathy :-)
1.3.2006 1:44pm
Noah Klein (mail):
Bob,

Thank you for the article. I hope we will soon learn the extent of the scandal so we can stop speculating.

Cathy,

I am confused by your comment. Generally, when I see the media mention a Representative or Senator, they indicates both the party and the state of that specific person. The only case where I have noticed this not to be the case is when C-SPAN has a Representative or Senator on, but that is only in a few cases.

Noah
1.3.2006 1:58pm
Bob Bobstein (mail):
Cathy-- I too am confused by your comment. Assuming that your point is true (any links to help confirm it?), what does it mean? That the media is giving Republicans credit for doing things, and hiding the affiliation of Democratic congressmen? That the media thinks that "Republican" is a bad word, and likes to apply it to hurt Republicans? Does that work, if so?

Your point may be simple enough, but I managed not to understand it.
1.3.2006 2:15pm
NickM (mail) (www):
The Washington Post article puts the number at a half-dozen members of Congress implicated. Of those, Bob Ney (R-OH) is toast. He can always try to plead guilty before Bill Jefferson (D-LA, involved in a wholly different scandal) does, in order to get the top bunk. I have not seen anything clear-cut that shows wrongdoing on the part of any other Members. Hiring their wives is a sleazy practice, but one that is impossible to criminalize without banning much employment by Congressional spouses and children, as no quid pro quo or corrupt agreement needs to occur to distort the political process. They get special treatment without even having to ask at that point.

Nick
1.3.2006 2:35pm
cathyf:
I can't find any links to what I saw and am working from memory, but the claim about the language choice was what it revealed about the unconscious prejudices of the journalists. People like me are just "people" while people like them are "those people." The simpler claim about bias would be that journalists pick and choose whether to identify the party affiliation of the subject in order to accentuate positive examples of their own party and accentuate negative examples of the other party. But what is being claimed by this research is that journalists don't do this, and in that real life Republicans get associated with positive images and Democrats miss out on being associated with positive images. If true, this is a strong argument that the bias is quite unconscious -- the journalist identifies Republicans and not Democrats because the journalist thinks being a Republican is exotic and worthy of comment, whereas being a Democrat is normal and not worthy of comment.

Which is why I started off by saying I was amused. I saw this as another example of a reporter thinking that everyone else would be just as fascinated by a description of such an exotic creature.

cathy :-)
1.3.2006 3:22pm
steveh2 (mail):
For what it's worth, I don't believe Abramoff ever gave money to any Democrats. He advised his clients to give some money (about one-third) to certain powerful Democrats.

Abramoff gave his own money exclusively to Republicans.
1.3.2006 3:36pm
steveh2 (mail):
In follow up ...

"Between 2001 and 2004, Abramoff gave more than $127,000 to Republican candidates and committees and nothing to Democrats, federal records show. At the same time, his Indian clients were the only ones among the top 10 tribal donors in the U.S. to donate more money to Republicans than Democrats. " (This is from Bloomberg.)

Also, Abramoff was one of Bush's "Pioneers," raising over $100K for Bush's re-election campaign.

There is simply no way to dispute that Abramoff was a "Republican lobbyist," and any description of Abramoff without using the word "Republican" is less than fully informative.
1.3.2006 3:47pm
Bob Bobstein (mail):
Well, ok, cathyf, thanks for clarifying. That's an interesting point.

As you can see, everyone here took your comment as an assertion that Abramoff wasn't actually a Republican. That appears to be the first line of defense for partisans who are predisposed to prevaricate about the inconvenient fact that Abramoff was a well-connected Republican.
1.3.2006 4:17pm
The Warden (mail) (www):
My first thoughts on hearing about this was "what an easy way to ensure a coverup."
1.3.2006 5:09pm
Mucus Maximus:
It's really hard for me to get outraged about someone scamming a bunch of casinos, inasmuch as the whole purpose of a casino is to scam the poor fools who come there to throw their money away.

It's also hard for me to see this as "bigger" than Koreagate, which involved a foreign intelligence agency trying to buy influence with hundreds of members of Congress.
1.3.2006 5:29pm
Defending the Indefensible:
I'm inclined to think there is a genuine culture of corruption in Congress, insofar as anyone who was "clean" would not be trusted in a position of leadership lest he spill the beans on the others. It's like any gang, really, you don't get made until you're blooded, in this case it's about money but the principle is the same.
1.3.2006 6:15pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
As a conservative, I am somewhat disheartened that the adage that power corrupts, etc. is again true, and will, most likely, take down more Republicans than Democrats.

This is the general problem of power in our republican democracy. There is so much money and power floating around, that the temptation to skim off just a little bit seems to be irresistable to so many of our elected officials. But that is, of course, human nature.

What is just as depressing to me is that I don't see a viable way out, except do as will probably be done here, to jail the most egregious. I think the last election showed the total failure of Campaign Reform. Electoral office these days is just too valuable - those trying to buy influence or sway elections are going to find ways around any restrictions faster than than the restrictions are put in place.
1.3.2006 6:52pm
Steve Brady (mail) (www):
It's really hard for me to get outraged about someone scamming a bunch of casinos, inasmuch as the whole purpose of a casino is to scam the poor fools who come there to throw their money away.

Read about his work with sweatshops in the Marianas islands. Then get outraged.
1.3.2006 10:19pm
Smithy (mail):
Read about his work with sweatshops in the Marianas islands. Then get outraged.


Cry me a river.

This is a big non-issue. First, everyone knows that corruption is not a partisan issue. The Dems had Tammany Hall. Enough said. Second: anyone who gets indicted on some technical point here will surely be pardoned.

Abramoff is liar. He was not nearly as close to DeLay as he now claims to be. He's just saying what the prosecutors want to hear to save his own hide. No way any jury will believe a word he says.
1.3.2006 10:27pm
Smithy (mail):
Abramoff was definitely a Republican lobbyist

A lobbyist is a lobbyist. What's the point in mentioning party affiliation? Did they call Jeffrey Dahmer a "Democratic serial killer"?
1.3.2006 10:29pm
Syd (mail):
Abramoff was definitely a Republican lobbyist

A lobbyist is a lobbyist. What's the point in mentioning party affiliation?


Because he was bribing politicians?
1.3.2006 11:00pm
John Herbison (mail):
Let us, for the moment, lay aside the questions of whether Jack Abramoff is or is not a Rethuglican and the partisan origins of the vaunted K street project. A more interesting question arises from the reported $25 million restitution requirement.

Does the plea agreement specify to whom this restitution is to be paid? If so, who made that determination?
1.4.2006 12:35am
Mucus Maximus:
Read about his work with sweatshops in the Marianas islands. Then get outraged.

Is that illegal? Certainly he hasn't been charged with anything on that score. I'm not saying he isn't a scumbag, just that the casino thing doesn't get me all worked up.

Does the plea agreement specify to whom this restitution is to be paid? If so, who made that determination?

It says he has to pay $19 million to the "victims of the offense" (presumably the Indian casinos).
1.4.2006 10:05am
NickM (mail) (www):
A more appropriate point of comparison for the labeling of Abramoff as a Republican lobbyist would be how often Clark Clifford was mentioned as being a Democrat during the BCCI scandal. I'm not going to spend the time looking it up - and there may be even better examples, but there is no real dispute that Abramoff was a highly partisan Republican who worked for private clients with officials from both parties, making his party affiliation equally relevant to a highly partisan Democrat who worked for private clients with officials from both parties.

Nick
1.4.2006 5:26pm