Monday, 7 November 2011

Disgraced Symbol of American Corruption Pens Self-Pitying Mea Culpa

Jack Abramoff is sorry.

He's sorry for what he did. Gosh, he didn't know it was wrong when he did it, but now that he's had some time to think about it (federally subsidized time in a white-collar "minimum security prison camp" in Cumberland, MD), why, it was a crime, the way he behaved - taking all that money, rigging the system, bilking the rubes and living high on the hog during the Bad Old Years of Republican one-party rule during the high tide of the Bush Administration.

I rock the Boris Badenov look much fresher than Abramoff

Of course, everyone else was doing it. Don't get Abramoff wrong - he may be sorry for what he did, but he wants to make damn sure that everyone knows that his accusers are as guilty as he is. What Jack Abramoff did was wrong, sure, but what he was really guilty of was being good at the game, baby, going with the flow even though that flow washed him over the line of the law.

Abramoff's new autobiography, idiotically titled "Capitol Punishment: The Hard Truth About Washington Corruption from America's Most Notorious Lobbyist," is his attempt to reinvent himself, as the title suggests, as a teller of "hard truths." I don't know how long it took Abramoff to crap this opus out, but if it were a callow attempt to cash in on the current wave of populist rage against the Wall Street / Washington / K Street nexus, it would surprise me not one bit.

Eliot Spitzer and Bill Clinton were both great at this look. One day a politician will be so sorry that his lower lip will fold over the top of his head entirely. I will enjoy that.

God bless whatever hard-bitten, cynical copy editor managed to slip a sly question into the AP's headline at the Washington Post: "Abramoff the reformer? Notorious lobbyist writes a call to action to stop special interests" it reads. When the WaPo cocks a cynical eyebrow at such a made-for-TV, all-American attempt at self-reinvention and redemption, you know that you are dealing with a complex and unique species of scumbag.

Perhaps the one redeeming feature of this morning's tepid review of Abramoff's book is this welcome news:

Abramoff is now out of the lobbying business, but the father of five has returned to the home he shares with his wife in the Washington suburb of Silver Spring, Md., and is promoting the book, including an interview airing Sunday on "60 Minutes." Authorities have said in court they are looking into using the book proceeds to help repay a $23 million restitution order to his victims.
While Abramoff's standard of living is hardly going to dip significantly (note the above reference to his posh suburban homestead) it will be a great victory for justice if not a damn penny of Abramoff's book or promotional proceeds ever find their way into his pockets.

It's worth taking a moment, before discarding this lying reptile's opinions as the predictable garbage that they are, to remember who he is and how he got so famous.

Matt Taibbi has an excellent write-up of Abramoff's exploits up to 2006. A summary:

En route to his day of reckoning, Abramoff really did travel each and every right-wing highway, from Jo-Burg in the old days to the Bush White House. But he's being sentenced for only the last few miles of that trip. It's almost an insult to a criminal of Abramoff's caliber that the charge he'll go to jail for is a low-rent wire-fraud scheme committed in a pickpocket capital like Miami Beach. In that one, Jack and his cronies claimed to have $23 million in assets when he didn't have a dime, and he persuaded financial backers to purchase a $147.5 million cruise-ship casino empire. A nice score for a Gotti child, maybe, but a bit gauche for the wizard of the Republican fast lane. 
The other charges are a little more respectable. He took tens of millions from Indian tribes that sought relief from Washington on gaming-industry questions, illegally pocketing millions in lobbying fees and evaded taxes on his ill-gotten gains.

James Harding provides a repulsive footnote to Abramoff's dealings with those Indian tribes (among others):

Where to begin examining the extraordinary career of Jack Abramoff? His work trying to secure a visa for the great Zairian kleptocrat Mobutu Sese Seko, perhaps, or the bilking of an estimated $66 million out of Native American tribes, clients he described as "monkeys," "troglodytes," and "idiots?" Or his leadership of a 1980s think tank financed, unbeknownst to him apparently, by the intelligence arm of South Africa's apartheid regime?

Yes, that's Jack Abramoff. And now he's back, with a book, to tell us how awfully corrupt the whole show is, including those who helped put him behind bars. From the aforementioned AP article:

Abramoff dismisses the reforms [passed after his prosecution] as toothless. He says there are more effective ways to get powerbrokers to do a client's bidding, particularly political contributions that he says should be banned from lobbyists or anyone receiving federal contracts or otherwise benefiting from public funds...He writes in the book that most of the senators who were vilifying him [at his trial] were hypocrites who had taken thousands from his clients and firms.

I'll grant him that. Sending Abramoff to Cumberland minimum security camp for a few years changed exactly nothing. Hell, Brett Loper, a former lobbyist connected to Abramoff co-conspirator Michael Scanlon, was appointed Speaker John Boehner's policy director as recently as April.

In a country with a memory as short as that of the United States, is it impossible that even an irredeemably terrible man like Abramoff can pull off a second act as a finger-wagging moralist? It's possible. Before you scurry off to Wal-Mart to pick up his book, though, a final word about how sorry Abramoff is:

[Abramoff] often charged $150,000 a month instead of an industry standard closer to $10,000 a month. It's a practice he defends in his book because of the results he says he delivered.

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