Right Wing Nut House



Filed under: Ethics, Government — Rick Moran @ 6:03 pm

Lobbyist Jack Abramoff’s guilty plea on conspiracy, tax evasion, and mail fraud charges have started the Capitol Hill sleaze train a-rollin’ down the track and before it stops, there’s a chance that Republicans could find themselves on the outs after next year’s elections.

Abramoff and his partner Michael Scanlon are accused of influence peddling on a truly herculean scale. In exchange for lavish trips, dinners, (I’m sure someone will find some floozies in there eventually), and gifts, Congressmen - almost assuredly mostly Republican - gave up their vote on Indian gaming legislation. The two men ended up defrauding the Indians out of millions dollars in a complex scheme that has yet to be fully revealed but probably involves grandiose promises made by Abramoff of massive lobbying on their behalf while doing precious little in the way of actual work as well as siphoning off some of the $20 million in campaign contributions made by the Indians to conservative PAC’s.

Also, in some truly imaginative sleaze, Abramoff and another partner Adam Kadan faked a $23 million wire transfer so that finance companies would pony up $60 million which would allow them to buy a fleet of off-shore gambling boats in Florida. The scheme involved Congressman Bob Ney (R-OH) who actually went so far as to place comments in the Congressional Record that threatened the owner of the boats Gus Boulis.

What is it about politics that seems to attract these kinds of amoral people? Politics is a deathly competitive calling and the character of people who are more and more being attracted to the political culture in Washington (and to a lesser extent statehouses across the country) seem to reflect a kind of casual turpitude where venality and cynicism vie with high ideals and patriotism in a horrible mish mash of colliding special interests and grasping for power.

Are Congressmen made of the same moral fiber that their fathers and grandfathers were? Probably, but the opportunities for corruption have increased dramatically. There are many, many more lobbyists than there were even when I was in Washington 20 years ago. And every corporation worth its salt has a Washington office with a Director of Government Affairs who keeps an eagle eye on every law passed and every regulation proposed that would impact the company’s business in any way. And most of those companies (and unions of course) have Political Action Committees who are constantly evaluating and grading a Congressman’s performance, working hand in hand with the lobbyists to insure that on their issues, the Congressman is aware of who is buttering his bread come election time.

But what can you do? The Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that campaign contributions are a form of free speech. And lobbying is also protected by the First Amendment’s “redress of grievances” clause. If you want to muck around with any of those two protections, you end up getting the kind of potential tyranny represented by McCain-Feingold and the FEC’s draconian measures against blogs. The law of unintended consequences is especially heavy in the area of First Amendment protections, something that so-called “reformers” never fail to miss. That’s why the more they reform, the more loopholes are created that the lobbyists and PAC’s are able to drive fully loaded semi’s through.

Whoever ends up being pulled down by Abramoff will represent the tip of the iceberg as far as corruption in politics is concerned. There has always been a fine line between influence peddling a campaign contributions and the fact that most of the rest of the sleaze that is a way of life on Capitol Hill and goes unrecorded - the cozy dinners, the exclusive golf games, the speeches in Aspen, Las Vegas, and other playgrounds - is a continuing blight on our system of government.

Abramoff isn’t exactly small potatoes but he does represent the tip of a very dirty iceberg. Maybe it will take a massive defeat by Republicans to get them to wake up and clean up their act. They can start by making sure that Tom DeLay doesn’t get anywhere near a leadership position even if he’s proved innocent of the trumped up charges by Texas Democratic partisan prosecutor Ronnie Earle. DeLay’s association with Abramoff stinks of the kind of fetid corruption reminiscent of 19th century cronyism and machine politics that Teddy Roosevelt fought the entire time he was President. Would that George Bush were half as brave in taking on the pleaders and hangers on who have corrupted Capitol Hill with the stench of money, greed, and power.


I’ll be updating this post for the rest of the day and probably into tomorrow as blogs weigh in.

Have to start with Michelle Malkin’s excellent round-up and her thoughts:

Maybe, just maybe, Beltway Republicans will finally be forced to get over their fear of challenging Abramoff pal and powerbroker Grover Norquist–not just on matters of political corruption, but on matters of national security.

Interesting take. Norquist has been too buddy-buddy with many Arab governments and individuals whose support of our War on Terror has been less than stellar. Might be time to clean the Republican party penthouse in addition to the cellar.


Captain Ed:

Regardless of which politicians get proven corrupt — and that means proven in court, not just allegations and indictments — both Republicans and Democrats will be well rid of them. Since the Republicans have controlled Congress for the past decade or more, we can fully expect this to ensnare more GOP politicians than Democrats. Money always finds its way to those whose power runs highest and whose ethics run lowest. And even if an honest and fair investigation and prosecution only convicts Republicans — I’m still looking forward to the housecleaning. Politicians enriching themselves on the public trust deserve to spend some quality time at Club Fed.

Well said. Dante reserved the 9th Circle of Hell for traitors to party and country. And by selling their votes for money and perks, any Congressmen caught up in the sleaze should suffer accordingly.

Betsy Newmark:

I guess that, like other scandals such as Enron, this new scandal will bring lots of calls to reform lobbying rules. Of course, they’ve tried to do this before, most notably in 1946 and then again in 1995, but such laws have been as ineffective in regulating lobbyists as campaign finance laws have been in regulating political contributions. There are already a ton of laws and regulations governing lobbyists. That is why Abramoff was investigated - because he broke laws.The tax code is full of regulations on interest groups.

Good point. What’s needed is a dose of morality not more laws and regulations..


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