For the Republican party, the multiple Jack Abramoff investigations freeze the bowels in a way that the Plame case never will. Rove is dispensible, and you can proably get by if Bush himself resigns in disgrace, but practically every Republican in Washington connects in some way to Jack Abramoff. Not bad in itself; the problem is that most everything Abramoff did was in some way illegal, and everything that wasn’t illegal was sleazy enough to embarrass whomever it touches.
If you’ll forgive a pointed analogy, in the mafia you have to protect the bag man, or if he’s going to turn you have to kill him, because if he talks he can bring the operation down in a way that flipping Joey the hit guy never could. Jack Abramoff linked together a dazzling professional sleaze operation that ranged from ordinary illicit dinners, gifts and trips to fleecing native America casino interests, whose funds ended up in places as unexpected as a 2002 New Hampshire election tampering scam, the criminal trial for which has just begun, to a bizarre mafia-connected cruise ship deal in Florida that ended in a professional hit.
When you put the schadenfreude aspect aside the DeLay indictment basically represents one small, but significant, corner of the Abramoff story. For example in the New Hampshire phone jamming case those extorted Indian funds reached the defendants via DeLay’s own ARMPAC.
As it stands today, the bag man is in custody and his records are in investigators’ hands, along with those of the still-feared capo di capo. Today’s news, for example:
Representative Tom DeLay asked the lobbyist Jack Abramoff to raise money for him through a private charity controlled by Mr. Abramoff, an unusual request that led the lobbyist to try to gather at least $150,000 from his Indian tribe clients and their gambling operations, according to newly disclosed e-mail from the lobbyist’s files.
The electronic messages from 2002, which refer to “Tom” and “Tom’s requests,” appear to be the clearest evidence to date of an effort by Mr. DeLay, a Texas Republican, to pressure Mr. Abramoff and his lobbying partners to raise money for him. The e-mail messages do not specify why Mr. DeLay wanted the money, how it was to be used or why he would want money raised through the auspices of a private charity.
Keep an eye on these stories. The Republican party needs very badly to unfuck this tar baby, and their ability to separate themselves from it may well determine their electoral and legal futures. If their choice for replacing the resigned House Majority leader is any guide, the GOP might want to try harder.
In a nutshell you can sum up the GOP’s biggest problems, and the Democrats’ greatest opportunities, in one word. Rhymes with ‘cheese.’
Bob Ney, one of the most Abramoff-tainted Republicans after DeLay himself, just got subpoenaed. Once you get past the stiction phase the screw can start turning pretty fast.