In honor of global phenomenon and resident fly-in-the-ointment DougJ, here’s your link to one of the best Abramoff wrap-ups yet written, by Susan Schmidt and James Grimaldi at the Washington Post.
A reconstruction of the lobbyist’s rise and fall shows that he was an ingenious dealmaker who hatched interlocking schemes that exploited the machinery of government and trampled the norms of doing business in Washington — sometimes for clients but more often to serve his desire for wealth and influence. This inside account of Abramoff’s career is drawn from interviews with government officials and former associates in the lobbying shops of Preston Gates & Ellis LLP and Greenberg Traurig LLP; thousands of court and government records; and hundreds of e-mails obtained by The Washington Post, as well as those released by Senate investigators.
…Abramoff’s lobbying team was made up of Republicans and a few Democrats, most of whom he had wined and dined when they were aides to powerful members of Congress. They signed on for the camaraderie, the paycheck, the excitement.
“Everybody lost their minds,” recalled a former congressional staffer who lobbied with Abramoff at Preston Gates. “Jack was cutting deals all over town. Staffers lost their loyalty to members — they were loyal to money.”
A senior Preston Gates partner warned him to slow down or he would be “dead, disgraced or in jail.” Those within Abramoff’s circle also saw the danger signs. Their boss had become increasingly frenzied about money and flouted the rules. “I’m sensing shadiness. I’ll stop asking,” one associate, Todd Boulanger, e-mailed a colleague.
The first act, of course, introduces a seemingly unstoppable hero and his seemingly-minor tragic flaw.
…Even in those early days, there were hints of the troubles to come. “If anyone is not surprised at the rise and fall of Jack Abramoff, it is me,” said Rich Bond, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee.
Abramoff and his crew busted the College Republicans’ budget with a 1982 national direct-mail fundraising campaign that ended up “a colossal flop,” said Bond, then deputy director of the party’s national committee. He said he banished the three from GOP headquarters, telling Abramoff: “You can’t be trusted.”
You can just imagine an eleven-year-old Abramoff borrowing against dad’s car to swing the sixth-grade class elections. Ah, the memories.
Abramoff wallowed in his access, real and imagined. When his crack administrative assistant Susan Ralston bolted for a position with White House political adviser Karl Rove, Abramoff told colleagues he had gotten her the job even though it was Ralston’s old boss, Reed, who made it happen, her former colleagues said.
Even glowing profiles in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal noting Abramoff’s extensive influence and impressive income were not enough. Abramoff quietly paid op-ed columnists thousands of dollars to write favorably about his clients, including one writer for Copley News Service who disclosed this month that he had been paid for as many as two dozen columns since the mid-1990s.
When you tally up the respective efforts of the various corners of the Executive branch, Abramoff and the Pentagon you get a picture of some awfully busy little media whores.
And of course, the inevitable closing of the third act.
Alan K. Simpson (R), the former Wyoming senator who was in Washington during the last big congressional scandal — the Abscam FBI sting in the late 1970s and early 1980s, in which six House members and one senator were convicted — said the Abramoff case looks bigger. Simpson said he recently rode in a plane with one of Abramoff’s attorneys, who told him: “There are going to be guys in your former line of work who are going to be taken down.”
I’ve barely quoted a tenth of the juicy stuff. Read, weep, discuss.
Via a commenter, is Steno Sue up to her usual tricks? Atrios argues that the point of this whole exercise may be to undercut Abramoff’s credibility if he flips. I have to admit that the part about DeLay barely even knowing Abramoff’s first name (or whatever she’s implying) sounded pretty strange. The suggestion that DeLay is some backwoods fundie who can’t shake hands with a Jew insults the intelligence a bit more every time I think about it.