Abramoffgate: It’s the Same Sleaze, Just Bigger!

“Money talks in this business and b…s… walks!” Ex-Rep. Michael “Ozzie” Myers (D-PA) [1]

The breaking saga of the ultra-lobbyist, Jack Abramoff, and his massive influence-peddling ways in the nation’s capital, and beyond, too, has brought back some memories for me. In the late 70s, I was working in the City Solicitor’s Office in Baltimore, MD. I remember going over to Capitol Hill, in Washington, D.C., to testify on a bill the municipality had an interest in, which was then pending before the House’s Merchant Marine & Fisheries Committee. Its Chairman was John Murphy (D-NY), then, one of the most powerful members of the U.S. Congress. On the committee was a young man, an ex-longshoreman, from Philadelphia, Michael “Ozzie” Myers. Little did I know that only a few years later, both Murphy and Myers, would be arrested in the “Abscam” scandal, an FBI sting operation. They were caught on videotape taking huge bribes. Along with other House members, and one U.S. Senator, too, they all quickly fell from political power for their crimes. [2]

Enter Abramoff! On Jan. 3, 2006, he copped a plea to three federal felony charges in Washington, D.C., arising out of a widespread probe by the Justice Department into a mother of all bribery scandals involving him and possibly as many as 20 members of the U.S. Congress, and others, as well. Many of the House members under suspicion as a result of their supposed connections to the fraudster Abramoff are notorious GOP War Hawks, like Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX). [3] Keep in mind that this is the same Congress, that in Oct. 2002, authorized President George W. Bush, America’s wacky Captain Ahab, to take the country into a war against Iraq, which he recklessly did by ordering a preemptive invasion in March, 2003. His action was based on policies of serial deceptions and outright lies. [4]

Politic-related corruption in this country predates the American Revolution. I won’t touch the subject of the theft of the lands of the Native Americans by colonial regimes, and then by successive federal and state governments, since that would fill up countless volumes of criminal data. (2) What I will do is fast forward to the last half of the 20th century, since it’s examples are more in tune with the M.O. of Abramoff’ schemes. During the Lyndon Baines Johnson (LBJ) era, in the late ’50s and early 60s, Robert “Bobby” Baker’s name often surfaced. He was supposedly “a bagman” for Johnson, during his heyday as the iron-fisted boss of the U.S. Senate. Baker also knew a lot of dark secrets about Senator, later President, John F. Kennedy. Baker went to jail, in 1967, on federal criminal fraud charges, but he refused to save himself by “turning on” LBJ, or other powerful mobsters or politicos. [5] If he had decided to talk, I’m sure he would have probably had a fatal “accident,” the same as some other material witnesses did, who were associated with cases, like the still unsolved assassination of JFK, in 1963. [6]

Worth noting, too, as mega-scandals on Capitol Hill over the years, were “Koreagate,” in 1976-78; then the “Wedtech” affair came roaring into the town from 1986-89; and the “Savings & Loan” debacle, which ran from 1980-89. The”Congressional Post Office” scandal from 1991-95 also deserves a mention here. In that one, ex-Rep. Dan Rostenkowski (D-IL), a Chair of the House’s Ways and Means Committee, went down in flames. [2] For the most part, when scandal does strike, Congress goes into a defensive mode, promises reform, and if necessary, will sacrifice a member or two to the justice system to allay public outrage.

More on Abramoff. He may be the sleaziest, most influential, and the most brazen briber to slime his way through the halls of power on Capitol Hill – ever! An earlier published report indicated that he had given political contributions to one third of the members of the Congress. [7] He acted like he had a license to steal, bribe, cheat and lie. [3] The arrogant Abramoff even had reported ties to Far Right extremists in Zionist Israel. [8]

According to the “Baltimore Sun,” one of the companies that was central to Abramoff’s kickback schemes was Grassroots Interactive. The sole owner of that business at that time was Edward B. Miller, presently a top administrative aide to Maryland’s GOP Governor, Robert “Tricky Bob” Ehrlich. Miller has denied any wrongdoing in the matter. The Feds, however, say that their investigation into this aspect of the Abramoff case is continuing. [9] Ehrlich has promised to return $16,000 in political donations that he had accepted from the lobbyist’s fund-raising machine.

Abramoff raised at least $100,000 for the reelection bid in 2004, of President Bush and his VP, Dick Cheney. [10] On Jan. 4, 2006, he also pleaded guilty in a Florida court room to federal conspiracy and wire fraud charges dealing with his purchase of a gambling boat fleet. Incredibly, one of the suspects in the 9/11 affair, Mohamed Atta, allegedly visited one of his casino boats a week before the murderous attacks on the WTC and the Pentagon. [10] What can that mean? Under his plea deal, Abramoff is obligated to “cooperate” with the Feds and to spill the beans on anyone else with whom he may have had a corrupt relationship. A spokesperson for the Justice Department underscored that the “government is not for sale.” Well, that’s good to know, but it sure looks like it has been “for rent” to the highest bidder. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has called this shameless, GOP-dominated Congess “the most corrupt in history.” [11]

Finally, today’s congressional scandal of the moment, let’s call it “Abramoffgate,” clearly shows what a filthy sinkhole our national political system has become. If you suspect that this is only the tip of an underground mountain of sewage sludge, you will be close to the truth. What a disgusting mess all of this is! If the Abramoffgate doesn’t wake up the people, nothing will!


[1]. http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/legislative/house/2002-07-25-myers_x.htm

[2]. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_scandals_of_the_United_States

[3]. http://www.thinkprogress.org/abramoff

[4]. http://www.afterdowningstreet.org/

[5]. http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/JFKbakerB.htm

[6]. “Deep Politics and the Death of JFK,” by Peter Dale Scott.

[7]. “A Wide Net Cast in Lobby Inquiry,” by Robert Little, Dec. 4, 2005, the Baltimore Sun.

[8]. http://www.juancole.com/2006/01/abramoff-and-al-arian-lobbyists.html

[9]. “Abramoff used firm founded by Ehrlich aide,” Andrew A. Green, Baltimore Sun, 01/04/06.

[10]. http://www.madcowprod.com/09302005.html

[11]. http://apnews.myway.com/article/20060104/D8ETHFQOC.html