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More on Abramoff

I wrote a bit about the Abramoff scandal last week, but I think it's time for an update.

I have to admit that the more I read, the worse this scandal seems. Before I go further, however, I'd like to take a moment to recap the facts of the case as we know them for those who haven't been following them closely.

Jack Abramoff is something that's known in political circles as a "lobbyist." These "lobbyists," as the name suggests, are sent to Washington to "lobby" on behalf of a certain group or cause.

Jack Abramoff has been accused of.... Look, this is difficult to say. Perhaps you should ask any young children or sensitive adults to leave the room before I go on. You might wish to reconsider reading further yourself, unless you're prepared to face having some cherished beliefs and illusions about our country cruelly shattered.

Still with me? Okay, well... you might want to sit down for this. Here goes:

Abramoff has been accused of... well, I might as well go ahead and say it... offering support and favors to certain congressmen to elicit their support for a particular bill.

Yes, it's very shocking even to contemplate, I know. And in Washington D.C., of all places?! Who could have conceived of such a thing? In fact, you're probably experiencing a bit of denial at the suggestion that such practices could ever occur in our nation's capital.

It's okay to be shocked. It's okay to be outraged. How dare Abramoff single-handedly besmirch Wahsington's good name, and the sterling reputation of the lobbying profession? I know, it's almost impossible to believe that such a thing as influence peddling can really exist, isn't it? But as incredible as it sounds, that seems to be what we're looking at here. I'm just so sorry you had to hear this horrifying news from me.

I'll give you a chance to process this bombshell before I continue. (pause)

All right? Okay.

Now that Abramoff has reached a plea deal, lots of people in Congress are worried that they might be implicated in the scandal. Abramoff is a Republican, as are many of the legislators who have been mentioned in context of the Abramoff investigation.

Consequently, my guess is that the Abramoff fallout will affect Republicans disproportionately. But is it an exclusively Republican scandal?

Howard Dean would have you believe so. Lefty bloggers certainly seemed to enjoy this video of the DNC chairman's interview with Wolf Blitzer, in which he insisted that "There are no Democrats who took money from Jack Abramoff, not one, not one single Democrat."

Granted, Blitzer comes off looking pretty lame during this exchange, but he lets Dean off the hook much too easily, allowing him to blur the issue between Abramoff's personal campaign contributions with the actions of his various lobbying concerns. Blitzer should have asked why Democratic Senators Dorgan and Baucus were so all-fired anxious to return those perfectly innocent, non-Abramoff related contributions.

Ah well, a missed opportunity. Dean won this round on points, but I can't help but believe his abolutist pronouncements will come back to haunt him, as does much of what he says these days.

Again, just to be clear, I'm not defending the Republicans involved, nor even implying that Abramoff was scrupulously evenhanded in his crookery. Still, for Dean and others to boldly assert that the entire Democratic Party is as clean as the wind-driven snow regarding Abramoff is laughable.

(Hat tip: Ace)


Abramoff's crimes are clearly delineated. No, he has not been charged with "offering support and favors to certain congressmen to elicit their support for a particular bill."

Actually, Abramoff PLED GUILTY to mail fraud, conspiracy, and tax evasion. Three felonies. I'm surprised you got that wrong since it was widely reported and very simple and clear.

Pled guilty.

So this isn't some trumped up left-wing conspiracy, this is a successful prosecution of a criminal.

The problem isn't that Abramoff or his clients contributed to political campaigns. To say so is dishonest. The problem is the ol' quid pro quo. See, no Democrats have been accused of voting a certain way in return for a contribution. We are really talking about BRIBERY here. I put that in upper case, like the words "pled guilty" earlier, because damned if you didn't go and miss it somehow. See, giving money to a political campaign is not a crime. Bribery, and accepting bribes, is a crime.

Bob Ney (R-OH-18) is prominently discussed in these allegations, and Ney somehow wound up with more than campaign contributions. And he was a real pal to Abramoff. Read the Abramoff indictment. Ney is "Representative Number One" in the indictment.

Dean's point, which you fail to refute because you fail to discuss it accurately, is that Abramoff, not his clients, never gave any money to a Democrat. Now Abramoff's clients aren't the ones who pled guilty to felony charges; actually, Abramoff's clients are the ones who were defrauded. They were his victims. Why would their contributions then be considered dirty?

WHat Dean said was true. Here's what he said: "There are no Democrats who took money from Jack Abramoff, not one, not one single Democrat. Every person named in this scandal is a Republican. Every person under investigation is a Republican. Every person indicted is a Republican. This is a Republican finance scandal. There is no evidence that Jack Abramoff ever gave any Democrat any money. And we've looked through all of those FEC reports to make sure that's true."

Any of that false? Please tell me how?

Dean makes the distinction between Abramoff and his clients. It is a legitimate distinction unless you want to make it out to be a criminal offense to give money to a politician for any reason.

As for why Democrats are returning money, isn't that obvious? They don't want the money to cast dirt on them. That seems pretty simple. It doesn't mean the money is dirty; it means they don't want even the appearance of being dirty. That, to me, is a good thing, a "Caesar's wife" kind of thing. So don't try to make something bad out of something that is so obvious and simple. That's a sleazy tactic.

Anyway, gotta go. Not your usual work here today, Barry. Maybe it was the heart thing, but I think you were stretching a lot for this defense, given that Abramoff is clearly guilty and the Republicans are clearly his team and this is so truly and obviously a Republican scandal.

> Actually, Abramoff PLED GUILTY to mail fraud, conspiracy, and tax evasion. Three felonies. I'm surprised you got that wrong since it was widely reported and very simple and clear.

I didn't get it wrong. I know what Abramoff pled guilty to, but you and I both know perfectly well that politicians on both sides expect to find a lot more than that when the other shoe drops. Unless these expectations are confounded, there will be allegations of quid pro quo deals with legislators. That's what all the buzz is about, not mail fraud or tax evasion, as you well know.

> Any of that false? Please tell me how? Dean's statement was technically true, if applied to Jack Abramoff's personal contributions to congressional campaigns. As I've already stated, however, that is hardly the extent of Abramoff's web of influence. Hence Dean's statements were misleading.

> I think you were stretching a lot for this defense...
Sigh. It's not a "defense." No matter how many hoops I jump through to inoculate myself from this kind of complaint, I still get hammered. Re-read my posts on this matter. I've been very clear that Abramoff is a Republican lobbyist, and the weight of this scandal will fall heaviest on Republicans. Moreover, I have not tried to defend anyone involved in this ugliness, regardless of their party; you know that. All I've said was that those who think all Democrats are going to walk away from this one scot free are likely in for a disappointment. I stand by that assessment.

I don't think you really addressed what I said, with which I tried hard to address what you said, but I will concede that yours was not necessarily a defense.

That said, how'd you like to put up a bottle of Merryvale Antigua versus, well, pick something of comparable value, that the Democrats do come out of this "scot-free"?

The word "scot" in this expression is not related to Scotland or the Scottish. It comes from an Old English word meaning "reckoning" or "payment", especially pertaining to a tavern or entertainment expense. The term "scot-free" has been used since the 16th century." Ref. http://www.yaelf.com/questions.shtml

We need only define what "scot-free" is and we have a bet.

But I reiterate what I said earlier: Dean is right and it is a Republican-only scandal. He is wrong in calling it a "finance" scandal, which it seems to be for the time being, but it is really a bribery scandal, since that is what we are talking about and that is the crime in all of this, not simply receiving something. My bet is that there won't be a bribery prosecution, but a few, maybe four I would guess, what with Cornyn, losing their jobs in Congress. The papers and TV are nuts with that "as many as sixty" business. Even if there are sixty taking bribes, outright bribe-taking, that kind of house-cleaning is simply not realistic. No, we'll get four that fall for it at the most. But I think Bob Ney is gone and I think Delay is gone. Cornyn could go. If there is any censure in it, I expect to see Ney's chief of staff or chief aide or whatever he is called get nailed. There may be a few others here and there, but I'm going to say "four". Pat Buchanan said "six" on the McLaughoin Report yesterday.

Finally, and in sum, nobody has named a single Democrat yet who is sullied by the scandal and a whole lot of names are out there. Scanlon has been talking for months, and apparently Abramoff has actually been singing like a bird for months as well prior to the deal being struck. Still no Dem names have come out. Barry, all you have in this is speculation. Please take my bet.

Anyway, gotta go. Not your usual work here today, Barry. Maybe it was the heart thing


> Finally, and in sum, nobody has named a single Democrat yet who is sullied by the scandal and a whole lot of names are out there.
Of course they have. Now whether these individuals are actually guilty or not remains to be seen.

I agree with you that it's a bribery scandal. I'd be happy to enter a gentleman's wager with you, except for the fact that your prediction sounds pretty realistic to me, and I'm not inclined to take issue with it.

I think you're correct that the entire scandal might shake out with much fewer heads rolling than some are expecting, in which case, yes, the Democrats may well walk away unscathed. What I reject is the notion that Democrats will walk away unscathed in the event of a sweeping Republican bloodletting.


Barry, you have to have the crimes to do the accusations. You still haven't named any Democrats involved in wrong-doing in this. That was exactly Dean's point. If they walk away unscathed, it's only because they didn't do anything. Believe me, the way I hear tell Abramoff and Scanlon are singing, and Scanlon's former girlfriend is believed to be the one who brought the whole thing down when SHE sang too, if there's a Democrat who can be nailed, he or she will be nailed.

The bottom line is that a blanket statement like "The Dems do it too", absent any real evidence or valid accusations, is meaningless. Look, I know lots of people like to say things like, "They all do it" and "All politicians are crooks," but the truth is that they don't ALL do it and they aren't ALL crooks. I can name a couple whom I believe to be uncorrupted and true public servants. Yes, there are corrupt Democrats, I am sure, but absent any evidence or valid accusations, it's a meaningless statement. It's like saying that there must be bad workers in offices, but do you start firing workers randomly because you are certain some are bad or do you find the bad ones? Obviously it is only meaningful to discuss things that you can prove or at least provide meanignful evidence for (and I just ended that clause with a preposition, which I hate doing).

But Barry, we weren't talking about a general sort of "everyone has a skeleton in the closet" thing. Your remarks were specifically about Dean's and so were Dean's remarks specifically about the players in the Abramoff scandal.

And now I am being repetitive.

And CRB, I am sorry you took my remarks so badly. I've apologized to Barry in email for any offense I may have given, but I want to make this public. I can see how you could take my remarks that way, as insensitive and so on. When something bad happens among my friends, we make fun of each other over it once the immediate danger has passed and we can put it behind us. We wouldn't mock each other over a family member dying of course, but if someone got into a car accident and got his face banged up, we're more likely to say something like, "Nobody ever mistook your ugly mug for Brad Pitt anyway" than to say, "It looks fine, don't worry about it." Barry's postings indicated that his health was fine, which is why I felt comfortable using it to bust his chops a little. I don't know if "CRB" is male or female, but if you're a guy, you know what I'm talking about. This is the male equivalent of "caring and sharing".

On the other hand, that doesn't mean I am not an asshole. You could be right about that, but not because of what I said about Barry's heart.

And CRB, I am sorry you took my remarks so badly.

And I'm sorry that you're an insensitive prick.

Using Barry's heart scare as a means to criticize his post isn't male-bonding, unless you are contemptibly stupid.

Jesus H. Let me try this one more time. The Abramoff scandal is, at its core, a Republican scandal. I think we can agree on that. I know you'd prefer I stop there. But all I did was point out that the glib, absolute certainty of Dean's categorical pronouncement of complete Democratic uninvolvement may prove to be premature.

Every Democrat involved can be booted out of office along with every Republican found to be involved. That sounds fair to me.

Master Criminal Delay seems to be finally somewhat out of the picture. That's a good start.

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