The Widdershins

Archive for October 31st, 2011

Just in time for Hallowe’en.  Trick or treat!

Jack O’Abramoff is out of the slammer.   No surprise here – he has written a book due to hit the shelves tomorrow.  The book, entitled Capital Punsihment:  The Hard Truth About Washington Corruption from America’s Most Notorious Lobbyist, is said to address the scandals of lobbying both past and present. The book will be kicked off with a gala hosted by Tucker Carlson.  Should be fascinating – especially in view of the current climate.

In the book, Abramoff mocks the ethics reforms adopted by Congress in the wake of his downfall.  This from The Huffington Post:

“Is corruption in Washington really ended by insisting congressmen eat their food with their fingers standing up, rather than seated with forks and spoons? Yet, this is the kind of reform which Congress proposes, passes, and then congratulates itself about,” he writes.

That’s not to say reform bills aren’t good for anything. “No bill is more likely to pass than a reform bill,” he writes, “so smart lobbyists always keep an eye out for reform bills.”

Abramoff avers that lobbying hasn’t really changed all that much, despite the aforementioned reforms, and he is probably spot on.  Remember when Rep. Paul Ryan was accosted by an infuriated woman while dining in a restaurant?  His upscale dinner was accompanied by a bottle of wine that sold for $400 or so.  He advised the woman that he was unaware that the total bill would exceed the Congressional limit of $100.  From what I’ve seen of fine Washington dining, there isn’t much of a meal that would not whiz right past the limit, especially with associated libations.

Worst of all, in Jack’s opinion,  were the self-righteous legislators that had partaken of his client’s largesse:

But Abramoff reserves his most scathing criticism for the members of Congress who never complained when he showered them and their staff with money and gifts — then self-righteously hung him out to dry.

Abramoff famously remained silent — taking the Fifth — when he was called to testify before the Senate Indian Affairs Committee in September 2004. In his book, he hints at what he might have said had he opened up.

“Most of these legislators had taken thousands of dollars from my clients and firms, and now they were sitting as impartial judges against me. Washington hypocrisy at its best,” he writes. “Members swim in a swamp of corruption, and thrive in it, but they are able — with a straight face no less — to accuse others at will and sanctimoniously punish what they see as malfeasance.”

Abramoff was not alone in his all expense-paid Federal vacation.  Twenty other people were also indicted, all the way up to the Bush White House (Former Deputy Secretary of the Interior Steven Griles and former Chief Procurement Officer David Satavian).  No word on forthcoming books from the rest.

Capital Punishment, etc. is said to have come from Abramoff’s desire to set forth a plan to ensure that there is no repetition of the lobbying-congressional axis.  He recommends a total  prohibition of gifts (including campaign contributions) to public officials.  He further believes that anyone who has served in Congress or been employed by a member of Congress, be barred for life from lobbying activities.  Sounds great, so far.

Here’s the rub:  Jack Abramoff is still a movement conservative of the first order.  He pins the blame for all of this squarely on – wait for it-  big government.  He is convinced, and it almost makes some kind of sense (at least logistically) that a larger government has more people by definition.  Therefore, he believes that this larger number of people skyrocket the opportunity for corruption.

His solutions are simple.  A bare bones government.  Senators should be appointed rather than elected.  Terms limits for everyone.  And one that actually makes some kind of sense – no member of Congress should be permitted to vote on a project in their own district.  (Well, sort of makes sense.)

One of the talking heads on the teevee mentioned a frightening statistic with regard to the Super Committee.  Some unknown person with a great deal of insider knowledge and even more time on their hands had calculated that there were 200 lobbyists per committee member.  You do the math – it’s staggering.

If it’s true that timing is everything, then Capital Punishment, etc. arrives at a fortuitous moment.  Abramoff is giving form to the nagging suspicion that the 99% of American citizens are even less important than we thought.

This is an open thread.  Y’all enjoy the holiday.

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October 2011

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