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Week of 12.18.05

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January 5, 2006, 7:50 A.M.

The indictment of Jack Abramoff is not particularly surprising or even really that significant. What is significant is his plea agreement and his agreement to assist investigators who will be looking into the recipients of funds from Abramoff’s clients, and of gifts from Abramoff’s firm. There is apparently a large circle of recipients who have been lobbied by Abramoff and his firm, but also who have received money and other gifts, possibly illegally, in exchange for their support.

Lobbying is not illegal. Apparently Abramoff crossed the line and has agreed to pay $25 million in restitution and he faces a lengthy prison sentence. Politicians, including the President, who received money from Abramoff or his clients, are scrambling to dump the money on their favorite charities. This obvious positioning is apparently intended to make the recipients look hurt, shocked, offended and most importantly, innocent of any of their own wrongdoing.

The Republicans in Congress are apparently not on board with the Presidents new mea culpa strategy on this. They continue to try to obfuscate and shift blame by saying that Democrats got money from Abramoff as well. While that may be true, the Republicans are the party in power. It does not make much sense to lobby, or in this case, give money to or even bribe, the minority party. That being said, I’m certain that some Democrats have taken money from Abramoff or his clients. The point, however, is that there is likely to be a much more far reaching set of consequences, both political and legal, for the Republicans than for the Democrats.

Some Republicans, like John McCain and, of all people, Newt Gingrich, are pushing for reforms in lobbying laws. The concept of Newt the Reformer is hard for me to get my mind around, but it is clear that we have a problem of ABSCAM proportions here and I’m sure that Abramoff is not the only lobbyist who will be caught up in this episode.

The connection between Abramoff and Tom Delay is one of my favorite aspects of this story. I wonder what charity the bug man will give his money to.

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