This article originally provided by The Charleston Gazette

January 19, 2006


Washington sleaze

WHEN Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff pleaded guilty to corruption charges, he confirmed what most Americans already knew: “Campaign donations” from big-money special interests are mostly disguised bribes, designed to buy favors from powerful politicians.

President Bush hastily announced that $6,000 he received from Abramoff will be given to charity. But Newsweek noted that $6,000 was merely the sum the lobbyist gave personally. In reality, he was a major GOP fundraiser who collected hundreds of thousands for the 2004 Bush-Cheney campaign through his corporate and wealthy connections.

Previously, Bush appointed Abramoff to his transition team before he entered the White House, and the lobbyist’s top assistant, Susan Ralston, now is the closest aide to White House religion-politics adviser Karl Rove.

Personally, Abramoff and his wife donated $204,253 to politicians since 1999 — all of it to Republicans. His various clients funneled more than $4 million to 296 Congress members of both parties, but chiefly Republicans.

Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, a top recipient of the lobbyist’s payola, temporarily resigned a House chairmanship Sunday.

Abramoff epitomized the “pay-to-play” system in the nation’s capital. Giving money allows givers access to key decision-makers. Incredibly, since President Bush took office, the number of special-interest lobbyists registered in Washington has soared from 9,500 to 34,000. Presumably, the amount of money available to buy Washington influence has quadrupled as well.

Now that the super-lobbyist has copped a plea, pledging to testify against political insiders, panic is spreading in Washington.

Presidential spokesman Scott McClellan admitted that Abramoff held White House meetings with staff aides — but refused to identify the aides or reveal the topics they discussed.

To lessen the scandal damage, Senate Republicans drafted new ethics rules for dealing with lobbyists. But Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid said the step “is like asking John Gotti to do what he can to clean up organized crime.”

We hope investigations continue relentlessly until the whole pay-to-play mess is exposed to the people.

Abramoff is the latest in a string of GOP figures caught in corruption:

  • Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham, R-Calif., pleaded guilty to taking $2.4 million in bribes.
  • Abramoff partner Michael Scanlon, former top aide to House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, pleaded guilty to swindling Indian tribes out of political money.
  • DeLay, R-Texas, is under indictment on charges of laundering political money.
  • Vice President Dick Cheney’s top aide, Lewis “Scooter” Libby, has been charged with lying to federal agents.
  • David Safayian, the Bush administration’s procurement chief, was charged with lying about his links to Abramoff.
  • Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., is the object of an inquiry about his sudden dumping of stock in a family firm just before the share price fell.

    Americans are getting a look into the scummy side of Washington.


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