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Author Topic: The Abramoff Hits the Fan
Adam Masterman
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This topic is perhaps best suited to a betting pool. We each get to buy a congressman, and we get a chunk of the pool when our guy gets indited. Talk about gallows humor...

While I have long said that, historically and over time, no one party has cornered the market on corruption, and that there is no connection between any particular philosophy of governance and corruption; all that said, it seems pretty clear which party is currently a nest of corruption. The situation has officially flip flopped from 1992, when the dems had pretty much cornered the market on institutionalized corruption and cronyism. It would make my year to see tons of convictions and stronger oversight emerge out of this (yeah accountability and rule of law), but that would require a whole lot of people to set aside partisanship. Likely? I don't know. The right wing media has done an extraordinaily good job of rationalizing anything and everything over the past few years, such that it is easy for people to see every fault of conservative politicians as a conspiracy by the liberal media (or whatever). The Abramoff mess seems like its pretty clear cut, but then I haven't been listening to the spin yet. Any predictions on how this will play out?

Adam

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philnotfil
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Now that he has agreed to a plea bargain it is going to get much more interesting.

I look forward to seeing what comes out.

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Richard Dey
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Barney Frank (D-MA) has just complimented "the Bush justice department" for taking a proactive discovery position in this matter. I was startled to say the least -- but there are Democrats under fire!
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Rallan
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I think there's a Democrat under fire, the Senate minority leader. Most of the gossip circulating around the intarweb says they're looking at ten congressmen and ten aides, and Harry Reid's the only Democratic congressman on the list. They're a little sketchy on who most of the Republicans are gonna be, although Tom DeLay (surprise surprise) and that Bob Ney guy who everyone suspects was "representative 1" are probably gonna be the two who cop it the worst.
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flydye45
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Reid refused to return any money. He says his is legal and this is a "Republican" scandal.

How nice. Meanwhile, many Republicans are returning money whether illegally obtained or not. An appearance thing.

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Gary
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quote:
The right wing media has done an extraordinaily good job of rationalizing anything and everything over the past few years, such that it is easy for people to see every fault of conservative politicians as a conspiracy by the liberal media (or whatever).
Let's keep that in mind as we go through the scandal. Right now, everyone here seems to think this is a Republican scandal with Harry Reid being the only Democrat involved. I can understand that perception since that's all we're hearing from the "right wing media". I too had thought this would be a prodominately Republican problem. Since the Republicans are in power, it only make sense for lobbyists like Abramoff to concentrate on them. However, here's the news not being reported by "right wing media":

* The Democrat Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) Received Over – $430,000
* The Democrat Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) Received Over – $629,000
* The Democrat National Committee (DNC) Received Over – $177,000


40 Of The 45 Members Of The Senate Democrat Caucus received money from Abramoff:

* Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) Received At Least – $22,500
* Senator Evan Bayh (D-IN) Received At Least – $6,500
* Senator Joseph Biden (D-DE) Received At Least – $1,250
* Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) Received At Least – $2,000
* Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) Received At Least – $20,250
* Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) Received At Least – $21,765
* Senator Tom Carper (D-DE) Received At Least – $7,500
* Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) Received At Least – $12,950
* Senator Kent Conrad (D-ND) Received At Least – $8,000
* Senator Jon Corzine (D-NJ) Received At Least – $7,500
* Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) Received At Least – $14,792
* Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) Received At Least – $79,300
* Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) Received At Least – $14,000
* Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) Received At Least – $2,000
* Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) Received At Least – $1,250
* Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) Received At Least – $45,750
* Senator Daniel Inouye (D-HI) Received At Least – $9,000
* Senator Jim Jeffords (I-VT) Received At Least – $2,000
* Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD) Received At Least – $14,250
* Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) Received At Least – $3,300
* Senator John Kerry (D-MA) Received At Least – $98,550
* Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) Received At Least – $28,000
* Senator Pat Leahy (D-VT) Received At Least – $4,000
* Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) Received At Least – $6,000
* Senator Joe Lieberman (D-CT) Received At Least – $29,830
* Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) Received At Least – $14,891
* Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) Received At Least – $10,550
* Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) Received At Least – $78,991
* Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) Received At Least – $20,168
* Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE) Received At Least – $5,200
* Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) Received At Least – $7,500
* Senator Mark Pryor (D-AR) Received At Least – $2,300
* Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) Received At Least – $3,500
* Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) Received At Least – $68,941
* Senator John Rockefeller (D-WV) Received At Least – $4,000
* Senator Ken Salazar (D-CO) Received At Least – $4,500
* Senator Paul Sarbanes (D-MD) Received At Least – $4,300
* Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) Received At Least – $29,550
* Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) Received At Least – $6,250
* Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) Received At Least – $6,250


How many of you heard all this reported by the "right wing media"? This does not make it clear which party is a "nest of corruption" as has been asserted.

quote:
The Abramoff mess seems like its pretty clear cut, but then I haven't been listening to the spin yet. Any predictions on how this will play out?
Not so clear cut after all since it appears at least as many Democrats are invovled as Republicans. Of course, there has to be proof that these were actually bribes and not legitimate campaign donations. I'm sure the "right wing media" will get to the bottom of all this .. won't they?

My prediction: this story disappears. Neither Democrats nor Republicans want to talk about it and the Democrat allies in the press (i.e. New York Times, ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN) will not want to hurt the Democrats even if it means giving the Republicans a pass (again assuming these were anything other than legal campaign donations).


Here's the source for the data, UBB Code will not work with it for some reason: http://www.nrsc.org/newsdesk/document.aspx?ID=1362

[ January 06, 2006, 10:16 AM: Message edited by: Gary ]

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Jesse
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Actually, not one Democrat recieved any money from him personally.

The vast majority of those, both Democrat and Republican, who recieved donations from his "charities" and clients probably aren't guilty of a damn thing.

Corruption is a lot more than "You accepted a donation from an organization run by a guy who turned out to be involved in corruption", and that applies to both parties.

I Don't much care how much was given to senator so-and-so or congressman what's-his-name, unless a case of corruption can be proven. We shall see what we shall see.

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Zyne
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Gary, when you post here, I know there's a fire. Republican scandal, plus plus.
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David Ricardo
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David Brooks, Republican columnist, sums up the pathetic defense made by Republicans in the face of the Abramoff scandal:

http://select.nytimes.com/gst/tsc.html?URI=http://select.nytimes.com/2006/01/05/opinion/05brooks.html

quote:
I don't know what's more pathetic, Jack Abramoff's sleaze or Republican paralysis in the face of it. Abramoff walks out of a D.C. courthouse in his pseudo-Hasidic homburg, and all that leading Republicans can do is promise to return his money and remind everyone that some Democrats are involved in the scandal, too.

That's a great G.O.P. talking point: some Democrats are so sleazy, they get involved with the likes of us...

[...]

Back in the dim recesses of my mind, I remember a party that thought of itself as a reform, or even a revolutionary movement. That party used to be known as the Republican Party. I wonder if it still exists.

Fellow Republican Tucker Carlson makes a similar point on his own blog:

http://msnbc.msn.com/id/10693414/

quote:
Why were supposedly honest ideological conservatives like Sheldon and Reed and anti-tax activist Grover Norquist involved with Jack Abramoff in the first place? Keep in mind that Abramoff's business wasn't just gambling, which by itself should have been enough to scare off professional moralizers like Sheldon. Jack Abramoff was a lobbyist for Indian gambling. Over the years Abramoff and his now-indicted partner took more than $80 million from a half a dozen tribes in return for their efforts to keep Indian gambling revenues tax free.

Step back and think about this for a second. Indian tribes get a special pass from the federal government to run a high-margin monopoly simply because they are Indian tribes, which is to say, simply because of their ethnicity. This is the worst, least fair form of affirmative action, and it should be anathema to conservatives. Conservatives are supposed to support the idea of a meritocracy, a country where hard work not heredity is the key to success and everyone is equal before the law. Conservatives should despise Indian gambling on principal.

And some still do. But others got rich from it, and now they're likely headed to jail. I'll be cheering as they're sentenced. Weirdos and charlatans and self-interested hacks like Lou Sheldon and Grover Norquist have long discredited the conservative ideas they purport to represent. Their political allies in Washington and Congress may be tempted to defend them. I hope they don't. We'll all be better off when they're gone.

Meanwhile, OpinionJournal, the Wall Street Journal's famously conservative editiorial pages, opines:

http://www.opinionjournal.com/editorial/feature.html?id=110007778

quote:
This week’s plea agreement by “super-lobbyist” Jack Abramoff has Republicans either rushing to return his campaign contributions in an act of cosmetic distancing, accuse Democrats of being equally corrupt, or embrace some new “lobbying reform” that would further insulate Members of Congress from political accountability.

Here’s a better strategy: Banish the Abramoff crowd from polite Republican society, and start remembering why you were elected in the first place.

***

This isn't to say we agree with the media hype that the Abramoff scandal is of "historic proportions." That's true only if your "history" starts around 1994, after Jim Wright sold his "book" in bulk to the Teamsters, after Tony Coelho of "Honest Graft" fame, after Abscam, the Keating Five, Clark Clifford and BCCI, and any number of other famous episodes of Capitol Hill sleaze. Mr. Abramoff and his pals are stock Beltway characters.

What's notable so far about this scandal is the wretchedness of the excess on display, as well as the fact that it involves self-styled "conservatives," who claimed to want to clean up Washington instead of cleaning up themselves. That some Republicans are just as corruptible as some Democrats won't surprise students of human nature. But it is an insult to the conservative voters who elected this class of Republicans and expected better.

On the other hand, it's worth pointing out that Mr. Abramoff and his coterie aren't getting off easy. His plea deal includes a likely 10-year sentence, which is the same as the one handed to Enron's Andy Fastow. Co-conspirator Michael Scanlon has also copped to a felony, and others are expected to follow. No one can accuse the Bush Justice Department of giving these GOP scoundrels a pass, in contrast to the way Janet Reno's Department went soft on Harold Ickes and others after the 1996 campaign-finance shenanigans.

It’s also notable how few Members of Congress so far have truly been implicated, beyond accepting entirely legal campaign contributions. The most culpable is Ohio’s Bob Ney, who has been cited in a “criminal information” for receiving trips and other favors in return for statements entered into the Congressional Record. Mr. Ney says that he too was duped, but there’s no question he was willing to tap dance on cue for Mr. Scanlon, and that alone is sleaze-by-willing-association. If the House Ethics Committee serves any useful purpose, sanctioning Mr. Ney ought to be it.

The bigger political target is former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, more of whose former aides may end up striking plea deals. This doesn’t implicate Mr. DeLay directly, but the cloud around him clearly isn’t going to dissipate even if he prevails (as he probably will) against his politicized Texas indictment by Ronnie Earle.

When we first wrote about Mr. DeLay's travails last March ("Smells Like Beltway"), some of our friends said we were unfair. But Republicans would be far better off now had they taken our advice to do more to distance themselves from the Abramoff taint. The prospect that Mr. DeLay might still return as leader has contributed to the GOP's recent dysfunction; he and they should move on separately.

More broadly, however, the Abramoff scandal wouldn't resonate nearly as much with the public if it didn't fit a GOP pattern of becoming cozy with Beltway mores. The party that swept to power on term limits, spending restraint and reform has become the party of incumbency, 6,371 highway-bill "earmarks," and K Street. And it's no defense to say that Democrats would do the same. Of course Democrats would, but then they've always claimed to be the party of government. If that's what voters want, they'll choose the real thing.

One danger now is that, rather than change their own behavior, Republicans will think they can hide behind the political cover of "lobbying reform." While this has various guises, most proposals amount to putting further restrictions not on Congress but on "the right of the people . . . to petition the government," as the Constitution puts it explicitly.

Lobbyists per se aren't the problem; most of them are hired to protect Americans from a federal government that wants to take more of their money or freedom. Mr. Abramoff could make so much hay with Indian tribes only because he and they knew that Congress had given Washington the power to make or break fortunes simply by rediscovering "lost" tribes and giving them the power to sponsor casino gambling. The root of the scandal is this Beltway discretion and its misuse, not the lobbyists who attempt to protect their own interests.

Most "lobbying reform" also accepts the liberal premise that private money is somehow corrupt while government money isn't. More disclosure is fine by us, but any new rules should also apply to AARP, the Sierra Club, Harvard University and "nonprofit" lobbies or foundations, including their grants from the government and George Soros.

Republicans won't escape voter anger by writing new rules but only by returning to their self-professed principles. Gradually since 1994 they've decided they want to reform and limit government less than they want to use government to entrench their own power, and in the case of the Abramoffs to get rich doing so. If Speaker Dennis Hastert, interim Majority Leader Roy Blunt and other GOP leaders are too insulated to realize this, then Republicans need new leaders, and right away.



[ January 07, 2006, 02:48 AM: Message edited by: David Ricardo ]

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FiredrakeRAGE
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David Ricardo -

There was an interesting essay in TNL that made a great many of the same points regarding Republicans ignoring issues near and dear to (at least some of) their constituency. It can be found here.

--Firedrake

[ January 07, 2006, 03:33 AM: Message edited by: FiredrakeRAGE ]

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Gary
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quote:
Originally posted by Zyne:
Gary, when you post here, I know there's a fire. Republican scandal, plus plus.

Zyne, when all you respond with is nothing but weak insults, I know I'm right on target. Liberal snark, double secret plus plus for me! [Razz]
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Rallan
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Let's break it down so Gary can understand why "Democrats took money too!" is not a defense.

1) The Democrats (and well, pretty much everyone) have received donations to their campaign funds from Abramoff's firm. It's what lobbyists like him do. They donate a bit to everyone's campaign fund as a way of saying "Hey look at me!", it's a marketing tool, nobody's expected to actually do anything except remember that Abramoff exists and wants to have a chat.

2) the politicians who are about to be investigated received personal gifts of cash and gifts straight to their own pockets in exchange for an agreement to vote the way Abramoff wanted them to vote on specific issues.

3) One of these two things is BRIBERY. One of these two things is KNOWINGLY BREAKING THE LAW. One of these two things is UNDERMINING DEMOCRACY BY SELLING VOTES FOR CASH. Can you tell which?

4) Actually screw it, you clearly can't. "The Democrats took money too!" is obviously gonna be the big conservative talking point to try and cloud the issue, so I suggest that rather than get sidetracked by Gary, we sum things up in a phrase that we can all understand: Republicans took BRIBES. Crack that slogan out any time someone interrupts an explanation with shrill cries of "they took money too!", folks. It works a treat.

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Jesse
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Some person or persons may or may not have taken bribes, and Republicans and/or Democrats may be convicted for doing so.

I at least want to know who is accused and what of before making any claims about who's guilty.

Taking a lobbyists money is not a crime. Maybe it should be, but it isn't.

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flydye45
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So let's see. Harry Reid gets 40 G's and it's "simply to get his attention".

Jim Saxton (who by the way returned his money) might have gotten 10G's and it's a BRIBE. This is the shorthand version of goods you are trying to sell.

I can already see the (D)ifference. [Wink]

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Rallan
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No flydye, it's about the law. Accepting a contribution to your campaign fund made by a bunch of native american tribes (that Abramoff just happened to represent) is business as usual, it doesn't change any congressman's decision, it doesn't give them any money they can spend on themselves, and most importantly it's legal. Accepting a contribution to your own pocket so you'll vote a particular way is a bribe. Of course if you wanna sit back and say that it's all the same and that the actions of the Justice Department are part of a Democrat plot to undermine freedom, then by all means go for it.
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The Drake
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quote:
Originally posted by Rallan:
No flydye, it's about the law. Accepting a contribution to your campaign fund made by a bunch of native american tribes (that Abramoff just happened to represent) is business as usual, it doesn't change any congressman's decision, it doesn't give them any money they can spend on themselves, and most importantly it's legal.

Just as a side note, I find it questionable to think that legal contributions do not also influence the votes or "decisions" of a member of Congress.

I do agree that the distinction that is important is the legal one. For better or for worse, the law on contributions is what it is - and all officials should be following it, convoluted though it may be.

Law-makers must not be law-breakers.

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Jesse
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There's another point here that's not all that fine, either.

Not one Democrat ever took a dime from Abramoff.

Prove me wrong, please. We've got transparency on campaign donations. Not one check with his name on it ever went to any Democratic campaign fund.

How many Democrats took golf vacations or diving trips he arranged? I really don't know...I've been looking but I can't find one. Maybe you can.


Bush himself only gave to charity the funds he received directly from Abramoff, even though Abramoff was a Pioneer who raised over 100k for the Bush campaign. Obviously, the President set a standard here : funds raised BY Abramoff are ok, funds directly from him are not.

So, what's ok for Bush isn't for Reid?

I've got no idea who may or may not prove guilty under the law, or might be guilty of ethics violations which do not constitute a breach of law, but the double standard is a bit much.

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Adam Masterman
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I second Jesse's motion. Trying to paint this particular nastiness as bipartisan is deceptive. The GOP screwed up, and they should will pay whatever price the public makes them. The politicians of course will lie, spin and obfuscate as much as possible, but do we really need to help them?

Adam

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Adjudicator
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I hope that the slimy bastards who took money illegally get nailed to the wall. I don't hold very high hopes that such will be the case, but it would be a beautiful thing if the rich and powerful leaders of the country got taken down a notch or five for blatantly flaunting the rules they are supposedly governed by.
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OpsanusTau
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I am really unspeakably disgusted by my Senator in all of this. Conrad, what are you DOING?

(I never voted for him, nor do I know anyone who did...but I feel sullied by association nonetheless.)

I really don't understand how he got re-elected last time, though I suppose I am sort of glad in one way; his defeated opponent is currently doing a bang-up job as Governor.

I wonder if he'll just resign. I sort of hope so. Then we can go ahead and elect someone functional.

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