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Wednesday, January 04, 2006


jack abramoff

washington lobbyist jack abramoff yesterday pleaded guilty to three felony changes stemming from activities associated with brokering deals on legislation in congress.

Jack Abramoff, the once-powerful lobbyist at the center of a wide-ranging public corruption investigation, pleaded guilty yesterday to fraud, tax evasion and conspiracy to bribe public officials in a deal that requires him to provide evidence about members of Congress.

The plea deal could have enormous legal and political consequences for the lawmakers on whom Abramoff lavished luxury trips, skybox fundraisers, campaign contributions, jobs for their spouses, and meals at Signatures, the lobbyist's upscale restaurant.
republican recipients of abramoff's largesse include senator conrad burns of montana, representative j.d. hayworth of arizona, speaker of the house dennis hastert of illinois, republican policy committee member and representative john doolittle of california and house majority leader tom delay. democrats include representative patrick kennedy of rhode island, senate minority leader harry reid and former senate minority leader tom daschle.

this further analysis from the washington post.

Abramoff was among the lobbyists most closely associated with the K Street Project, which was initiated by his friend Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), now the former House majority leader, once the GOP vaulted to power. It was an aggressive program designed to force corporations and trade associations to hire more GOP-connected lobbyists in what at times became an almost seamless relationship between Capitol Hill lawmakers and some firms that sought to influence them.

Now Abramoff has become a symbol of a system out of control. His agreement to plead guilty to three criminal counts and cooperate with prosecutors threatens to ensnare other lawmakers or their aides -- Republicans and possibly some Democrats.
this page has previously discussed both congressman delay and the republican cooption of k street.

congressional money is now controlled by the president to a greater degree than at any point in the history of this society. there is increasingly little choice in federal patronage and simply nowhere else to go for republican patronage -- this by design. the republican party has constructed a conservative money monopoly from the ground up, beginning with think tanks in the 1970s, controlled on very hierarchic lines. so republican small fry -- and many financially-dependent democrats as well -- line up to hawk whatever bush is selling.

the core part of this effort is the republican cooption of k street, the nom de locale of the washington lobby industry. presidential operatives have successfully reconstructed the influence industry -- which brokers the exchange of money for votes -- into a republican ideological power center.

this is different from what the influence business had been earlier in the nation's history. professional lobbyists as we know them did not exist in anything like extant force prior to the 1980s -- whereas exchanges between unions or corporations and politicians had once been direct, political influence has since become centralized and industrialized by intermediaries in much the same way as lawyers have become an interstice between the people and the courts, serving as interpreters and liasons and granters of access. k street has become a community of ex-politicians and operatives who seek to remain in the game without the need for elections. and republican efforts, diligently attended by senator rick santorum and house speaker tom delay, have successfully made k street the home of ex-republicans.
it seems to this page that anyone who imagines that the mire which has consumed abramoff and delay does not also threaten the bush white house and indeed the bush family is simply not evaluating the reality of washington politics. and with that, a warning: the conquest of the washington lobby is the centerpiece, the flower of effective presidential totalitarian politics at home -- and it will not be so easily relinquished. political machinery has been engaged in a long march to quietly revolutionize american political institutions, effectively consolidating them under an imperial president, for decades. scandals over protecting indian casino money will not be allowed to denude it of its momentum and power, this writer all but guarantees.

UPDATE: the inquiry into abramoff's relationship to the white house is starting to mount -- and this page imagines that, if carried to the end of truth, we will find that the relationship was quite close indeed.

A bit off the topic of this post, but I'd be interested in your take on the impact of the Abramoff plea deal on Democrats' prospects for gains in the House this year, and on the likelihood of impeachment for Pres. Bush.

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i'd say minimal on both counts, mr country.

on elections: were the democrats in a better position to capitalize on abramoff, it might be different -- but with leadership like harry reid and tom daschle caught in the midst, i simply don't think they will risk bringing the issue before the public. risk aversion has become an enormity of american politics -- one of the reasons that risk-takers, even evil ones, gain traction with the public.

as it is, public sentiment eminating from a variety of factors will harm the republicans thanks to the bush administration -- the only politics anyone really watches -- and this might be one more small thing against them. whether or not it overcomes recent gerrymandering is anyone's guess. but who will make the case in congress that would link abramoff fundamentally to the white house, ie, the cooption of k street? it's in no one's interest to alienate the money machine.

on impeachment: putting aside the lethargy endemic to parliamentary politics and the time left, the republicans control both houses, and nothing will happen in that environment. the nature of the american system is such that the president is free to break the law if he subordinates the house -- which is what the k street project is all about.

but, even if the democrats should somehow take control of the house or even both houses -- this is important to note -- the k street machine remains. and i remain unconvinced that anyone really has both the interest and ability to undo suddenly what the republican party has worked more than a decade to put into place.

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If you haven't seen it yet, Gaius. Fafblog had a great send up on this topic:


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See this yet?


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followed by denials. i'll post about this soon.

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