The notorious lobbyist talks about how he justified his own crimes and whether D.C. can be saved from corruption
By David Sirota
Before the late aughts, the term “lobbyist” evoked an image of thousands of pinstriped cowboys using sheaves of greenback-stuffed envelopes to corral cash-eating congressmen on the floor of the U.S. Capitol. Then came the sprawling Jack Abramoff scandals, and a single fedora-clad icon became the picture of Washington corruption — a political gunslinger whose flair and balls-out-ness made him stand out from his fellow ruffians on K Street.
Though there have been other well-known D.C. wranglers like Bob Livingston and Haley Barbour, the words “super-lobbyist” and “Abramoff” are basically synonyms. Eventually pleading guilty to felony charges of defrauding American Indian tribes and of public corruption, he went to prison for more than three years — and he brought more than a few politicians and professional influence-peddlers into the slammer with him. Released to a halfway house in 2010, Abramoff just published a book titled “Capitol Punishment: The Hard Truth About Washington Corruption From America’s Most Notorious Lobbyist.”
Abramoff recently agreed to an interview about his book with me on my daily drive-time radio program on KKZN-AM760 in Colorado. During our conversation (full audio podcast here), Abramoff discussed his crimes, but admitted that if he had not been caught, he would still likely be a criminal making bank in the nation’s capital. He also expounded on the psychology of Washington, describing how even the most corrupt lawmakers tell themselves that their vote selling is in pursuit of a higher goal. And he offered up his ideas to clean up the system.
Is Abramoff sincerely reformed? Or is this new Abramoff all just a P.R. façade to rehabilitate his image? Or is it a mix of the two? Read the edited transcript of our discussion below and decide for yourself.