Thanksgiving Is Ruined

The Personal is Political. The Political is Personal.

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March 30, 2004
Probe Finds $10 Million In Payments To Lobbyist ; Indian Tribes Unaware of Fees

Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff received $10 million in previously undisclosed payments from a public relations executive whom he recommended for work with wealthy Indian tribes that operate casinos, congressional investigators have determined.

Abramoff, one of Washington's best-connected Republican lobbyists, this month was forced out of his firm, Greenberg Traurig, after revelations that he and the executive -- Michael S. Scanlon, a former spokesman for House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) -- had persuaded four newly wealthy tribes to pay them fees of more than $45 million over the past three years. That amount rivals spending on public policy by some of the nation's biggest corporate interests.

In a letter sent to Abramoff late yesterday, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said investigators on his staff "have recently learned that Michael Scanlon or organizations with which he was in some way associated . . . recently paid you approximately $10 million."

Why does none of this surprise me? Why do I expect that the public reaction to this will be a collective yawn? Of course Republicans have turned the government into a monumental cash-transfer machine. Between federal legislators, appointed bureaucrats, and K Street, it's become a closed-end system designed to take money from the pockets of citizens, through taxes, and pay it directly to Republicans. Lobbying is simply the last step of the scheme, where the big payoffs occur. As Bernie Sanders says in his depressingly clear article, How a Bad Bill Becomes Law, in the latest issue of "In These Times",

Step Six: Turn your work on the bill to your own personal gain. Schoolchildren, pay close attention to this one. Within a month of the bill becoming law the chairman of the House Commerce Committee, Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-La.), was reportedly offered a $2 million a year job by PhRMA (remember, the industry’s lead lobbying group). According to the Washington Post, Tauzin is expected to take the PhRMA offer and leave the House before his term expires. Another key player—Thomas Scully, the immediate former head of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services and White House point person on the Medicare bill—recently left his post to work for law firms that represent pharmaceutical and other healthcare interests.

The pressure that the Republicans have placed upon K Street firms to become All-Rethuglican, all the time, has gotten only the slightest attention from the SCLM. Paul Krugman makes a reference to it in today's column, "This Isn't America," when he states, "The Washington Post says Representative Michael Oxley told lobbyists that 'a Congressional probe might ease if it replaced its Democratic lobbyist with a Republican.' "

The only thing that is surprising about today's WaPo article is that it was written by "Steno Sue" Schmidt.