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Abramoff the Saintly

We can’t resist reveling for just a moment in our lead story from the Corruption and Reform News Roundup (below), an LA Times report on the more than 250 letters of support that have been mailed to a U.S. District judge in Miami, asking for leniency in the sentencing of admitted felon and former super lobbyist Jack Abramoff. His family, friends, former colleagues, lawyer associates and even one member of Congress have written to Judge Paul C. Huck, describing him as a man characterized by acts of generosity, his devotion to family, and his deep religious faith.

To give just a few examples….

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif), the only member of Congress who chose to write, described Abramoff as a "selfless patriot" for his ardent anti-communism during the Cold War. (And it’s worth noting that Abramoff had no qualms at all about working with Russian oil interests after the Cold War to advance their agenda in Washington – patriot that he is.)

A top aide on a Senate committee vouched for Abramoff as a "caring, pious, and generous man…."

Monty Warner, a GOP media strategist, said that Abramoff gave away "hundreds of meals" at his Washington restaurant Signatures. (Presumably in between all the meals where he was arranging bribes to members of Congress.)

Benigno R. Fitial, an Abramoff client and governer of the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands, who hired Abramoff to help preserve the abusive sweatshop labor conditions for foreign workers on his island, lauded the criminal who "championed our cause of democratic self-government and economic opportunity…."

Others noted how Abramoff invited 14 children and a rabbi to his sky box for a hockey game, opened a kosher restaurant in Washington "at great personal sacrifice" so observant Jews could have lunch or dinner "in comfort," or covered the medical bills of a rabbi’s daughter injured in a car accident.

And Abramoff’s 16-year-old son, Alex, added this tear-jerking appeal to Huck: "I personally do not know a lot about you or your morals, but I know that if you were to take a look into how my father leads his life, you would see that he is not the kind of person that should be sent to prison."

Goodness gracious, how did such a saintly man ever get in such trouble with the law? Is this perhaps some terrible mistake?

Of course the letter writers made no mention of the Indian tribes that Abramoff bilked out of millions of dollars, (the funding for his exemplary "generosity"), or the workers in the Marianas he helped keep in near slave-labor conditions for years, or the fact that he helped subvert our democratic system of government, and no doubt aided in the misappropriation of hundreds of millions if not billions of taxpayer dollars, thanks to his no-holds-barred, pay-to-play, blatantly illegal version of lobbying.

And while Abramoff can undoubtedly quote the Torah better than I can, I do happen to know that the Jewish religion contains more than a couple pieces of advice about leading an ethical life, teachings which Jack seemed to somehow miss along the way.

As part of his plea bargain, Abramoff agreed to a sentence of between 70 and 87 months in prison. No word yet on whether the outpouring of support for this moral giant will help reduce his sentence at all….

-Gordon Clark