Sunday, January 22, 2006

Abramoff and the Zombie Lie

By now most of you probably know about the lobbying and corruption scandal going on surrounding super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Predictions are that between half a dozen and several dozen Republicans in Washington could get burned by Abramoff's decision to flip and testify to the grand jury about his relationships on Capitol Hill and, to a lesser degree, in the White House. There is one undebatable fact that is both the most significant aspect of the story, and the one the media is for some reason hellbent on hiding:

The Abramoff affair is an exclusively Republican scandal.

Abramoff lavished figures like Tom Delay, Dennis Haster (the Speaker of the House, arguably the second most powerful man in Washington after the President), and Bob Ney, yet he never gave a dime to Democrats. Not one penny.

Yet there remains the great lie being told not only by politicians with a vested interest in misinformation, but by media figures too biased or lazy or credulous to see the truth, namely the lie that Abramoff or "Abramoff-related Indian tribes" gave money to members of both parties. This is what people like Atrios are calling "the Zombie Lie"-- no matter how many times you refute it and kill it, it keeps coming back.

Bloomberg News does a pretty good job of cutting through the crap and showing what is really going on here. From their article:
Of the top 10 political donors among Indian tribes in that period, three are former clients of Abramoff and Scanlon... All three gave most of their donations to Republicans -- by margins of 30 percentage points or more -- while the rest favored Democrats.

Abramoff faces allegations that he bilked the casino-owning tribes out of millions of dollars and attempted to corrupt public officials. E-mails released by the Senate Indian Affairs Committee during a year of hearings offer evidence that he directed the tribes to donate funds to specific lawmakers.

Abramoff's tribal clients continued to give money to Democrats even after he began representing them, although in smaller percentages than in the past.

This portion outlines the issues at stake rather well. First, remember what the scandal is about, and what it's not about. It's not about Indian tribes or anyone else (including Abramoff) giving money to politicians. That's perfectly legal, and has been a central aspect of the political workings in Washington for a long time (the term lobbying, in fact, dates from the Grant Administration, when people waited in the lobby of a famous hotel to catch the president on his way out).

Rather, this scandal is about lobbyists and operatives buying favors, i.e. bribery, and politicians receiving illegal contributions by laundering money through a lobbying machine run by Abramoff. Now, it's no secret that in 1994, when the Republicans seized control of Congress, they designed "the K Street Project" as their long-term strategy for holding onto power. The K Street Project is a coordinated attempt by Republicans to infiltrate and coerce "K Street", or the lobbying sector in Washington, into giving as much of their money as possible to Republicans. Part of that tactic involves bullying the lobbyists into not supporting Democrats, part of it involves installing Republican operatives (like Jack Abramoff) in high-powered lobbying positions, and part of it, inevitably, involves granting favors to the more obedient lobbyists in return for their support (in whatever form that might take).

It doesn't exactly take a genius to understand that such a tactic lends itself to corruption and bribery. And that's exactly what happened in the Abramoff matter.

Now, looking at the above quote, notice that the tribes Abramoff consulted had always given to Democrats, but gave substantially less to them once he attached himself to said tribes. What that clearly means is that Abramoff was not directing them to give money to Democrats; in fact, he was doing exactly the opposite i.e. directing them NOT to give to Dems, which was all part of the K Street Strategy.

This scandal is a Republican scandal. Republicans devised it 12 years ago. Republicans executed it. Republicans have reaped its benefits.

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