Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Will the Dominoes Start to Tumble in Abramoff Case?

Jack Abramoff is one of the most notorious figures in American political history. And a mountain of evidence indicates he had a profound impact on the electoral process in Alabama.

But here in deep-red Alabama, many citizens don't seem to care that the Abramoff machine apparently poisoned our government. You don't get the feeling that Alabamians are demanding accountability in the Abramoff affair. In fact, it seems that folks in our state would just as soon forget Captain Jack and his sleazy sidekicks.

But the editors of the Anniston Star are not among those folks. In the wake of Abramoff's sentencing last week, a Star editorial noted that the affair is far from over and a laundry list of wrongdoers need to be held accountable.

The Star notes that more than a dozen politicians and lobbyists have pleaded guilty to charges associated with the Abramoff case. And former House Republicans Tom DeLay and John Doolittle remain on the hot seat. But the newspaper correctly points out that the trail hardly ends there, and it cuts a wide swath through the Heart of Dixie:

Closer to home, Abramoff was connected to corruption allegations surrounding Alabama's 1999 vote on a statewide lottery and other initiatives to introduce gambling into the state. The most famous case involved former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman. He was convicted for allegedly selling influence in order to secure funds to campaign for the lottery. A reasonable person might conclude the money was nothing more than a campaign contribution from a deep-pocketed citizen looking to curry favor. In other words, it appears to be the same sort of transaction that happens when donors give to presidential candidates in hopes of landing an ambassadorial appointment to, say, Luxemburg.

Siegelman got seven years, three years more than Abramoff.

The Star goes on to outline Abramoff's efforts to scuttle regulated gaming in Alabama out of fear that it would provide competition for his clients, the Mississippi Choctaws.

The result was that gambling initiatives failed, in part, because social conservatives in Alabama used casino dollars from a neighboring state to fight the lottery election.

This sordid episode had many losers. The credibility of (Ralph) Reed and his religious-right friends in Alabama was mortally wounded. Americans for Tax Reform, which is a lynchpin for the conservative movement, should have been deeply embarrassed by having its name associated with this kind of deception.

In the two years since the Senate released a comprehensive report on Abramoff's dealings, what hasn't happened is anyone connected to this money laundering and deception facing charges of wrongdoing.

The Star doesn't mention Alabama Governor Bob Riley, and the ample evidence that he received about $13 million of Mississippi Choctaw money for his 2002 election--all of it freshly laundered by Captain Jack Abramoff. The Star also does not mention that Republican presidential nominee John McCain knew about Riley's connections to Abramoff and kept them out of a Senate report on the scandal.

With Abramoff's sentencing now behind us, the Star seems to be saying, now is a good time to truly check the foundation of the ugly House That Jack Built.

If someone ever does the checking, they will find a number of snakes inside. And they will have "Alabama" written all over them.

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