Thursday, June 17, 2010

Will Abramoff Tale Ever Fully Unravel in the Deep South?

Disgraced Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff recently was released from federal prison in Maryland to a halfway house. His sentence is due to end on December 4 for his convictions on fraud-related charges.

But here is the looming question about Abramoff: Has he cooperated with federal officials in such a way that the full tale of Bush-era corruption will be revealed?

The Abramoff story, the subject of a new documentary film called Casino Jack and the United States of Money, is national in scope. But it has strong roots in the Deep South, especially in Alabama, Mississippi, and Texas.

If Abramoff indeed "spilled the groceries" to federal officials, some prominent political figures with ties to the South might have reason to be extremely nervous.

Reports the Associated Press:

As part of his plea deal, Abramoff cooperated in a long-running Justice Department investigation that led to the convictions of former Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, former Deputy Interior Secretary J. Steven Griles and several top Capitol Hill aides.

But how far did Abramoff's cooperation go? What about political figures who go way beyond Bob Ney and J. Steven Griles?

Southern politicos with reported ties to Abramoff (and his fellow felon Michael Scanlon) include Alabama Governor Bob Riley, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, former Texas Congressman Tom DeLay, and (of course) former Bush White House strategist Karl Rove.

Perhaps no one has stronger ties to Abramoff and Scanlon than Alabama's Bob Riley. Bill Johnson, a former member of Riley's cabinet, says Abramoff should be called to testify in an ongoing federal investigation of gambling-related matters in Alabama.

The probe, so far, has focused mainly on pro-gambling Democrats in the Alabama Legislature. But Johnson says it should also look at Riley and his ties to Mississippi gaming money that reportedly was laundered through Abramoff and Scanlon.

Is the story of "Casino Jack" Abramoff about to wind down? Or is it just starting to heat up?

National Public Radio (NPR), in a recent review of the Casino Jack film, provides an encouraging hint. It comes when NPR discusses director Alex Gibney's approach to the subject and compares his work to that of Michael Moore:

What Gibney does share with Moore is an unapologetically leftist ideological streak. Knowing that, his ability to get interviews with prominent conservatives is impressive. Former Texas Congressman Tom DeLay, in particular, sits down for an extensive Q&A with Gibney in which he proves remarkably candid—and shockingly unrepentant—about his alignment with Abramoff.

Unfortunately, the one on-camera interview Gibney doesn't score is with Abramoff himself. The director spoke to his subject a number of times while researching the film, but Abramoff—a federal prisoner, and involved in ongoing investigations to boot—wasn't allowed to appear on camera. While the film contains a great deal of archival footage of Abramoff, from childhood through to his conviction, along with mountains of e-mail correspondence in which he gloats with associates over his schemes, the lack of Abramoff's current perspective is an unfortunate omission.

So as of May 6, 2010, the date of the review, Abramoff was involved in ongoing investigations? Does that mean some prominent Republican sphincters might be getting tight?

Let's hope so.


Anonymous said...

The depth of corporate/political/judicial corruption is as vast and enormous as the oil hemorrhage in the Gulf. I not sure if we have the capacity to stop either.

Robby Scott Hill said...

Anonymous is right. Jack Abramoff was a pawn in somebody else's game. Whether you like him or not, Abramoff was a loyal soldier and you have to admire the way he executed his orders. Jack Abramoff has served his debt to society. Back off Jack and go after the people who hired him.

Abramoff was employed by Preston Gates Ellis & Rouvelas Meeds LLP, the lobbying arm of Preston Gates & Ellis LLP law firm based in Seattle, WA. In 1995, Abramoff began representing Native American tribes with gambling interests, starting with the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians.

The "Gates" in Preston Gates Ellis is none other than Bill Gates Sr., the father of Microsoft founder Bill Gates.