You might remember Jack Abramoff, the D.C. super lobbyist who began his rise to the top with Seattle's Preston Gates Ellis (now K&L Gates) law and lobbying firm. Nailed by the feds as the key figure in last decade's Lobbygate scandal, he claimed his innocence all the way to prison. Now, free again, he's bragging about his crimes as a way to sell us something else we don't need, his book.
As he told 60 Minutes' Lesley Stahl this week, when she asked how many congressional politicians he owned:
Abramoff: We probably had very strong influence in 100 offices at the time.
Stahl: Come on.
Stahl: A hundred offices?
Abramoff: In those days, I would view that as a failure. Because that leaves 335 offices that we didn't have strong influence in.
As he explained it, "When we would become friendly with an office and they were important to us, and the chief of staff was a competent person, I would say or my staff would say to him or her at some point, 'You know, when you're done working on the Hill, we'd very much like you to consider coming to work for us.' Now the moment I said that to them or any of our staff said that to 'em, that was it. We owned them."
Abramoff worked as one of the capital's top lobbyists for Preston Gates from 1994 until 2001. Seattle Weeklyreported extensively on his activities for the firm, including a 2005 story that traced a stream of political money from the firm that was used in a deceptive Deep South antigambling campaign involving Abramoff and run by religious-right leader Ralph Reed, who was also on PG's payroll.
Besides tarnishing the firm - bearing the name of co-founder William H. Gates II - fallout from the scandal also affected the political fortunes of Microsoft, co-founded of course by Gates' son Bill.
They were cells in what Abramoff calls a rotted political organism.
"I think people are under the impression that the corruption only involves somebody handing over a check and getting a favor," Abramoff says today. "And that's not the case. The corruption - the bribery call it, because ultimately that's what it is - that's what the whole system is."
He'll explain it in detail, he says, just buy his book. Bribery, call it.