Deal With the Devil
Given all the well-deserved attention being paid to Tom DeLay's resignation from the House, you might have missed an important new story in the L.A. Times, by Tom Hamburger and Ken Silverstein, about the latest stomach-churning tale involving Jack Abramoff. In 2001, the story goes, Abramoff proposed a $16-18 million lobbying contract to the Sudanese ambassador to the United States, offering to help dampen down Christian conservative hostility to the pariah state, partly through his connection to Ralph Reed. He made this pitch in his favorite site for such transactions, his Fed-Ex Field skybox, during a Redskins game.
The allegation comes from the Sudanese ambassador, Kidir Haroun Ahmed. Through a flack, Abramoff denied the claim, and said he actually took the occasion to lecture the ambassador on his regime's terrible treatment of Sudanese Christians during the long-raging North-South civil war. But the Times reporters obtained a second (by-request anonymous) eyewitness account of the exchange, from a "former associate" of Abramoff, that confirms the ambassador's story.
Abramoff's protestations of innocence--yea, of righteousness--certainly smell to high heaven. Who would choose to coddle and feed a high-level foreign official in a posh skybox in order to deliver an objection to his government's policies? And why would any Sudanese official pay any particular attention to Casino Jack's personal point of view? Moreover, it's certainly not as though Abramoff was above taking money from people he should have deplored. After all, he solicited and accepted $1.2 million for setting up a meeting between the anti-semitic president of Malaysia and George W. Bush.
What really strikes me about this story are two things: First, the continuing importance of the Ralph Reed/Christian Right connection to Abramoff's various shakedowns; and second, the bottomless avarice of this man beloved of the conservative movement and on very friendly relations with a wide variety of leading Republican officials in the executive and legislative branches in Washington. In that meeting at Fed-Ex Field, it's clear both Abramoff and his prey were dealing with the devil.
Just when you think there cannot possibly be more to the Jack Abramoff saga, yet another bad apple turns up, and you have to wonder what's at the bottom of the rotten barrel. --