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January 04, 2006

A Very Good Year

As you know, 2006 is an election year and people are beginning to put their ducks in order. And people are getting out their duck calls and polishing up their shotguns. I am happy to report that King Kong sized monkey wrench has been tossed into the mix that will provide us with at least 11 months of fun.

First, we have Jack “Joe Valachi” Abramoff pleading guilty to a slew of charges that came out of his vocational activities: getting his clients favorable treatment from legislators in return for campaign contributions, trips (one wonders if anybody other than politicians on the take and radio station promotion winners actually attend the Super Bowl) and other gifts. Having nothing to lose and only years of freedom to gain, Abramoff promises to sing like the McGuire Sisters on crystal meth.

Already, President Bush and House Speaker Hastert have taken defensive moves, including either returning money from Jack’s buddies or donating that money to charity. Among the other benefactors of Abramoff’s largess: Representative Bob Ney of Ohio, Montana Republican Conrad Burns and North Dakota Democrat Byron Dorgan and the highly beleaguered Texas Representative (wait for it!) Tom DeLay. Tom said he had done nothing illegal, but I believe that was a tape-loop.

According to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, over the past six years Republican campaign groups received $1.24 million from Abramoff sources; Democrats – who really should stop their Doris Day act – took in $844,000.

With all his connections and all his millions, I hope Abramoff remembered to keep current with his life insurance payments. He can do a lot of damage. He might even help bring about real campaign reform. Maybe.

All this comes right on the heels of what sounds like a local story, but in fact is of major national importance. A month ago, California Republican Congressman Randy “Duke” Cunningham pleaded guilty to conspiring to take bribes in exchange for using his influence as a member of the House defense appropriations subcommittee to help a defense contractor get business.

Mr. Cunningham has had close relationships with at least several major defense contractors, including Automated Document Conversion Systems and MZM (Google ‘em), who have secured millions of dollars in government contracts while making significant donations to Cunningham and other members of the defense subcommittee.

It isn’t hard to discover how these companies spent their money and who benefited from the sports and hunting events and excursions. Hundreds of little Bernsteins and Woodwards are doing the Deep Dig Rag at this very moment. Given the structure of the Congressional system, it’s virtually impossible for such investigations to avoid cutting through the major Congressional leaders, some of whom are already under investigation or indictment.

When guys like Randy “Duke” Cunningham (you gotta love the name) and Jack Abramoff come out of the box clenching their asses and pleading guilty, everybody who came into contact with these scandals gets tainted. And as far as the media are concerned, the bigger they are, the harder they fall. All of this is happening in a campaign year when many candidates are already going to great lengths to distance themselves from the White House.

If you like to see politicians squirm, 2006 is going to be a very good year.

Posted by Mike Gold at 07:11 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack