Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Abramoff Sings, Congress gets the Blues

So Jack Abramoff has decided to plea bargain, and a number of Congressmen (the San Francisco Chronicle has photos of 8, including Dubya, who have gotten various amounts) are wondering what to do with the money he donated to them. (Charitable causes may do well out of all this, as several of them have decided to "cleanse" the money that way.)

This whole mess brings two things to my mind:

One - Everybody involved in this mess is a Congressman. None of the people wishing his picture wasn't being published alongside this story is a woman. Not that this is statistically significant, since Congress is only about 15% female (14% in the Senate, 16% in the House); but doesn't it make you wonder if you shouldn't go and donate something to Emily's List? Maybe it just means that women don't want to play golf at St. Andrew's.

Two - Once again, the late great Arthur Hoppe (also of the San Francisco Chronicle) was right. During the ABSCAM scandal of 1978, Mr. Hoppe wrote a column (which I don't seem to have saved, alas, and the Hoppe columns are no longer available on the web), complaining that with all these furriners coming in (it was the FBI posing as Middle Eastern sheikhs, actually, see the Wikipedia article...) and buying up Congressmen for $25,000 apiece, pretty soon the price of a Congressman would be too high for an ordinary American to be able to afford his own...

Well, here we are, 28 years later, and "Duke" Cunningham goes down to the tune of $2.5 million, and the smallest amount Abramoff seems to have given anyone was $32,000. Inflation in politics, alas, just as predicted. Art Hoppe, where are you, now that we need you?


  1. Anonymous1:39 PM

    hedera, I'm quite impressed. Initiating a blog while you're flat on your back in excruiating pain, hopped up on pain medication, and still making an articulate and well reasoned argument. You go, girl!

    A caller on TOTN today noted that bank robbers cannot return the money to the bank and declare "No harm, No foul" and serve no time. Likewise a carjacker cannot not return the car to the police and walk away a free man. These Congressmen should not get off the hook by giving back the money and saying "Man, I'm glad that's over with. I never did like Jack Abramoff" and skip away whistling. Of course, they probably will. It's going to be very interesting to see who gets caught under the steam roller and who gets away.

    Congrats on the blog. You now have a permanent footprint on the blogosphere. Just watch where you step.

    Your pal, cooper

  2. Thanks for dropping by, cooper - I'm not actually flat on my back any more and the pain is much improved (although I'm still hopped up on meds). I've been hesitating to do this for some time, and I guess now I'm out there.

  3. Anonymous3:10 PM

    Also on TOTN was the suggestion that congressmen caught taking tainted money be forced to wear an orange vest with a dollar sign on it.

    Excellent idea, just one little problem. It requires congressmen to vote it into law.

  4. Anonymous3:25 PM

    hedera, congrats on the new digs. And contrary to what cooper said, I think being hopped up on pain medication is the perfect way to initiate a blog. In fact i'd bet 88% of them were started just that way.

  5. Pain meds? Mine was started on non-prescription booze, dammit!

  6. Murray, I like the orange vest with the dollar sign, but it'll never happen, for the reason you give.

    Somehow the checks and balances built into the Constitution seem to have eroded over the years; after all, as the Wikipedia article on Abscam says, until 1970 only 10 members of Congress had ever been convicted of taking bribes! And now look at them...

  7. Very nice! I love this template, I use it for "yet another blog."

  8. But if I could pay for a Congressman, and my crazy neighbors could pay for a Congressman, it doesn't seem that either of us would get what we expected.

    No, best just keep the owning of Congressmen to the truly wealthy. There's less competition that way.


  9. Anonymous10:33 AM

    Howdy. Long time listener, first time caller. Just flew in from Fanatical Apathy and boy, are my tired... So, my question is what does it mean to return a donation three years after it has been made? I have been reading about congressional reps returning donations made by Abramoff and associated Indian tribes. Philosophically and/or legally, does that work to return donations?

  10. hedera,love your new place! Great posts so far. I've enjoyed your intelligent and well-reasoned responses on Adam's site, and I'll bookmark yours so I can keep coming back. Congratulations on setting up your very own blog!

  11. Anonymous5:27 PM

    hedera, OT - so who are your favorite detective story authors? I like Robert B Parker's "Spenser for Hire" series, Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch, and James Patterson, though I haven't read many lately - awfully busy blogging and such.

    BTW, it looks like Leslie has a blog now. So get writing, already!

  12. I'm with cooper and anonymous, it seems like just giving the money back shouldn't be enough. It turns out, though, that the money "actually" belongs to the campaign committees, and not to the Congresspersons at all, so the rules here are weird because they're all charitable organizations themselves...

    The Economist leader on the Abramoff mess this Friday calls him the Demon Briber of K Street, I love it!

    cooper, you may find my favorite detective writers boring, because I go for the puzzle/impossible crime writers: Ellery Queen. John Dickson Carr (in all his pseudonyms). Dorothy Sayers. Rex Stout. Margery Allingham. Josephine Tey. For that matter, Austin Freeman....

    All of those pre-date 1970. For some more recent work that I like: Patricia Moyes. Ruth Rendell. P.D. James (but she's awfully dense).

    Most of the "popular" mystery writers today I find too realistic for my taste; if I want that kind of realism, I can just open a newspaper.

  13. Cooper, I goofed. I don't want to start a blog, but I didn't want to be anonymous either. I was just confused - as usual.

  14. Anonymous10:25 PM

    Anonymous David says,

    The letters-on-shrooms verification is pretty interesting for someone with astigmatism, but it's fun, so don't change it. Anything thing that stops that g.d. Japanese spam is a good thing.

    You make a good point, hedera. Actually, white anglo males are the sole powerbrokers at the epicenter. Everyone else is second tier and/or window dressing. And women, well...I think Mother Bush can clarify their proper role for anyone who's interested.

    Looking forward to your future posts. Your comments on FA are always among the most useful and most insightful. I am especially looking forward to some "hedera lets it rip." A little evisceration is quite in order, given the current idiot child president from the Permian Basin and his courtiers.

  15. Anonymous10:34 PM

    David here again.

    I forgot to say that one of the congressmen caught up in ABSCAM was my very own congressman from Lake County, Florida. The FBI film of him stuffing 25 grand in his coat and asking if it showed was priceless.

    He was succeeded by one of the greats in the House, Buddy McKay, so maybe we're on the cusp of good things to follow, in which case I will say, Thank you, Jack.

  16. The Abramoff mess gets better and better, or did anybody else hear Peter Sagal this morning on WWDTM? Apparently the young Jack Abramoff ran for president of his high school class, and was disqualified from running because (I love this) he spent money to buy everybody cupcakes, to encourage them to vote for him!

    As the twig is bent, so grows the tree...

  17. Anonymous5:07 PM

    Sort of on topic...

    I just watched Nancy Pelosi's Saturday town hall meeting in San Francisco on C-Span today. Sure hope we get a "Blue House," with the help of some red state congressional elections, and come January '07, it will be Madam Speaker.

  18. Anonymous, I could stand to see a Madam Speaker Pelosi myself. I don't agree with everything she does, but I'll take her over the current alternative any time.