Jack attack.

Who's winning, who's losing, and why.
Jan. 3 2006 7:28 PM

Jack Attack

Lobbyist Jack Abramoff sows panic through Washington.

Download the MP3 audio version of this story here, or sign up for Slate's free daily podcast on iTunes.

Jack Abramoff was a ferocious multitasker. The Washington lobbyist regularly talked to one person on the phone while e-mailing another. An acquaintance joked to me that Abramoff could send e-mail and swing a golf club at the same time. Today Abramoff pleaded guilty to a different sort of multitasking: defrauding clients while simultaneously illegally enticing others, including members of Congress, to act on behalf of the clients he was bilking.

Abramoff has reportedly agreed to testify against several members of Congress who received favors from him or his clients. Over the past several weeks, the Justice Department has been debriefing him and combing through thousands of e-mails he kept (he was also a pack rat) from his most productive and illegal period. Investigators are reportedly focusing on as many as 20 lawmakers and aides. Like the Enron scandal and others, this one is likely to affect some who didn't do anything illegal but were associated with the discredited and vulgar lobbyist.

John Dickerson John Dickerson

John Dickerson is Slate's chief political correspondent and author of On Her Trail. Read his series on the presidency and on risk.

Advertisement

Here is a list of the figures most likely to face trouble, political or legal, as a result of Abramoff cutting a deal with the feds and singing like a Bee Gee.

Rep. Tom DeLay—The former House majority leader once toasted Abramoff as "one of my closest and dearest friends." DeLay said that on a 1997 trip they took to the Northern Mariana Islands, where Abramoff represented the government in its effort to prevent U.S. minimum-wage laws from being imposed on the territory. Criminal investigators are looking into whether Abramoff paid for trips DeLay may have taken in exchange for favors for his clients. They're also looking into suspiciously timed campaign donations.

Making matters worse for DeLay, his former press secretary Mike Scanlon, who was Abramoff's closest partner, has also pleaded guilty and is also cooperating with the feds. Tony Rudy and Ed Buckham, two former senior DeLay aides, are also being investigated. New disclosures by Abramoff could hurt DeLay's chances in a close congressional race already complicated by his indictment in Austin, Texas, on campaign-finance violations. On Jan. 3, the prosecutor in the Texas case subpoenaed records from Abramoff and his associates, which could merge the two (until now separate) DeLay scandals.           

Rep. Robert Ney—"If I were in Bob Ney's office I would be heading for the exits," e-mailed one top Republican staffer on Capitol Hill after Abramoff's plea agreement was announced. Ney, who has already been subpoenaed, traveled on a Jack-backed golf trip to Scotland. He previously had proposed legislation to help a tribe that then donated to his campaign and entered comments in the Congressional Record against a man standing in the way of an Abramoff project. The congressman has denied wrongdoing, saying Abramoff and his partner duped him in both cases. Ney's former aide Neil Volz, whom Abramoff hired, is also under investigation. The betting in Washington is that Ney will get indicted—he is believed to be the "Representative #1" described in court papers filed today. "They didn't make a deal with Abramoff to nab another lobbyist," says one veteran Republican. "They did it to get a member of Congress."

Rep. John Dolittle—The California congressman's wife, Julie, did fund-raising work for Abramoff, and her company's records have been subpoenaed by the grand jury investigating Abramoff. Doolittle was one of many lawmakers who signed a letter opposing plans to build a casino in Louisiana that could threaten gambling operations run by a tribe Abramoff represented. A former Doolittle staffer named Kevin Ring also went to work for Abramoff.

Ralph Reed—The former executive director of the Christian Coalition is running for lieutenant governor of Georgia and sprinting away from Abramoff. Reed received millions from Jack and his partner in order to wage "grass-roots" anti-gambling campaigns. The problem for Reed is that his work against the evil money-rollers was paid for by other gambling interests eager to get rid their competition. Reed said he didn't know he was being paid by gambling interests. E-mails suggest that he did.

Sen. Conrad BurnsThe chairman of the House Interior appropriations subcommittee, Burns took legislative action favorable to Abramoff's clients in the Northern Mariana Islands around the time he took $12,000 in donations from Abramoff and a key garment-company executive in the islands. In addition, two Burns staffers accepted a trip arranged by Abramoff to attend the Super Bowl in Florida. His chief of staff, Will Brooke, and state director, Shawn Vasell, went to work for Abramoff. Burns, who has returned $150,000 in donations, recently said to a local Montana television station, "This Abramoff guy is a bad guy. I hope he goes to jail and we never see him again. I wish he'd never been born." Abramoff now has a chance to repay the kind wishes.

Sen. Byron Dorgan—The only Democrat so far under suspicion, the North Dakota senator has returned $67,000 in response to Associated Press reports that he collected Indian money around the time he took actions favorable to those Abramoff clients. Dorgan is the top Democrat on the Senate committee investigating Abramoff's tribal lobbying and says he supported the Indian programs before the donations were made.

TODAY IN SLATE

Jurisprudence

Don’t Expect Adrian Peterson to Go to Prison

In much of America, beating your children is perfectly legal. 

Ken Burns on Why Teddy Roosevelt Would Never Get Elected in 2014

Cops Briefly Detain Django Unchained Actress Because They Thought She Was a Prostitute

Minimalist Cocktail Posters Make Mixing Drinks a Cinch

How the Apple Watch Will Annoy Us

A glowing screen attached to someone else’s wrist is shinier than all but the blingiest of jewels.

Books

Rainbow Parties and Sex Bracelets

Where teenage sex rumors come from—and why they’re bad for parents and kids.

Books

You Had to Be There

What we can learn from things that used to be funny.

Legendary Critic Greil Marcus Measures and Maps Rock History Through 10 Unlikely Songs

Catfish Creator Nev Schulman’s Book Is Just Like Him: Self-Deluded and Completely Infectious

Behold
Sept. 12 2014 5:54 PM An Up-Close Look at the U.S.–Mexico Border
  News & Politics
Jurisprudence
Sept. 14 2014 2:37 PM When Abuse Is Not Abuse Don’t expect Adrian Peterson to go to prison. In much of America, beating your kids is perfectly legal. 
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 12 2014 5:54 PM Olive Garden Has Been Committing a Culinary Crime Against Humanity
  Life
Inside Higher Ed
Sept. 13 2014 8:38 AM “You’re More Than Just a Number” Goucher College goes transcript-free in admissions.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 12 2014 4:05 PM Life as an NFL Wife: “He's the Star. Keep Him Happy.”
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 12 2014 5:55 PM “Do You Know What Porn Is?” Conversations with Dahlia Lithwick’s 11-year-old son.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 14 2014 7:10 PM Watch Michael Winslow Perform Every Part of “Whole Lotta Love” With Just His Voice
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 12 2014 3:53 PM We Need to Pass Legislation on Artificial Intelligence Early and Often
  Health & Science
New Scientist
Sept. 14 2014 8:38 AM Scientific Misconduct Should Be a Crime It’s as bad as fraud or theft, only potentially more dangerous.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 12 2014 4:36 PM “There’s No Tolerance for That” Pete Carroll and Jim Harbaugh say they don’t abide domestic abuse. So why do the Seahawks and 49ers have a combined six players accused of violence against women?