Many of you know the name Jack Abramoff. The convicted super-lobbyist has been discredited and now has been released after serving three and half years of a six year prison sentence. But what do you know about his background, his politics, his scams, his influence on influencing members of Congress, mostly Republicans but not all? (Harry Reid and Patrick Kennedy, both leading Democrats, have strong ties to Abramoff if major sources are accurate.)
I decided to get into the Abramoff story a few weeks ago when I saw the recently released documentary film Casino Jack and the United States of Money. A dramatic film on Abramoff, titled Bagman and starring Kevin Spacey, will appear soon. As I’ve said more than once on this site documentaries always have a point of view. This is not so much art as it is a venue for politics. But the Abramoff story is intriguing to say the least. It involves international casinos, spies, sweatshops and even mob-style killings that go unexplained to this day. Most important to the viewer is the clear glimpse that Oscar-winning filmmaker Alex Gibney gives us of how money corrupts Congress and American life. Is freedom undermined by men like Abramoff and the politicians that touch? I think the answer is obvious.
Jack Abramoff began as a college leader of young Republicans. He even spoke at the 1984 GOP Convention. He rose in power by learning how to use the political system. Perhaps his most egregious scams included playing the casino industry before Congress, as a professional lobbyist, on behalf of Native American reservations. In Texas he worked to get a casino closed by playing the evangelical card against gambling (through churches and pastors) while at the same time he was working behind the scenes to get the same casino opened again by making a profit as their lobbyist. I could go on but you get the point. This was a bad guy doing serious harm. He didn’t go to prison for no reason.
You know what bothers me the most about this sordid story? The role that foolish and naive Christians had in helping a man like this by engaging in politics without an ounce of real skepticism about how the system is being used and how much greed and money controls real outcomes. Seeing thus hurt and it helps drive more people away from the gospel in my opinion. I talk to non-believers on a regular basis. I ask questions and listen to their response. They think we are foolish and that we want to control their lives by taking over the country for our moral agenda. They see people like Jack Abramoff, who is Jewish, and they see that he is surrounded by evangelicals and they draw conclusions.
This film is called “eye-opening” in the promotional material. I would call it “heart breaking” myself.
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I always think about the cynical comment that an honest politician was one that, once he was bought, stayed bought. Sometimes the irony is not that the contribution gained someone access to the person (and seemingly a positive vote on some matter) but that such a small contribution seemed to have had influence.
Jack’s good friend, Tom DeLay, was found guilty of wrongfully distributing political contributions a couple of weeks ago (in Austin, TX). His sentencing is scheduled. Maybe he can get Jack’s now empty bed if he gets prison time (which is doubtful).
The present “discussion” (quotes because there is not any search for common ground, but simply a statement of the opinions of the “talker”) about Mr. Obama’s decision on the tax extension is so widely varied that it is funny.