Jack Abramoff Gives Away the Corrupt Insider's Game in "Our" Congress on 60 Minutes
On tonight's 60 Minutes the former K Street powerhouse Jack Abramoff took Lesley Stahl on a guided tour of the corrupt insiders game the 1% uses to buy their desired outcomes in "our" Congress. Lesley Stahl was angered by what she heard. Every American should be angry by the pervasive corruption Abramoff describes.
But the "best way" to get a congressional office to do his bidding - he says - was to offer a staffer a job that could triple his salary.
Abramoff: When we would become friendly with an office and they were important to us, and the chief of staff was a competent person, I would say or my staff would say to him or her at some point, "You know, when you're done working on the Hill, we'd very much like you to consider coming to work for us." Now the moment I said that to them or any of our staff said that to 'em, that was it. We owned them. And what does that mean? Every request from our office, every request of our clients, everything that we want, they're gonna do. And not only that, they're gonna think of things we can't think of to do.
Abramoff: At the end of the day most of the people that I encountered who worked on Capitol Hill wanted to come work on K Street, wanted to be lobbyists.
Stahl: You're telling me this, the genius of figuring out you could own the office by offering a job to the chief of staff, say. I'm having two reactions. One is brilliant. And the other is I'm sick to my stomach.
Abramoff: Right. Evil. Yeah. Terrible.
Stahl: 'Cause it's hurting our country.
Abramoff: Shameful. Absolutely. It's the worst thing that could happen. All parts of the system.
Stahl: I'm mad at you.
Abramoff: I was mad at me--
Abramoff goes on to describe how he wielded "very strong influence in 100 offices'" in the congress to an incredulous Stahl.
Stahl: Was buying favors from lawmakers easy?
Abramoff: I think people are under the impression that the corruption only involves somebody handing over a check and getting a favor. And that's not the case. The corruption, the bribery, call it, because ultimately that's what it is. That's what the whole system is.
Stahl: The whole system's bribery?
Abramoff: In my view. I'm talking about giving a gift to somebody who makes a decision on behalf of the public. At the end of the day, that's really what bribery is. But it is done everyday and it is still being done. The truth is there were very few members who I could even name or could think of who didn't at some level participate in that.
The interview concludes with what Abramoff sees as the most essential reform we could make to reduce the rampant corruption of our Congress.
He says the most important thing that needs to be done is to prohibit members of Congress and their staff from ever becoming lobbyists in Washington.
Abramoff: If you make the choice to serve the public, public service, then serve the public, not yourself. When you're done, go home. Washington's a dangerous place. Don't hang around.
Abramoff points out that the system is just as corrupt as when he went to jail. Anger atBuying a congressional hearing the way our system is being gamed by by an army of lobbyists has overflowed into the streets with the mushrooming Occupy Wall Street movement. People are fed up with the influence buying as usual inside the beltway bubble, and they're not going to take it any more.
A CBS web video of Abramoff: Buying a congressional hearing