The Growing Scandal

Random Lengths News | January 19, 2006
On January 3, GOP Super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff' plead guilty to conspiracy, fraud and tax evasion charges, agreeing to cooperate in a federal corruption probe that could implicate dozens of lawmakers and their staffs. Time magazine soon reported that 13 FBI field offices across the country were working on the case, “with two dozen agents assigned to it full time and roughly the same number working part time. ‘We are going to chase down every lead,’ Chris Swecker, head of the FBI's criminal division, told Time.”

That day, as part of MSNBC’s breaking coverage, Hardball’s Chris Matthews said, “I'm not sure it's partisan. I'm not sure that people are going to see him as part of any Republican culture of corruption. I think [Rep. Randy] "Duke" Cunningham [R-CA] also was sort of a lone wolf in that department. I think we're gonna see this case, basically––What's the right word? ––It's gonna be kept to itself. It's not gong to be part of a larger story of Washington this year, I think.”

But Matthews himself had his own ties to Abramoff—a symptom of how deep the scandal goes, and why it may be difficult for the public to get the full story.

Just four days later, former GOP House Majority Leader Tom DeLay gave up his attempt to regain his leadership. He was apparently tipped off that the all-Republican Texas Court of Appeals was about to reject his attempt to halt a criminal trial against him in Texas. The trial concerns the laundering of corporate donations in order to circumvent a Texas law forbidding such money from being used in state legislative races.

Although the two cases are unrelated, DeLay is [potentially involved] possibly a suspect in both—a reflection, some charge, of a pervasive culture of corruption, typified by DeLay’s masterpiece, the so-called “K-Street Project” that was designed to purge lobbying firms of Democrats and turn them into footsoldiers for the GOP. The man apparently set to replace him, Roy Blount (R-Mo), is a close DeLay associate, dubbed “Mini-Me to DeLay’s Dr. Evil,” by David Donnelly, the National Campaigns Director of Public Campaign Action Fund.

"The era of Tom DeLay is over,” Donnelly said, “But his legacy will still continue unless Congress takes up a big, bold reform agenda, which must include public financing of elections, in order to take power away from the big money drowning Washington. Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans have yet proposed a comprehensive reform package which puts voters in control."

PCAF has tried to run ads criticizing DeLay on Houston TV, but the stations have refused to sell air-time, a common symptom of how the media protects the political establishment.

While the media can’t avoid talking about the Abramoff Scandal, they can—and do—blow smoke and spread confusion and misinformation. A most popular example is the false claim that Democrats as well Republicans took money from Abramoff. In fact, Abramoff gave more than $127,000 to Republican candidates and committees between 2001 and 2004, and nothing to Democrats.

Indeed, TV pundits themselves have closer ties to Abamoff. In March, 2003, Hollywood Reporter online reported that “Fox News Channel's Tony Snow is master of ceremonies, and Fox's Brit Hume and MSNBC's Chris Matthews are aboard” for the event whose “purpose is to raise about $300,000 for the Capital Athletic Foundation.”

The Capital Athletic Foundation (CAF) is one of Abramoff’s various slush fund fronts. Ostensibly devoted to "needy and deserving" sportsmanship programs, the Washington Post discovered that though it collected nearly $6 million in its first four years of operation, “less than 1 percent of its revenue has been spent on sports-related programs for youths.”

The fundraiser was cancelled because of the invasion of Iraq. But the Beltway newsmen’s involvement raises serious questions about their objectivity and distance from the subject of scandal. No one is saying they are dirty. But neither can they be considered objective in reporting about a widespread scandal that they themselves have gotten entangled in, however innocently. And yet, they are among the leading voices telling America how to think about it.

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