Recently I had the opportunity to interview Jack Abramoff, former lobbyist. Before his 2004 scandal broke, Abramoff was one of the top lobbyists in Washington. His influenced extended to the president himself, George W. Bush. His firm Grenberg Trauig had large influence over 100+ congressional offices.
In 2004, the scandal broke. Abramoff and Michael Scanlon had been grossly over billing their Indian clients and splitting the profits. The fees paid to Abramoff and Scanlon for this work are believed to exceed $85 million. In the course of the investigation, the lobbyists were accused of illegally giving gifts and making campaign donations to legislators in return for votes or support of legislation. Representative Bob Ney (R-OH) and two aides to Tom DeLay (R-TX), Speaker of the House, have been directly implicated; other politicians have various ties. Abramoff ended up pleading guilty to conspiracy, fraud, and tax evasion and he went to jail for 43 months.
The Abramoff Scandal exposed many of the flaws with the lobbyist industry. When big corporations are being represented by lobbyists with money, the voices of average citizens are drowned out and our representatives are not doing their job. The influence of lobbyists is an insidious force on our democratic process and contributes greatly to the disillusionment United States citizens have with our government. In fact, Congress has a current 12% approval rating. But let’s hear what Mr. Abramoff has to say about it: