To Catch A Schmuck – Good Advice from… Jack Abramoff ?!
Casino Jack is back. He’s having that post-prison epiphany that heals both the soul and his bank account. He’s doing the talk show circuit with his mea culpa dunk booth, BUT… Just as Frank Abagnale Jr. became useful to the FBI after his long check kiting run, it sometimes takes a bad guy to get others. If they make a movie about the second act of Jack Abramoff’s life, it has to have this title: “To Catch A Schmuck.”
Abramoff’s new autobiography, “Capital Punishment” actually contains a few acts of contrition that have real application, particularly as we watch the “Super” committee melt down into another useless attempt at governing.
We also had the shocking revelation via 60 Minutes that members of congress, including high ranking pols on both sides of the aisle like past House speaker Nancy Pelosi and current speaker John Boehner, can engage legally in insider trading. This alone should cause all of them to resign.
The problems are simple: Money and power. Congressmen on both sides of the aisle hold power, gain money from special interests, then want to keep both for a very long time. If they can’t do it in office, they wait the prescribed period and then become part of the nightmare of K Street lobbying of their friends on the Hill.
So what prescription does the Dr. Frankenstein of K Street have to fix our broken government? In an interview with the NPR show “Tell Me More” Abramoff identified some real concrete steps to change the routing of the money road from K Street to Capitol Hill and back.
- Shut the revolving door between public service and cashing in on that public service on K Street. No two-year moratoriums. No joining a firm and talking to other members in the firm instead of the person who is under the ban. All elected officials in D.C. and their aides. Period. For life.
- Any organization who wants to lobby the federal government for favors, aid, or contracts, cannot give politically. Nor can they give to PACs or other groups to give in their stead. Nor can any of their upper management.
- There has to be term limits. Here Abramoff puts it best:”I used to be against term limits, all right, as a lobbyist and also, you know, I’d dress it up in thinking, well, you know, people should be able to vote for whomever they wanted. But the truth is, once you’ve bought an office, if you’re a lobbyist, you don’t have to go buy that office again if somebody new is coming in every few years. It’s very disruptive to the lobbyists, which is good. So, I think that new blood, new people coming in and out of town, I think, is a good thing.”
- To end things like the insider trading in the Congress, or Supreme Court justices engaging in events that any other federal judge would find themselves on the short end of the conflict of interest canons, the people who make the laws, interpret them, and enforce them must be subject to them in full as well.
We’ll add a couple of additional ideas to Casino Jack’s:
- The taking of money at any time in exchange for influence, perceived or real, by any member of Congress, Supreme Court Justice, President or Vice President should be a federal crime, punishable by severe jail time without wiggle room on sentencing.
- No elected member of Congress or their aides may work for any other corporation and engage in any form of lobbying. It’s not enough to keep them off of K Street. A politician like George Mitchell, who serves on corporate boards, should not be the speed dial to friends on the Hill or the White House.
- Create new legislation to turn corporations back into corporations, not “people” as defined by the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United.
It is the tidal wave of money coming by way of K Street and post-Citizens United giving that is causing the gridlock in Washington and killing our economy. Many of Casino Jack’s prescriptions are exactly what the doctor ordered for those angry members of the 99% marching for the Occupy Wall Street movement and elsewhere around the country and the globe.
Sometimes it takes killing one cockroach off to learn how to end the infestation. It’s time that we fumigate Capitol Hill and K Street.
My shiny two.
About Brian Ross
Brian Ross is a writer, screenwriter, political satirist, documentarian, filmmaker and chef. Ad hoc, ad loc, quid pro quo... so little time. So much to know!
Great piece. Short and right to the point. Dovetails well with my current read – “With Liberty and Justice For Some” by Glen Greenwald . Why don’t most people get what’s going on?
When will all the “low information” frogs out there realize that we’re all in a kettle that’s quickly coming to a boil. Hats off to Brian Ross.
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