All of Washington lives in Newt’s swamp

November 21, 2011

By Jack Abramoff
The opinions expressed are his own.

Last week, Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich romanced the Tea Party activists, who demand that the corrupt swamp of Washington be drained. His intrepid spokesman, R.C. Hammond, had a more arduous task: convincing the world that the former Speaker was not swimming in that same swamp. As facts emerged revealing that Gingrich took almost $2 million in “consulting” fees from the beleaguered Freddie Mac, Hammond delivered proof that the Gingrich operation was master of the inside-the-Washington-beltway game. Spinning Gingrich’s perfidious (yet legal) trip through the infamous revolving door to post public service riches, Hammond posited that taking millions in consulting fees was actually a positive: since Newt now understood “why the system is broken,” he now knew “how it could be fixed.” In other words, now that he had participated in legal corruption, he was more qualified to be our President.

By that metric, I should be announcing my cabinet choices any day now. After all, in 2004, my lobbying activities became the basis for the biggest corruption scandal to hit Washington since Watergate. Gingrich’s candidacy may or may not survive these revelations, but there is a bigger issue to consider than whether this late-night-talk show hosts’ dream politician makes it to the Oval Office.

America is sick of its political leaders raking in millions of dollars in fees from special interests. At a time when the average American can barely afford enough gasoline to get to work, our politicians are converting their elected positions into major paydays. Newt is not the first and won’t be the last to do this. He just has the bad luck to be surging in the polls. But the problem with this latest round of “shoot the leading Republican candidate” is that it deflects attention from the need to change the system. Every time one of these “gotcha” attacks becomes personal, it loses its capacity to engender real reform.

There is something sordid about converting public service to private boodle. Cashing in on government employment to help special interests increase their take at the public trough is even worse. Some politicians aim to become lobbyists the minute they arrive in the Congress. Others wait until defeat or retirement ends their legislative career.

Many – like Gingrich – try to disguise their role in the lobbying monolith by declaring themselves consultants. They cry that they’re not “lobbyists”, they are merely providers of strategic advice. I have news for them: that’s what lobbyists do! Sure, these petitioners only become lobbyists officially once they meet with Congressional members and staff, but the actual face-to-face meetings are usually only one component of lobbying campaigns. I was considered one of the nation’s top lobbyists, but I rarely met with Congressmen and staff about legislation. My forte was creating strategies and game plans, which my minions would implement. How is this much different from what Newt and almost every Democrat and Republican former Congressman and Senator claim to do in lieu of actual lobbying?

In fact, the system disadvantages those public servants who are honest about their jump to the dark side. When a Congressman leaves to become a lobbyist, he must wait two years before calling on his former colleagues. But, when a Congressman calls himself a consultant, a strategic adviser or some other euphemism, the big bucks start rolling in immediately. Plus, there are no lobbying disclosures required of these consultants. We only found out about Newt’s jackpot because he is running for President. There are scores more like him out there offering strategic advice and raking in millions, but they are more cautious than Newt about putting a target on their own head. Former Senate Majority Leaders Bob Dole and Tom Daschle come to mind, as do former Congressman Billy Tauzin who decamped for PhRMA and former House Majority Leader Richard Gephardt.  All have made fortunes lobbying and consulting for special interests, but they have been careful not to reenter electoral politics once they made the jump to K Street.

There’s something really wrong with all of this. The Founding Fathers of our Republic intended for our politicians to be citizen-legislators. Those desiring to serve the public would do so for a short period of time and return to their farms and businesses. Instead, what has developed is a permanent political class, massively enriched by cashing in on government experience. Our nation disdains its leaders, and this is a big part of it. I am often told that the prescriptions for reform I enunciate in my book Capitol Punishment are unlikely because the very people who must enact these reforms are the same ones benefitting from the spoils system ruling our nation’s capital. But that is no excuse. The time has come to lock the revolving door between our public and private sectors. And if our public officials refuse to do what is right, the people should remove them.

When first asked about his work for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Gingrich had the temerity to claim he was hired to provide, in essence, a history lesson. He was, after all, a college history professor. The time has come for Newt and all his doppelgangers to learn a real history lesson: the American people will only permit their politicians to go so far before they are expelled from class.

Buttons in support of Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich are seen for sale before the former speaker of The House spoke at the First Coast Tea Party town hall meeting at Jacksonville Landing in Jacksonville, Florida November 17, 2011. REUTERS/Daron Dean


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why does the image on his button remind me of barbed wire?

Posted by citizen29 | Report as abusive

The voice of “reason”and experience in this area.

Posted by GeneTracy. | Report as abusive

Mr. Abramoff,

Of course you will not be surprised that I, like many other Americans, have become quite cynical. My cynicism extends to you. Can you convince me and other Americans that you are sincere and not merely trying to make money from book sales?

Posted by smithjim | Report as abusive

Truer words never spoken. They’re an elite moneyed class of permanent policy makers. Most of these men and women have been there 20-30 years. What Abramoff says is true if it’s made personal we all lose, and that’s what is done time and again. Just look at some of these comments.

Posted by Karnac | Report as abusive

I hate to disparage our wetlands by comparing them to the state of our government. No matter the source, the problem is well articulated here. So, what can we do about this and the insider trading that is currently legal for our legislators.

Posted by gbolando | Report as abusive

Are we soon going to be reading columns by Bernie Madoff on how to avoid securities fraud? How about getting some advice by Bill Clinton or Arnold Schwarzenegger concerning marital fidelity? Wait – I’ve got a better idea. Let’s see if we can dig up Slobodan Milošević, and get him to write a column on ethnic cleansing.

Seriously: Mr. Abramoff, please go away and quietly serve some charity for the rest of your life. The American public does not deserve to be punished further by your efforts at redemption.

Posted by RMoS | Report as abusive

I will miss Fox News.

Posted by SanPa | Report as abusive

And now I hear that Newt is telling the OWS folks to “take a bath and get a job.” Ah, yes, the awful, unwashed masses. Perhaps they should eat cake, too.

He just doesn’t get it. That’s why the Occupy people are protesting — there are no jobs to be had!

Posted by IntoTheTardis | Report as abusive

why we need the mafia boss to control crime

Posted by 0okm9ijn | Report as abusive

You are so right. many of the things that this evil bunch of tricksters does are not illegal, for a member of congress that is. For you and me, such activities are illegal, just congress has exempted themselves from the laws that apply to us. I have never been so disgusted with politics as now, both parties need to be totally voted out and we need to start over somehow. I hope our congress is paying attention to the tea party and now the OWS people. These are early signs of the displeasure of the populace. Can an American spring be so far off?

Posted by zotdoc | Report as abusive

I’ve been an avid follower of political issues for 50 years and never have been so disappointed and disgusted.

With government pensions in hand, the ex lawmakers who now conduct business from K Street were also likely (we now learn) to have been actively involved with insider trading based on sensitive information they were privy to while in office. We now know that many still in office are doing the same thing. I know, I know, it’s apparently legal — but can anyone dispute that it’s highly immoral? I’ve had enough! It’s time to boot the whole bunch out and replace them with folks whose first priority will be to address the lucrative abuses of privileged information. Recall elections for senators are also in order.

Posted by Baldylocks | Report as abusive

The “special interest” have even bought the Supreme Court by influencing the appointment of the judges.

Now that corporations are people too, with free speech rights (though they cannot vote or be put in jail) and they can influence elections anonymously, freedom and democracy for the people are no more!

Posted by XRayD | Report as abusive

I love how the MSM is spinning this…..I mean give us a break!!! Now it’s 2M??….and over an 8 year period?? Do the math A$$!! Newt’s business had 3 offices with 50 people working for him durning that period. Oh…where is that said in this article…NOT! Seems that Newt is a good Capitalist(OH..not that word)and “created jobs”. People….wake up….the MSM will let you know who the left fear the most….so keep it up Abramoff…we know who you fear that can beat Obummer in the election…Love it!!!

Posted by coach1228 | Report as abusive

It’s very difficult now to cover your tracks with communications being what they are these days. The Congress has been deaf and dumb for years but we never knew the workings that went on behind the closed doors. Now we do know and the same old BS is not working anymore. We now have a government that’s so top heavy we are unable to pay the critters any more and to make matters worse more and more government jobs are being added to the pie. We are broke and now 15 trillion dollars in debt yet the administration seems to think otherwise. They know what the problem is but 2012 is an election year and both parties are terrified with the answer. This coming year will be a blast of promises and lies that goes beyond anything we have heard before.

Posted by judester | Report as abusive

Look, Newt is part of the beltway establishment. Its that simple. Part of the problem is that we, the American people have been conditioned to hold our nose and press the button inside the ballot box. We have been told its ok to pick the lesser of the two evils. I am beyond that point now. I refuse to compromise. Every candidate has their strengths and weaknesses but we have to vet these guys. Our plum line needs to be who has the most Constitution and the least amount of baggage. Newt fails big time.

Posted by KSand | Report as abusive

So would you prefer for B. Hussein to remain in office? Newt Gingrich is the most qualified – Period.

Posted by cajunman | Report as abusive

All this is well and good, but what if a politician wants to run for president and has no money. Easy for someone like Ross Perot who had a ton of money to begin with. No one can ever accuse him of accepting money for political influence – he does not need the money anyway. Unfortunately politics has become a money game. The only thing you can do is to choose someone who you think will hopefully make wise decisions as president. Gingrich is extremely well read and is a great speaker. Would he make wise decisions? He is smart and he would speak his mind, but I think he would also be pragmatic. Not a bad choice in my view.

Posted by 123456951 | Report as abusive

[…] of the early shots by calling Newt Gingrich a dirty politician in his piece on Reuters entitled, All Of Washington Swims In Newt’s Swap.  Aren’t we fed up with name calling and willing to give someone a chance?  Anyone who has […]

Posted by The Biased Media Attack On Presidential Candidate Newt Gingrich Begins | Bright | Report as abusive

Jack’s back! We love it. We might have to fabricate some credible-sounding story about Jack and Mike Milken co-investing with Raj Rajaratnam to fund the Occupy Wall Street freaks, take back the halls of power, and occupy their own proper places in history.

We’ve already done a little on Milken:’t-Di e-Olympus-Don’t-Lie.html.

Jack might want to see Henry Blodgett’s bio on Business Insider – a very stand-up way to put it all out there.

Posted by WeWereWallSt | Report as abusive

[…] who served three years in prison for fraud, wrote in an essay for Reuters that “all of Washington lives in Newt’s […]

Posted by The Influence Industry: Gingrich case raises question, ‘What is a lobbyist?’ | | Report as abusive

[…] Lions (Joe Scarborough, Alan Simpson), Current Lions (Richard Burr, Tom Coburn, Peter King), even Jack Abramoff, is it (GASP!!!) A CONSPIRACY??? ummmm … No. It is a number of pretty conservative thinkers […]

Posted by THE MAN vs Newt « Yellow Dog Politics | Report as abusive

Indeed Mr. Abramhoff,

Always a treat to hear about the reformed crook who raped the public for years… If you had a lick of sincerity, you’d be forming a massive enterprise to expose the most pivotal politicians, bringing compelling pressure to bear on them, introducing criminal and civil litigation, and expunging them from power. So where are your balls, pussy cat? Jerry H. Nissen

Posted by JMouse | Report as abusive