Morning Report 11/28/05
A Country Under the Influence
Just because Wampumgate is likely the biggest influence-peddling scandal in American history doesn't mean it will be investigated as thoroughly as it needs to be.
Who has time, with an ongoing war and an onrushing recession?
More on that later, but consider that Wampumgate, revolving around ultimate inside lobbyist and Bush regime fundraiser Jack Abramoff and his boy wonder Mike Scanlon, reaches deep into the White House and the corridors of Congress. It stretches from Indian casinos in California to a school for Jewish snipers in Israel, with a stop at a D.C. yeshiva.
Rooted in the bilking of Indian tribes' casino money, Wampumgate threatens to rip the scabs off our long-festering racism wounds. As Jonathan D. Salant noted in a September story for Bloomberg News:
- Abramoff and Scanlon took in more than $66 million in fees from 2001 to 2004 from tribal clients, according to Senator John McCain, the Arizona Republican who chairs the Indian affairs panel. In one e-mail released by the Senate [Indian Affairs] committee, Abramoff wrote to Scanlon, "I have to meet with the monkeys from the Choctaw tribal counsel."
"Ouch," Bush regime insider Grover Norquist, a "tax reformer" and pal of Karl Rove's since their days in the College Republicans, wrote in one of the hundreds of memorable e-mails that capture the stench. (The e-mails released so far by investigators are so plentiful that there's a Part 1 and Part 2.)
Norquist was pleading to Abramoff for more of that Choctaw money. He wrote that way back in 1999, before the Bush regime ascended to power, giving Norquist entree to the White House, and way before Abramoff pal Mike Scanlon pled guilty to soaking Indian tribes for tens of millions of dollars. Scanlon is about to roll over on top of everyone else.
It's not that this is the first time influence has been peddled. That's politics, after all, and politics is nothing more than how humans conduct transactions with one another. But the degree of venality is off the scale, and the documentation of exactly how the influence has been peddled is unprecedented.
Wampumgate shows exactly how our government works. You may want to sit down.
And of course, the religious right and the so-called fiscal conservatives — both of which are linchpins of the Bush regime — are deeply implicated in this scandal.
I've pointed out that you don't know Jack — yet — and that Wampumgate's smoking guns include both smoking and guns. Christ (in the person of his far from only misbegotten son, Ralph Reed) and golf (Abramoff used Indian money to pay for Tom DeLay's 2002 golfing trip to Scotland) are also involved.
Hey, these people were so cynical that they slapped the word "Christian" on their anti-gambling lobbying — but not because they were opposed to gambling. They did it to protect their clients' casinos from competition, from the uncertainties of, you know, competition and free enterprise, those values they say they hold so dear.
And in a separate ploy, they quietly paid Christian, conservative, anti-gambling activists Reed and Lou Sheldon to help in a pro-gambling campaign.
Read about both schemes in an October 16 Washington Post story co-authored by Susan Schmidt, who's written more about Abramoff than anyone else. (The Post's astonishing Wampumgate coverage is collected here.)
For a Wampumgate précis, go to Salant's September 23 Bloomberg News story, which does a nice job of capturing the scope of the scandal in just four paragraphs:
- The widening investigation of lobbyist Jack Abramoff is moving beyond the confines of tawdry influence-peddling to threaten leading figures in the Republican hierarchy that dominates Washington.
[The late September] arrest of David Safavian, the former head of procurement at the Office of Management and Budget, in connection with a land deal involving Abramoff brings the probe to the White House for the first time.
Safavian once worked with Abramoff at one lobbying firm and was a partner of Grover Norquist, a national Republican strategist with close ties to the White House, at another. Safavian traveled to Scotland in 2002 with Abramoff, Representative Robert Ney of Ohio and another top Republican organizer, Ralph Reed, southeast regional head of President George W. Bush's 2004 re-election campaign.
House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who once called Abramoff "one of my closest and dearest friends," already figures prominently in the investigation of the lobbyist's links to Republicans. The probe may singe other lawmakers with ties to Abramoff, such as Republican Senator Conrad Burns of Montana, as well as Ney.
Lots of names. Practically all of them except for Scanlon deny all charges (and these bad boys/bad girls are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law). Thanks to such groups as Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington (CREW), you can try to sort through this. CREW's chart, Abramoff's Web of Corruption, helps make clear who's ensnared (so far) in Wampumgate. To recap, here's a partial list:
The most powerful political operative in the White House: Karl Rove
The personal assistant to Rove (and former personal assistant to Abramoff): Susan Ralston
The most powerful pol in the House of Representatives: Tom DeLay
The former communications director for DeLay: Mike Scanlon
The federal government's chief procurement official: David Safavian
The Bush-Cheney campaign's crucial Southern coordinator (and former Christian Coalition chief): Ralph Reed
This is the sort of scandal that could take years of investigation.
But as I said, who has that kind of time? The country doesn't.
What are these politicians' lives compared with the lives of our soldiers and of the Iraqis who have lost theirs — because of those same politicians?
And the U.S. is losing its grip on the world economy. China's economic muscle is about to swat us aside, and our worsening domestic economy threatens to exchange the dollar for dolor.
Meanwhile, speculation that the country's housing bubble is about to burst is helping drive gold prices up, up, up.
Analysts and investors are licking their chops. As Jon A. Nones wrote yesterday in Resource Investor:
- "I think we’re seeing the next big step of the gold bull market," said [Richard Sacks of Brick Capital Management].
Sacks noted that even though the dollar rallied in 2005, gold went up as well — despite a calculated 94% negative correlation between gold and the dollar. However, he alluded to a U.S. recession in the making for 2006 due to steady inflation and the cost of Katrina and the war in Iraq.
"Ask yourself, if gold is going up while the dollar is rising, what is gold going to do when the dollar falls?" Sacks inquired.
He predicted a very good year for gold in 2006, as gold continues to rise against every major currency and central banks openly talk about increasing reserves.
Good luck getting your hands on gold. Here at home, "hardship indicators" show that the gap between rich and poor is widening, in large part because of the actions of the Bush regime and their allies on Capitol Hill when they're not busy soaking Indian tribes for campaign cash.
And you think the federal government is paralyzed now, as you just saw with Hurricane Katrina?
Wait until the host of congressmen and White House staffers and federal bureaucrats are threatened with a real investigation of their own dealings with Jack Abramoff, one of the most well-connected lobbyists of the modern era. We'll all be placed on permanent hold while they talk to their lawyers.
This is the kind of war that hits home on Capitol Hill and in the Oval Office.