Our friend SUSAN BRADFORD discusses the latest hit on Jack Abramoff. Why do "journalists" at the WP take the easy route? Why don't they look deeper?
I was sorely disappointed to open the Outlook section in this Sunday’s Washington Post to read another hit piece on Jack Abramoff, this time in the form of a scathing review of the lobbyist’s autobiography, Capitol Punishment. With a headline of “Lobbying for Redemption,” I was expecting the rag, which was complicit in collaborating with Abramoff’s professional rivals to spread falsehoods about him, to have the integrity to write a balanced, honest review. Instead, the Washington Post delivered more snark. After reading the review, I wondered whether the writer had even read the same book.
Then, I considered the source: R. Jeffrey Smith, a misanthrope who won a Pulitzer Prize for his seriously flawed reporting on Abramoff and former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. Incidentally, as former American Press Bureau Chief Shawn Martin alleged, the Washington Post‘s coverage of Abramoff was based on the local reporter’s original work.
Smith is now the managing editor for National Security at the Center for Public Integrity, which boasts of its original investigative reporting. Somehow, however, the reporters associated with this organization, which has come under fire for taking money from liberal billionaire and corrupt influence peddler George Soros, appear to be unable to report beyond the filter of their heavily jaundiced views.
Smith’s fellow at the CPI is Peter Stone, who also took to lying about Abramoff in his own book, Heist, which parroted the Washington Post‘s dishonest coverage. Neither reporter engaged in much independent reporting. In fact, they missed critical details, neglected to research or exhume the extraordinary amount of exculpatory evidence available, and relied heavily upon lobbyist sources who were coveting Abramoff’s business and poised to benefit from his ouster.
The article is snark personified. It’s so off base and detached from reality that one has to wonder whether the author was trying to market Abramoff’s guilt to deflect attention from the crimes of the false accusers. The ulterior motives for this yellow journalism will be discussed later. For now, let’s take a look at some quips from Smith’s article:
“The plot was classic Abramoff, involving the trademark elements of his Washington lobbying: a transfer of money, a promise of political support, and a threat of harm to those who stood in his clients’ way.”
Does Smith know that Abramoff is a devout Orthodox Jew, who was actually renowned for his self-sacrifice and integrity? Hundreds of friends, colleagues, and family members have remarked on his boundless charity, empathy, and compassion. The only people who don’t hold this view are those who don’t actually know him, like Smith, or others who believe the lies they have read in the Washington Post. In contrast, Smith and his allies have quite ruthlessly, and without the slightest hint of remorse, harmed others who have stood in the way of their professional and political goals. While Abramoff embraces kindness and humility, Smith personifies hatred and unabashed egotism.
Smith’s venom continues:
“It’s not every day that a veteran Washington insider…writes a 300-page account of his political triumphs, serial lawbreaking, and unethical conduct, all of which ended in his imprisonment for fraud, tax evasion, and fraud.”
Serial law breaking? Abramoff’s creative lobbying strategies were tailored to meet ethics requirements and laws on the books. Eventually in the process of engaging in standard lobbying practices and through over-extension, he fell into the nebulous gray area of the profession and inadvertently broke a few rules. He did not engage in systematic or chronic law breaking.
In fact, Abramoff did not even do what he was accused of doing nor what the Washington Post reported that he did, as is extensively documented in my book, Lynched! Instead, he was indicted under the vaguely worded honest services fraud statutes, which have since been struck down on constitutional grounds. Moreover, his prosecution was led by a team which has come under fire for prosecutorial misconduct. The authorities pursued him as he was lied about in the Washington Post which then marketed his guilt throughout the country with the assistance of a PR firm.
Smith endeavors to smear Abramoff’s reputation since the facts alone won’t convict him, beyond making the case that he was, in fact, a lobbyist engaging in typical lobbying activities.
Smith again: “But the curtain is pulled back only partially. When it comes to his own role, Abramoff leaves out some embarrassing details, making a reader suspect that there is more to tell.”
Those “embarrassing details” were not divulged as Abramoff cannot address the cases which have been prosecuted or does Smith not quite grasp how prosecutions work? Smith should not “suspect” there is more to tell, but know so, based upon my extensive communications with his sources, who have been provided substantial exculpatory evidence. Surely Smith is aware of my book and reporting, which has been widely read and circulated among Abramoff’s former tribal clients and the lobbyists who briefed him, or is feigning ignorance preferable to reporting and incorporating the truth?
Smith has more:
“One explanation for his devotion to such hard-edge lobbying is that a habitual rule breaker will always gravitate towards a profession where ethics norms are few and enforcement is largely missing.”
Does he mean like claiming undeserved Pulitzers for work stolen from others? How about bearing false witness or arrogantly trotting out lies, expecting that somehow the truth will never surface nor will the false accusers ever be held accountable for them?
“Even after a few years in prison, Abramoff appears unconvinced that he should be subject to the same rules at others,” Smith stupidly observes. “One of the book’s unintended themes is thus that redemption is particularly elusive for those who think they can lobby to get everything they want.”
Such is the depraved mind of Smith who projects unto others what he is himself. Again, when reading Smith’s drivel, one should consider the source.
Why can’t the Washington Post publish a civil, honest review of Abramoff’s book? While they may have won the PR war, the legal battle has yet begun. Many questions still remain to be answered, such as why Abramoff was investigated in the first place.
The Elephant in the Investigation
The real scandal, who has yet to be reported by the mainstream media, implicates the Seminole Tribe of Florida, which was represented by Abramoff’s employer, Greenberg Traurig; Scott Reed, a fundraiser for Sen. John McCain who coordinated the investigation; and Larry Rosenthal, whom Abramoff displaced as lobbyist for the wealthy Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe.
To provide a little background, before Abramoff joined Greenberg Traurig, he endeavored to purchase the nearby SunCruz gaming fleet, which was in competition with the Seminoles for gambling patrons. The ensuing court proceedings revealed that the fraud within the Florida deal over which Abramoff was wrongly indicted was finessed by the lender, Foothill Wells Fargo, on the advice of counsel which coincidentally represents the Seminole’s financial advisor, Merrill Lynch. In fact, court documents reveal that the lender took steps which violated the terms of the loan and virtually guranteed SunCruz’s collapse into bankruptcy.
Even more damning, lobbyists connected with the Seminole tribe disseminated articles about the fraud to Abramoff’s tribal clients in an effort to discredit him and have him fired. Yet, as paperwork and witnesses confirm, Abramoff was not party to that fraud.
The Seminoles also directed $200,000 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to block DeLay’s gerrymandering, sparking a federal corruption probe against the Congressman which eventually led to his resignation and ensuing indictment in Texas. DeLay’s case was marred by prosecutorial misconduct as well.
Once Abramoff was ousted through a contrived scandal, the Seminoles proceeded to acquire a gaming compact, which was negotiated by the son of the judge who presided over Abramoff’s wrongful conviction in Florida. The tribe then purchased the Hard Rock franchise for $1 billion in a deal overseen by Greenberg Traurig and Merrill Lynch.
Attempting to cash in, the Seminoles reached out to a former Abramoff client, the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe, which Rosenthal then represented, to launch joint ventures under the Hard Rock brand name. According to the Saginaw Chippewa’s former banker, interests affiliated with the Seminoles ripped off a much as one billion dollars from the Michigan tribe.
In addition, the allegations which drove the investigation were based upon false reporting of the SunCruz fraud, and accompanying leaks by tribal dissidents to local newspapers, which were prompted by lobbyists conveting Abramoff’s business and refuted in those same broadsheets. This is the story the Washington Post picked up and ran with without question or proper attribution while neglecting to acknowledge the retractions.
Smith can be vindicated by the fact that Abramoff was convicted of something. However, the accusations and reporting which drove the scandal were false. It’s curious that Smith still refuses to acknowledge this fact. Consider also that those who designed the scandal profited immeasurably from it, and you can see why Smith might be trying with all his might to reindoctrinate the public with a caricature of Abramoff. By now most savvy people can see through Smith’s desperate attempts at slander.
Susan Bradford is the author of Lynched! The Shocking Story of How the Political Establishment Manufactured a Scandal to Have Republican Superlobbyist Jack Abramoff Removed from Power. For more information please visit: http://www.susanbradford.org/
© Susan Bradford 2011