The Supreme Court’s Ruling and the Abramoff Scandal

cartoonA new film being showcased at the Sundance Festival in Park City, Utah recalls the massive U.S. government corruption exposed when a lobbyist named Jack Abramoff was arrested for bribing dozens of Republican politicians a few years back.

The documentary by Oscar-winning film maker Alex Gibney is titled “Casino Jack and the United States of Money.” It is being hailed as an entertaining film.

According to a news item this morning:

In the film, the director, in a deeply ironic mode, recounts the glory days and decline of Jack Abramoff – presently serving a six-year prison sentence for bribery – who also took several members of the Republican Party who profited from his largesse down along with him when he fell.

“In many respects, Abramoff was simultaneously extremely serious and deeply ridiculous,” Gibney declared to AFP. “And some things were too bizarre and amusing to be treated in a serious way. You had to laugh and cry at once. It’s a comedy, but the joke’s on us.”

Despite what Gibney may think, this is no laughing matter. Abramoff was not just a rogue lobbyist who ended up in prison because he went too far in the sleazy world of Washington influence peddling.

He was many things including a movie producer (Red Scorpion, 1980). And, according to Gibney, he “saw his life as an action movie.” But I don’t buy the idea that he was a deluded clown caught up in a beguiling culture of political corruption too tempting to resist.

jackFrom accounts I found on the web, this man (photo at left) is a master criminal. The tale that caught the media’s attention involved tens of millions of dollars that he collected from Indian tribal gambling operations and split with Republican politicians. But another – perhaps more sinister – story was uncovered as investigators probed Abramoff’s affairs. He emerged as an operative for an organization that masterminds gambling activities around the world.

And, according to at least one web site, he was not only mixed up in political bribery and casino gambling, “he helped sell Americans a bill of goods as justification in at least three recent wars.” The web site claims his associates (falsely) convinced Congress that Iraqi soldiers were bayoneting babies, for example.

The site also quotes news stories linking Abramoff to a member of the Sicilian Mafia.

(You can read the allegations at:

I can’t vouch for the accuracy of all of the site’s allegations, but most of them are a matter of public record. Besides, it is generally accepted that organized crime has close ties to gambling operations – legal and illegal – and Abramoff was a lobbyist for gambling interests.

As I review the sordid Abramoff affair, a chilling thought comes to mind. I’m sure you know that organized crime “launders” its flood of illicit dollars through legitimate corporations. With the Supreme Court opening the door to unfettered corporate funding of political candidates, the way is now clear for criminals to buy control of the U.S. government – without fear of prosecution.