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  • Thursday, January 05, 2006


    Abramoff and Lobbying: Business As Usual, No?

    Lobbyists give money, and arrange for money to be given by their lobbying clients, to politicians' election campaigns, to PACs created by politicians, and to the Democratic and Republican National Committees and Congressional and Senatorial Campaign Committees. In addition, lobbyists raise money from their clients to arrange all kinds of junkets or "fact-finding missions," or "trade missions," or "conferences" or "receptions" (which typically include all-expenses-paid travel, meals, lodging, and entertainment) for politicians and/or key political staff. According to the New York Times, special interests have spent $18 million to run more than 6,000 trips by more than 600 lawmakers from both parties over the last five years.

    There are no explicit quid-pro-quos involved. The politicians who benefit from these "donations" know that if they do not do the bidding of said lobbyists and their clients, then they will not receive such "donations" or be the recipients of such largesse in the future, or worse, campaign funds will be given to, or direct expenditures will be made on behalf of, their election opponents.

    This is politics as usual in the United States. This is how public business is conducted every day in the United States. This is our legalized system of bribery of public officials.

    I can understand the charges against Abramoff in terms of his defrauding his lobbying clients. What I do not understand is, in terms of the bribery charges, how anything Abramoff did or is accused of doing is any different from politics as usual. How exactly did his conduct deviate from politics as usual? Or are we witnessing a redefinition of what constitutes illegal bribery of public officials? I suspect it is the latter possibility that has the political recipients of Abramoff money falling all over themselves to part with it.

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