Jack Abramoff is best known as a disgraced former lobbyist who was convicted in 2006 on charges related to a massive public corruption probe that resulted in the convictions of White House officials, a U.S. representative, and a motley crew of DC lobbyists and Congressional aides. Dan Snyder is best known as the vexatious litigant who currently runs the Washington Redskins ... into the ground on a near-weekly basis. As it happens, the two men happened to know one another. Abramoff had a luxe suite at Washington's FedEx Field, and, as his book -- "Capitol Punishment: The Hard Truth About Washington Corruption From America's Most Notorious Lobbyist" -- describes, this provided the occasion for the two men to correspond.
Over at TPM, Ryan J. Reilly excerpts the portion concerning the relationship between Snyder and Abramoff. By the end of it, you will hold one of the two in slightly higher regard!
I was one of his larger customers, but I had a number of frustrations with the amenities of the facility. Since my primary purpose was to entertain clients and the powerful people who could impact their lives, and since I was spending a fortune, I didn’t hold back on my critique. One of my main suggestions was that he convert the choice location the press commanded close to the field to prime suites and catapult the media to the upper reaches of the stadium. The final item on my long list of suggestions was that he should try to change the offensive name of the team.
Although the Choctaws had long ago assured me that a team named the Redskins didn’t bother them, I figured I would take a shot a trying to undo this insult. In my letter to Snyder, I asked him how we would feel if the New York team were called the Jew Boys, or worse. Moreover, I knew that all Native Americans resented the use of the feathered headdress in the team band’s uniform. I asked how he would feel if the New York Jew Boys band had a uniform of black hats and prayer shawls. I further argued that, were he to make this change now, he would immediately establish himself as a moral leader in our nation’s capital, and garner the respect of those who were likely to look askance on him.
In fact, Dan Snyder had, in 2002, obtained the rights to a trademark on the name "The Washington Warriors." Snyder said that he obtained the trademark to pave the way for a possible Washington-based team in the Indoor Football League, but at the time, his "Redskins" trademarks were threatened by a lawsuit filed by Native American activist Suzan Shown Harjo, who contended it violated the Lanham Act. Snyder ended up prevailing in court, however, and the memory of the "Warriors" trademark soon faded. (It lives on in the reporting of the Washington City Paper's Dave McKenna -- the target of Snyder's recent, ill-advised, now-dropped lawsuit.)
Abramoff says that Snyder was happy to address his concerns:
He was kind a gracious, not the imperious brat the media had portrayed him to be. He said that he sympathized with my points about the team’s name, but he had been a Redskins fan since he was a kid, and he couldn’t bring himself to change it.
Hey, you know, that's just Redskins owners being Redskins owners! Former Redskins owner George Preston Marshall was a fan of racism since he was a kid, and couldn't be brought to change his stance on allowing black players on the team until his hand was forced by Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall. (Alyssa Rosenberg reminded us this week of the stand that DC sportswriter par-excellence Shirley Povich took on the matter, with sentences like, “Jim Brown, born ineligible to play for the Redskins, integrated their end zone three times yesterday.”)
Abramoff writes, "A few seasons later, I was given first choice of the new suites in the former press section and our expenditures at Fed Ex Field grew exponentially," so, it's not like anyone in this story is a paragon of standing on principle. Nevertheless, it just goes to show that pretty much anyone can be held in comparatively higher esteem to Dan Snyder.
Jack Abramoff: Dan Snyder Isn’t A ‘Brat,’ He’s An Awesome Guy [TPMMuckraker]
More on "Capitol Punishment: The Hard Truth About Washington Corruption From America's Most Notorious Lobbyist," from Dan Froomkin:
Jack Abramoff Takes Shots At Enemies And Protects Friends In New Book
Jack Abramoff, In New Book, Decries Endemic Corruption In Washington