Jack Abramoff pleaded guilty Tuesday to three felony counts of conspiracy, fraud and tax evasion. Or, as Republicans call it, "free speech." He did so and then left the courthouse wearing a hat that Snidely Whiplash would have called "too over the top bad guy." I should give Abramoff the benefit of the doubt though. Maybe he had gone to a Hollywood memorabilia auction and bought Scott Glenn's hat from Urban Cowboy and, rather than carry it in a bag, just decided to wear it. And in case you're wondering, the caption for everyone behind him in the photo is "Oh my God. He's doing it. He's really fucking wearing that hat."
But my favorite part of the whole day was the description from the assistant attorney general of the gifts that Abramoff gave in exchange for votes from various congressmen. Here it is as it read in the New York Times...
"At a news briefing this afternoon, Alice Fisher, an assistant attorney general, said Mr. Abramoff offered up gifts to government officials that included an all-expense paid trip to Scotland 'to play golf on a world-famous course, tickets and travel to the Super Bowl in Florida, tickets for concerts and other events in Washington, repeated and regular meals at his upscale restaurant, and campaign contributions." She said he provided these gifts 'with the intent and often with the understanding that his clients would receive the official action they wanted." And, she said, "his actions often produced the official influence that he sought."
It is so good to know that our elected officials, who hold an office and a trust given to them by the people in accordance with our more than 200-year-old Constitution will betray that trust and office for... a steak and tickets to a Patriots game. That's right, a cut of meat and a football game. Since when did Dan Jenkins get elected to Congress? Hey guys, if you really, really, really want to go to the Super Bowl you can probably make up a security issue and just go. You're Congressmen. Plus, I'm pretty sure after the second quarter you can just walk in for free at most games. They don't officially say it but the ushers don't care. You don't have to corrupt the whole country.
The other big item listed was a golf trip. A golf trip. These politicians are betraying the entire concept of America and democracy for what would be a stage four winner's gift on The Amazing Race. The next thing we'll be told is that Bush is pushing to drill in the Alaskan Wildlife refuge because Exxon gave him a T-Bird shaped VHS tape rewinder.
I knew that people liked swag, but I didn't know they were willing to subvert our government for it. Hey, Tom Delay, if I take you out to dinner at Wolfgang Puck's at the mall can I have a tenth of a vote?
The other great "gift" is the vague mention of "concerts." Now we're talking about Congressmen who average in age between 50 and, like, 125, so you know these were not tickets to a Pixies concert, which might be almost worth betraying your country for. These were probably tickets to Celine Dion or the Rolling Stones or Don Henley. That means at some point in the past five years Celine Dion was on stage singing and if you had panned a camera across the crowd you would have seen Tom Delay watching with a giant smile on his face. And maybe, if Celine was on that night, a tear in his eye.
This is American democracy in the year 2006.