His name was synonymous with Washington corruption, but Jack Abramoff is a changed man, and Kentucky lawmakers believe he can teach them valuable lessons when he serves as the featured speaker in a session on ethics that will open their 2012 General Assembly next month.
Abramoff, author of “Capitol Punishment: The Hard Truth About Washington Corruption From America’s Most Notorious Lobbyist”, will tell the lawmakers how his corrupt actions propelled him to the top of Washington’s lobbying world and to 43 months in prison after pleading guilty in 2006 to corrupting public officials, tax evasion and fraud, the Louisville Courier-Journal reported.
The high-profile scandal led to the convictions of 20 people for payoffs in exchange for political favors, including Republican Rep. Bob Ney of Ohio. Abramoff, who had plenty of time to reflect in prison, says his drastic fall was his wake-up call, and he now admits he did wrong.
The Louisville paper said the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission will pay Abramoff a $5,000 fee, plus expenses, for his Jan. 4 session with lawmakers.
All 138 legislators must attend three hours of ethics training annually, and George Troutman, the ethics commission’s chairman, said Abramoff is an ideal teacher.
“If you look at what this training for legislators is supposed to accomplish, I don’t think there’s anybody better on the face of the earth,” he told the Courier-Journal.
The requirement for ethics training was established in response to a federal investigation in the early 1990s that resulted in the convictions of 15 Kentucky legislators and six others on corruption charges.
Troutman said Abramoff was recommended by the commission’s general counsel, John Schaaf, after Abramoff was interviewed on “60 Minutes” in early November.
On the CBS News program, Abramoff explained to Lesley Stahl the motivation for his book.
“I did things, and I was involved in the system I should not have been in,” Abramoff said. “I’m ashamed of the fact I was there, and that’s the very reason why now I’m speaking about it.”
House Speaker Greg Stumbo, a Democrat, told the Louisville paper he thought Abramoff could “inform legislators of what might be transpiring on the other end of this equation where people are plotting ways to bring undue influence on legislators.”
“In that regard, I would say it would be very helpful,” he said.