Jack Abramoff, a Washington insider who played the lobbying game successfully for years before being caught stepping over the line, told NPR that when his world started to disintegrate, he was blamed for everything up to and including Hurricane Katrina.
“I was a good lobbyist, but I wasn’t that good,” Abramoff said in a radio interview with Anne Strainchamps on NPR Wisconsin.
He said until he was caught, he never thought he was doing anything wrong, because he was just playing the system the way he had learned it.
Ultimately, Abramoff lost his position, power and freedom. But since his release from prison, he has been trying to make reparations for his offenses.
He’s recounted his story in “Capitol Punishment,” which takes a no-holds-barred look at the state of Washington politics.
“I was never the devil they thought I was, and I was never the saint I thought I was,” Abramoff said.
He said when the allegations against him initially were reported by media, he thought about posting the articles on his company website.
“That obviously didn’t happen,” he said, and he thought, “Why me? I’m just playing the system as I learned it.”
NPR Wisconsin’s promotion of the interview reads:
Jack Abramoff. He’s hardly a murderer. But to many in the Beltline (sic), he’s the devil incarnate. Senator Conrad Burns, said, ‘I wish he’d never been born.’ Congresswoman Deborah Price said, ‘He is a creep, and we hate him.’ Paul Begala summed it up when he said on Crossfire ‘Jack Abramoff, he’s scum.’ How did this guy earn such vitriol? Jack Abramoff was the notorious lobbyist at the center of one of Washington’s most far-reaching corruption scandals. He served four years for fraud, tax evasion and conspiracy to bribe public officials. His testimony brought down dozens of other public and elected officials. And he still owes $44 million in restitution.
Hear the interview:
Once Washington, D.C.'s most powerful lobbyist, when Abramoff was fingered for corruption, many inside the Beltway sought to distance themselves from him. But now that Abramoff is out of prison, he's turned over a new leaf and is determined to expose just how deep the capital's culture of corruption has become.
After years of congressmen lining up to do his bidding, executives heeding his every word and heads of government giving him attention, he ended up in prison, and his name became synonymous with government corruption.
But he took the fall as a wake-up call, and he now admits he did wrong.
In his book, Abramoff not only "outs" senators and members of Congress and sets out the details of insider deals previously unknown to most, but he also sets forth a Capitol Hill reform plan to rock the fraternal inside-the-Beltway culture.