Abramoff's Pal: Loosen Up, Squares!

We've had a bit of fun with Washingtonian editor Kim Eisler's friendship with Jack Abramoff, we admit (we admit also to not recognizing a fairly common expression among observant Jews -- has it really been so long since we left New York?). But last night he sent us (and a couple others) a long memo discussing, in great detail, his Kurtz-described "conflict of interest," his history with Abramoff, and so much more.


Being fans, obviously, of media infighting, we wanted to highlight a few passages:

Consider this for a second. On one hand Abramoff is accused of paying millions of dollars in contributions to, as the indictment alleged, deprive the American people of "honest government." As if we ever had honest government.

On the other hand, Abramoff is accused of doing nothing for his clients. Could I be the only person in the entire Washington press corps who sees the conflict here? I seem to be. Why was he buying the influence of all these senators and congressmen? How is that doing nothing for his clients ? That is exactly what a lobbist does.

Which is, actually, a pretty good point. And a brilliant defense. Abramoff's unethical behavior was proof that he wasn't defrauding his clients! This is precisely how the system is designed to work! As we've mentioned numerous times, we occasionally consider ourselves the only actively pro-lobbyist media outlet in Washington. But Eisler has us beat:

I know other people who have gone to the Big House. I play poker and hang out at the race track. I don't hobnob with the bores that inhabit 15th and L., except for my wife who is not boring and is an exception to this, I admire and like rogues and thieves. I guess that just isn't done in this starch collar, tight ass city. Come to think of it, if Jack had the guy in Miami killed, that would just be one more feather in his black waterproof cap. Not sure I've actually ever known a murderer.

You hear that, Washington? You're a bunch of tight-asses! We're beginning to like this Eisler guy. It's something we've always believed too, actually -- given the choice between pious protectors of journalistic standards and reporters who drunk-dial nationally syndicated radio, we'll party with the lush any day of the week.

Eisler's full "memo" (it's looong) after the jump.

I had to love this line in Howard Kurtz's lame story about my relationship with Jack Abramoff. He says that after knowing the guy for six years, Eisler was "undeterred," even by last months guilty plea...

That says everything you want to know about the Washington Post and the fair-weather friends of this town. I guess what we all should do is that when somebody we know and has been a friend gets in trouble, we should immediately abandon them, shun them, be as rude as possible and be totally insensitive the their family situation, what will befall their wives and kids.

That's how institutions like the Post and individuals like Mr. Kurtz want us to be. Personally I don't believe in the death penalty, I am tired of people hunting down 90-year-old Nazis, and if Dubai wants to manage our ports, I don't give a damn. In February of 2004, if anybody actually wants to know the facts, the Washington Post ran an inaccurate and misleading story that started this entire episode. The story was generated by rival lobbyists who had openly proclaimed their intention of stealing Abramoff's Indian clientele, and a jilted girlfriend of Abramoff's partner Michael Scanlon.

With many an ax to grind, the Post's sources related how Abramoff and Scanlon were making a fortune off their representation of several casino owning Indian tribes. This was not new information, Abramoff's exhorbitant fees had been reported on page 219 of Revenge of The Pequots, the book I wrote about Indian gaming back in 2001.

Over the years, both in Legal Times and in Washingtonian, Abramoff's relationship with casino owning tribes and the high fees he charged were no secret. But in the fifth paragraph of the Washington Post story, the Post lied when it wrote that Abramoff collected these fees "even though the tribes had no new issues," confronting them.

This was a lie. I told Howard Kurtz that this was lie. He chose not to reference it, just as the Post ombudsman in her disgustingly obsequious bouquet to the Post's reporters on this story, chose not to mention this lie.

Why is this important ? Over the past two years, the urban myth that Abramoff did not work for his clients has become an accepted fact. Recently an Indian tribe took out a full page ad trumpeting this as a fact, that Abramoff received $80 million from tribes for work never performed.

Consider this for a second. On one hand Abramoff is accused of paying millions of dollars in contributions to, as the indictment alleged, deprive the American people of "honest government." As if we ever had honest government.

On the other hand, Abramoff is accused of doing nothing for his clients. Could I be the only person in the entire Washington press corps who sees the conflict here ? I seem to be. Why was he buying the influence of all these senators and congressmen ? How is that doing nothing for his clients ? That is exactly what a lobbist does. The result was the building of schools, tribal medical centers, roads, and obtaining recognition bills for his tribal clients. In addition Abramoff squelched casinos threatened by tribes that would cut into his clients profits, and defeated millions of dollars worth of taxes that have been proposed over the years.

The Post wrote that casino owning tribes had no issues that warranted the high fees Abramoff commanded.

Has every other reporter in this town been so swept away by this media frenzy that they have lost the ability to reason. Of course there were issues. Abramoff didn't have a gun to the head of these tribal chairmen and tribal councilmen. They were free to consult competitors, and he had plenty. They were free to compare fees charged by Abramoff and by other firms that represent tribes.

Unlike the reporters for the Post, who obviously know nothing and knew nothing about the politics of Indian casinos, I have been covering this issue for 15 years, when I first started funding Indian casinos on my annual trip to Foxwoods. Most of the money paid to Abramoff was originally mine, funneled to him by bad bets at the Foxwoods craps table, that were scooped up, put into the tribal till, and then sent to Abramoff so they wouldn't have to pay taxes on my losings.

I made all these points to Kurtz, but he was too involved in the Post coverup and their desperate effort to win a Pulitzer on a basically bogus story, to go into it, just as the Ombudsman refused to go into it.

The Ombudsman's story contained another lie, which she and the post refuse to acknowledge.

Howell wrote that Sue Schmidt interviewed Abramoff, in Feb. 2004. Howell quotes Schmidt as saying that Abramoff "lied" about having financial ties to Scanlon." Both Schmidt and fellow investigative reporter Jim Grimaldi have repeatedly on radio and TV appearances claimed that Abramoff told this lie in his initial interview.

Yet there is a tape of Schmidt's interview with Abramoff, so this doesn't have to be a she said-he said. Here is the relevant section of the transcript:

SS: Do you have an ownership stake in Capitol Campaign Strategies or Scanlon Gould or any of Mike Scanlon's other ventures?
JA: No. No, I don't, but again I don't really want to be in a, I'm happy for you to ask questions, you know we're not in the practice on commenting on the third party vendors that, in terms of, other than with discussions with clients. Again, I'm happy to take in all the various questions you have about Scanlon or any of the other vendors but beyond what we've just discussed, I really don't think it's appropriate for me to go beyond that.
SS: So you don't have any ownership stake in any ...
JA: I've answered that, and I really again, I don't want to go beyond that with you. I said I don't. I don't have any.


So the question is, did Schmidt ask Abramoff if he had "financial ties," as your column states ? Or did she ask if he had "ownership stake" in Capitol Campaign Strategies or Mike Scanlon's other ventures. I suspect that Mr. Abramoff's position on this is that he was not an owner of Scanlon's companies. It seems a little harsh to conclude that Abramoff "lied." He may have answered the question truthfully. The fact is that he didn't have ownership interest in Scanlon's company.

So what was really happening here. It wasn't the Indian clients that Abramoff was cheating, it was his own law firm Greenberg Traurig that was getting ripped off.

As I explained to Howard Kurtz, he engineered deals where the tribes would pay money to Scanlon for grass roots activities. This was instead of paying the money to Abramoff through Greenberg Traurig, the law firm for which he worked.

This had two positive results for Abramoff. He didn't have to give Greenberg a cut of his business, per their agreement for his to work for them as a lobbyist, and secondly it meant that Abramoff didn't have to disclose his activities under the lobby registration requirements. Abramoff has told me on several occasions that had the tribes paid Greenberg Traurig for his work, it would have ended up in Legal Times or in the Post's lobbying coverage. He was hoping to avoid yet more stories about how much money he was charging.

Yet Mr. Kurtz writes rather blithely that Abramoff has confessed to "stealing millions" from his clients. He didn't steal millions from anybody. He charged them a very high rate for services rendered. Nobody twisted the tribe's arms, and if they weren't happy they were free to sue in civil court, as one eventually did, or not renew their contracts.

Mr. Kurtz refers to well-publicized emails that called Native Americans many bad things. Personally I have known Abramoff for seven years and never heard him talk like that. I told Kurtz that this was not the Jack I knew. I acknowledged there was a "bad Jack," but pointed out that "I did not know this man."

He asked me if I felt "betrayed," by the emails.

I didn't think the word betrayed was operative. People do what they do. The guy wrote 400 emails a day for 12 years. He is addicted to email. So search 500,000 emails and you'll find something. Are any of us so perfect that we have never made a racial epithet or an ethnic joke. If so, please stand in line for sainthood.

What really intrigued about the city's resident media critic was that he wrote," Their friendship provides a glimpse of how even a spectacular scandal can look different when someone is acquainted with the person under fire, although why Eisler remains loyal to a man who stole millions is not entirely clear.

If it wasn't clear, why did I talk to him for over two hours and exchange about a dozen emails explaining this very point. I once told Abramoff that if I found out that he had the guy murdered in Miami, I might have to reconsider my viewpoint on all this. He hasn't been indicted for that, so I am assuming he wasn't involved in Gus Boulis's murder. If it turns out he was, and he lied to me about this, I will sent in my federal prison visiting pass. Kurtz asks why I have remained "loyal to a man who stole millions."

First of all, I don't consider our relationship to be based on loyalty.

here is exactly what I told Kurtz on this point:

But with the exception of a couple of small capital comment items, when I would pick up something newsworthy for my column, I didn't really feel comfortable getting into this too deeply on the reporting side. My entree into this was, hey, you are getting pilloried out here in the public and you should tell the truth and do a better job of linking up with reporters to get your side out. Obviously it wasn't appropriate for me to put the side out in print, I expressed my opinion to him as free-lance magazine writer and author, that he was doing a piss poor job of communicating with reporters. My advice to him was consistent---call people back, tell them the truth, try to build a relationship with someone covering the story- obviously things hadnt gone well with him and sue schmidt. So I would say, maybe you can get to know Grimaldi. Find out who is covering the story. he tried that I believe, you can check this, with Tim Noah, who wrote a very nasty story about what Jack was like at Beverly Hills High School. Jack thought that it went well. he did that on his own, based on my general suggestion to try to parry some of the endless stories about every aspect of his life and times, most of which were eithe exagerated, wrong or low blows. For example Time made point in his cover story that he served illegal hot dogs when he ran for office in high school. Quite frankly, Howie, I have always been kind of fascinated with the crisis managment profession, what does J & J do when Tyleonol goes bad. Those case studies. Here was a guy getting absolutely pummelled day after day after day, compared to Hitler. Matthews one day asked his viewers, "what evil lurks in this man's heart." I mean it was way way over the top. Meanwhile he had this pr guy, and i would read these long attacks on him, and then it would say the pr guy had no comment. What good is a pr guy with no comment. Jack can no comment. Abbe can no comment. Why pay a pr guy to no comment. It seemed ridiculous to me. As a matter of basic human kindness, I told him what I thought based on my 30 years in the business. I was not covering the story, I have not written any story of substance about this. I didn't get involved in a journalistic sense until this issue came up with the pictues, which I explained to you.

Bush said he was looking for the pictures, I had seen the pictures and wrote an item in Washingtonian saying that I had. I don't think there is any conflict in that. I think perhaps I was starting to feel that I was losing my journalistic side, which I had been trying to balance. My effort to find something to get into the story was a cry in the dark from Kim the Journalist to balance my interests here. I was trying to give the guy some guidance true, I was trying not to be another old friend who would turn on him and abandon him, but I wanted to keep my fingers in it to some extent, otherwise I would go to work and feel rather silly. People would say, hey if you know abramoff so well, where's the beef. Be kind of ironic if I knew and understood more about him than anybody in town and couldn' write or talk about it. But I didn't know when the appropriate time would come for me to do that. Obviously I watched Capote with great interest and thought a lot about the journalistic issues tht this movie presented. I didn't want to be using somebody to the extent that Capote is portrayed using Perry Smith at the end of the movie. So how could I exhibit basic human decency and still fulfil my role as a reporter when all those about me, and I am the ultimate defender of our craft against all attackers, I love this business, I put out my first paper, The daily rag when I was six, how could I see everything that was going on, knowing that it was over the top---thats why i told vandehei when he asked me about my relationship with abramoff, i said it was murky.

I assure you that I have run every possible ethical scenario around in my head.



In view of this lengthy and emotional and gut-wrenching response, how the hell could Kurtz write that I never explained why I continued to try to be a friend to a man in trouble.

I want to make one thing clear and everybody who knows me, knows this. My family was a Democratic family. My father voted for every Democrat save Jimmy Carter, who he couldn't stand, and he voted for John Anderson in 1980. I shared no political affinity with Jack Abramoff. But let everyone know who is getting such a chuckle out one man's misfortune, that one day it could be any of us in that box.

As it states in Wild Swans by Jung Chang, "Where there is a will to prosecute, there will be evidence."

I am not going to abandon a fellow human being at a time when they most need a friend. I have tried to help the guy. I told him not to plead the Fifth, to develop relationships with reporters, to stop the demonization process, and to tell the truth. I told him to start showing remorse in anticipation of sentencing. I felt his overt piety could work against him by exposing him as a hypocrite. Instead of his religion and good charitable works being mitigating factors in sentencing, I felt it would work against him. I know other people who have gone to the Big House. I play poker and hang out at the race track. I don't hobnob with the bores that inhabit 15th and L., except for my wife who is not boring and is an exception to this, I admire and like rogues and thieves. I guess that just isn't done in this starch collar, tight ass city. Come to think of it, if Jack had the guy in Miami killed, that would just be one more feather in his black waterproof cap. Not sure I've actually ever known a murderer. But I don't think he did. I don't think he cheated his clients. I don't think he "stole millions." I don't think the work "stole" or "steal" is alleged in the plea agreement. What you have here is a series of lies that have come to be accepted as fact. And not all the king's men, can put Abramoff back together again. I know that. But I don't have to be there busting the chops of a guy who never did anything to me, but be a pleasant companion and a decent guy.

Abramoff's Media Pal [WP]

Earlier: And On the Seventh Day, He Defrauded Them

Donate

How often would you like to donate?

Select an amount (USD)

Newsletter

©2018 by Commie Girl Industries, Inc