Sunday, September 21, 2008

Book: was Jack Abramoff the fall-guy for Washington's ills?

Anytime there is a huge concentration of blame on one person --almost alone-- for the ills of a corrupt institution, one should exercise some skepticism.

Boston-based freelance investigative reporter Gary S. Chafetz began writing his book on Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff with an eye towards his culpability in corrupt lobbying practices. He concluded his research with quite a different perspective.

In his "The Prefect Villain: John McCain and the Demonization of Lobbyist Jack Abramoff" (published last week by Martin & Lawrence Press), Chafetz asserts that Senator John McCain undertook an unduly vengeful crusade against Abramoff. He claimed that "McCain was retaliating against Abramoff for his role in the infamous 'black baby' smear campaign during the 2000 South Carolina Republican primary," as he summarized in the Huffington Post, on September 16, 2008. Abramoff had unwittingly funded the smear, by raising $3 million on short order for Ralph Reed, former executive director of the Christian Coalition. Without Abramoff's knowledge, Reed and George W. Bush advisor used the money to spread a smear by phone calls and flyers on windshields, to insinuate that McCain had an illegitimate black child by a prostitute. (The child actually is Bridget, whom Cindy McCain adopted from a Mother Teresa-operated orphanage in Bangladesh.)
Not only was Abramoff unfairly accused as producing this smear, Chafetz asserts, McCain produced a 373 page report rife with distortions and falsifications. The ills of lobbying and lobbyists' influence are more than one man; singular attention upon Abramoff was unfair. There is a different scandal within this story: the unrelenting abuse of power by a vengeful politician, Senator John McCain.

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