Jack Abramhoff: We Owned Congress

Excerpts from Lesley Stahl’s blockbuster interview with Lobbyist Jack Abramoff on 60 Minutes, Nov. 6, 2011:

 When we would become friendly with an office and they were important to us, and the chief of staff was a competent person, I would say or my staff would say to him or her at some point, “You know, when you’re done working on the Hill, we’d very much like you to consider coming to work for us.” Now the moment I said that to them or any of our staff said that to ’em, that was it. We owned them. And what does that mean? Every request from our office, every request of our clients, everything that we want, they’re gonna do. And not only that, they’re gonna think of things we can’t think of to do.

Stahl: How many congressional offices did you actually own?   

We probably had very strong influence in 100 offices at the time….In those days, I would view that as a failure. Because that leaves 335 offices that we didn’t have strong influence in.

 I think people are under the impression that the corruption only involves somebody handing over a check and getting a favor. And that’s not the case. The corruption, the bribery, call it, because ultimately that’s what it is. That’s what the whole system is.

Stahl: The whole system’s bribery?

In my view. I’m talking about giving a gift to somebody who makes a decision on behalf of the public. At the end of the day, that’s really what bribery is. But it is done everyday and it is still being done. The truth is there were very few members who I could even name or could think of who didn’t at some level participate in that.

Stahl: Could you do the same thing today? I’m asking you whether you think the system’s been cleaned up?    

 Could do the same thing that I? Yeah. No, the system hasn’t been cleaned up at all….There’s an arrogance on the part of lobbyists, and certainly there was on the part of me and my team, that no matter what they come up we, we’re smarter than they are and we’ll overcome it. We’ll just find another way through. That’s all.

Stahl: He says the most important thing that needs to be done is to prohibit members of Congress and their staff from ever becoming lobbyists in Washington.

If you make the choice to serve the public, public service, then serve the public, not yourself. When you’re done, go home. Washington’s a dangerous place. Don’t hang around.

Interview Transcript

Boldface added by BPR Editor
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