Jack Abramoff may have faded somewhat from the public consciousness, but I have a feeling that’s going to change in the next couple of years. Casino Jack, a film based on the scandal and starring Kevin Spacey, Hayden Christensen, and David Cross, is due to come out next year, likely in the summer or fall. And if Roy Blunt is the Republican nominee for US Senate here in Missouri, his ties to the disgraced lobbyist are sure to come under intense scrutiny in the press.
To review, Jack Abramoff was involved in a number of shady dealings from the time the Republicans took control of Congress in 1995 until he went to jail in 2006. Among the scandals: funneling money and favors to lawmakers in order to extend exemptions to anti-sweatshop laws for the US Northern Marianas Islands, taking over $1 million from Tyco for a fake grassroots campaign that he never performed, receiving money funneled through a shell company from a Russian energy company, and swindling Indian tribes by overbilling and double dealing on lobbying for their casino interests.
Abramoff has pled guilty to several counts of fraud and was sentenced to several years on separate charges of trading gifts for favors in federal legislation. White House officials, fellow lobbyists, and Congressmen have all gone to jail after being implicated in his illegal efforts. Which brings us back to Roy Blunt.
Roy Blunt was connected to Jack Abramoff, there’s no question about that. Just one USA Today article lists several ties, including regular meetings with Abramoff’s lobbying team and campaign contributions from Abramoff and Abramoff clients while working on key legislation that Abramoff wanted to influence, like Indian gaming and regulating sweatshops. A customer list revealed that Blunt could receive comped meals at Abramoff’s DC restaurant, Signatures. And from back in the day, Fired Up has a pretty good rundown of the inner circle shared by Abramoff and Blunt.
Now, as Jeff admitted in that post, unsavory connections alone aren’t going to indict or convict anyone. There has to be solid proof of wrongdoing. The fact that Blunt was never indicted in the same series of scandals that took down his close associate Tom Delay might possibly mean that no solid proof of wrongdoing by Blunt has been or will ever be found. It might even mean that Blunt did nothing illegal.
But just because it hasn’t happened yet doesn’t mean further revelations aren’t forthcoming, because the Abramoff investigations have not been closed yet. Abramoff himself pled guilty to reduced penalties based on a promise to cooperate. Trevor Blackann, a former Roy Blunt aide who pled guilty to taking thousands of dollars in gifts from Abramoff’s team, is similarly cooperating with the authorities. (It’s interesting to note that Blackann was working for Sen. Bond at the time he received those gifts – Blunt is running to replace Bond in the Senate.) And Todd Boulanger, another member of Team Abramoff who pled guilty for bribing government aides, is also cooperating with the DOJ in return for reduced time. Boulanger’s wife Jessica worked as Roy Blunt’s press secretary.
So we’ll see how this plays out over the next couple of years. I know I’ll be watching.