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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Abramoff’s Widening Gyre

Most of the public still doesn’t know much about the series of scandals emanating from the toxic vicinity of Jack Abramoff. Lots of Republicans still scoff at the idea that there will be significant collateral damage from the multiple misconduct of Casino Jack, and even some Democrats wonder if those of us who have obsessed about the subject would be wise to look to more obvious GOP problems like Iraq.But aside from the fact that Democrats ought to be able to multitask: look, folks, the Abramoff scandals bid fare to strike at the rotten core of the whole latter-day GOP. He’s right smack in the middle of an elaborate and well-entrenched network of conservative movement and GOP activists who have been together since the 1980s. There’s no way he can be marginalized as a minor figure in the GOP, and no way its most important figures can pretend they somehow didn’t know he was trading his connections with them for giant bags of money, and sending at least some of that money back in their various directions. And the scale of the whole thing is really something else. As Josh Marshall summed it up today:

This is a huge sum of money Abramoff was sitting on. There was lots of money to keep Grover Norquist rolling in cash, lots of spare cash to fund Ralph Reed’s transition from Christian Coalition sachem to power lobbyist, money for skyboxes to use to raise more money without the in-kind donation of the use of the skybox, millions of dollars pushed through front organizations then passed on to others.This isn’t just a crooked lobbyist. This is someone managing a slush-fund. The sort of unregulated, unwatched pile of money patronage-based political machines always need to keep running.So who is he running it for?

That’s a very good question, and one that should be asked until it is answered. Abramoff has already implicated in his shady activities enough key GOP operatives to refute the idea that he was just a rogue wolf who strayed from the pack. But even if his friends did not specifically approve his every action, they sure as hell set him up as a major hustler in the hazy and lucrative limbo-land where big money is made off political connections, and politicians get a big cut of the action. And it got crazy out of control.As Yeats once put it:”Turning and turning in the widening gyre/The falcon cannot hear the falconer.”But who was the falcon, and who the falconer? We really need to know.

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