He was shown some leniency for cooperating with the FBI to take down other corrupt GOPers like former Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, former Deputy Interior Secretary J. Steven Griles and many top Capitol Hill assistants.
And like a good jailbird, he's gonna sing! Jackie boy's forthcoming book is due for publication later this month.
"The Perfect Villain: John McCain and the Demonization of Lobbyist Jack Abramoff."
My, oh my.
UPDATE: A warning, the book could be written to make McCain look like a savior, a fighter of lobbyist corruption. That would make Rovian sense. I have written the publisher to request an advance copy for reporting purposes. Stay tuned!
UPDATE: Author Gary Chafetz's response to a request for an advance copy of his book:
Thanks for your interest in my book. I would deeply appreciate if people would read the book (so they can realize that my controversial (and seemingly implausible) position that Abramoff is in large part innocent is well argued and well reported, even if you don't agree with any/some of my conclusions. Of course, it is the first time that Abramoff has been given a voice in this narrative, which is interesting, I suppose, unto itself.
I became involved in this project because my instincts told me this story was too good to be true. No one could be so evil. This time I believe my instincts were right. I did my best to bleach out my political leanings and views. (I'm a registered independent, I’ve never given any money to a political campaign or political party, I’ve never worked for a political campaign, and I've never voted Republican.) I simply tried by best to examine the facts dispassionately.
Even though I had no contacts or connections of any kind to Mr. Abramoff, I was able to gain access to and persuade him to meet with me. Even though I conducted extensive interviews with him, for me it was the evidence that was most compelling in this complex story. Yes, it was valuable to hear his side of the story, his version/explanations, because he’d never really gotten much of a chance to do so, but I then did my best to confirm what he told me independently.
I began interviewing him five months before his incarceration. I was with him during the day and until 9pm, hours before he surrendered. We were text-messaging on his ride to prison and I was parked outside the Cumberland, MD federal prison when he arrived at 6:15 am on November 15, 2006.
After that, I visited him 13 times in prison--12 in the prison camp, and once in the medium-security prison next door (as the Bureau of Prison visitor’s log will confirm). (At this time, I’m not at liberty to say why he had been briefly transferred to the medium-security facility.) Prison interviews are not allowed without the permission of the warden. A visitor visiting a prisoner is not permitted any paper or pencil, or a tape recorder, which makes conducting an interview impossible. Therefore, these 13 visits were strictly social visits, not interviews, but they did allow me to further gauge the man, who has been clearly traumatized by what has happened to him. We usually spoke nonstop for five to six hours during these visits. Of course, I could not help writing down what I remembered when I got back to my car, and fortunately, I have a pretty good memory.
After exhaustively looking at publicly released documents, documents never released to the public, media stories, as well as conducting interviews with Abramoff, as well as his former SunCruz partners—Adam Kidan and Ben Waldman—and many others, I arrived at the following conclusions:
In my view, Mr. Abramoff never defrauded his Indian clients. The evidence clearly shows the benefits he provided to his tribal clients far, far exceeded his fees. This is why they kept hiring him year after year. His clients were hardly unsophisticated. Because they operated casinos whose revenues often approached $500 million a year, they could easily afford the very best lawyers, accountants, and consultants. They kept a careful watch over Mr. Abramofff and all of the tribes’ activities. Mr. Abramoff never bribed a single congressman or staff. He didn't have to. He simply played the lobbying game better than most. The "kickback scheme" with Michael Scanlon was simply a referral fee, perfectly legal. Lawyers, mortgage brokers, orthopedic surgeons do this all the time without disclosing this information to their clients. Mr. Abramoff is certainly not guilty of income-tax evasion. Essentially, he gave away most of his money to tax-exempt, non-profit organizations [501(c)3].
Indeed,he didn't even pay off his own home mortgage. He was eligible for massive deductions from his taxable income thanks to his generosity. As for the bank fraud (wire fraud) charges down in southern Florida, according to my analysis Mr. Abramoff would have never in a million years been found guilty had the cased gone to trial. Adam Kidan told me repeatedly that Abramoff knew nothing about the $23 million forged wire transfer. What's more, the lender was involved. They knew that Kidan had no money and was a bankrupt. And most revealingly, it was the lender that did not demand to escrow the $23 million cash deposit/downpayment, which is what the lender always did. The lender wanted the huge fees it was earning at the closing and the assets that were being purchased in aggregate were more than collateralized.
As for The Washington Post, its first stories seemed fair, but they were actually misleading, only because the subject matter was extremely dense and complex and not easily understood because the reporter had no expertise in Indian Country. The reporter appears to have been relying on information—from unnamed sources—ssupplied by Abramoff’s competitors. But I would have probably written those early stories the same way, only perhaps not as well. However, the Post ran a story on September 26, 2004, which crossed the bright red line. The story claimed that Abramoff was the world's most underhanded sleaze, because he had specifically, secretly, and deliberately shut down a tribe's casino in El Paso, so that he could then persuade the tribe to hire him to get their casino re-opened for a fee of millions of dollars. This story was false, possibly deliberately so. As a result, I believe the Post's 2006 Pulitzer Prize for breaking the Abramoff scandal should be rescinded.
The morning after the Post broke the first story, Sen. McCain--senior member, later chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee--launched an investigation into Abramoff. For reasons that will be clear if you read The Perfect Villain, McCain was seeking political retribution for something notorious (and reprehensible) in which Abramoff had been unwittingly involved during McCain's presidential bid 2000. In 2006, McCain released his 373-page Senate Indian Affairs Report, which he called "fair, accurate, and neutral." I have examined this report with a fine-tooth comb. McCain description of his report could not be further from the truth. I was astonished by how mendacious the report was, all paid for at tax-payer expense, which constitutes honest-services fraud.
So why did Abramoff’s tribal clients turn against him? Because they are very shrewd. Their consultants advised them that it was good business. They could sue his former employers-- law firms which did not want their e-mail traffic made public--and win huge settlements, which is what those tribal clients did. They got Abramoff’s brilliant lobbying services at an amazing discount.
So why in the world did Abramoff plead guilty? I believe it was because he was terrified not to. Federal prosecutors have a 95.5% conviction rate. They have unlimited resources. They threaten white-collar defendants that they will be found guilty of some technical crime, after which they will be put in a maximum-security prison with violent offenders for 30 years. Furthermore, they will be bankrupted by legal fees and traumatized by the whole process. Or, they can plead guilty to whatever the prosecutors say, agree to cooperate, receive a much-reduced sentence in a prison camp, and be out of jail in three years or so. A risk-averse person would have no choice but to plead guilty to whatever the prosecutors told them to plead guilty to. (BTW, according to a front-page story in the New York Times last November, over 25% of convicted rapists and murderers later cleared by DNA pleaded guilty.)
Now, Abramoff could not dare admit to me that all of this was true, because if he had, prosecutors might charge him with perjury for not being sincere when he pleaded guilty and for not being truly remorseful.
I know this goes against the grain of everything that you've ever read on the subject, but essentially, the Post wrote a truly mischievous story. McCain then wrote a deceitful report. And then the government suborned a white-collar defendant to commit perjury by terrorizing him into pleading to crimes he did not necessarily believe he was guilty of. Remember, Abramoff emphatically does not agree with my conclusions. However, what destroyed Abramoff was not a conscious conspiracy, just a perfect storm. However, it's not that he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. He made himself vulnerable.
In the end, Abramoff wasn't a saint, but ironically The Washington Post, McCain, and the Justice Department--the white hats--turned out to the villains, a rather counterintuitive conclusion.
The problem for me with McCain was his utter mendacity in his report. He also employed an underhanded tactic. He only released about 2% of the Abramoff documents he had subpoenaed, which meant that independent investigators like me could not confirm McCain's conclusions. (Fortunately, I was able to get my hands on some of these documents.) It made me wonder if McCain is also withholding information about what really occurred during his 5 1/2 years as a POW. (I was also able to get my hands on four obscure documents-- published in Hanoi and Havana--of interviews he gave during his captivity that contradict McCain's claims in his later and multiple autobiographies.) McCain adamantly refuses to release his POW records. He refuses to release his Navy Service records. I've got to wonder what is he afraid of and what is he is trying to hide. Maybe there's nothing there, but I'd like to see for myself. At the moment, we're relying on John McCain as the only source and those records may co
ntain information that may influence how the American electorate votes in the upcoming presidential election.
Anyway, if you do end up reading The Perfect Villain, I'd be curious to know if you are persuaded that this story has gone from a black-and-white, open-and-shut narrative to a far more nuanced and complex one.
Gary S. Chafetz
By the way, someone posted that I was a member of FreeRepublic. I only signed up a few days ago so I could respond to someone’s comments. I did the same for Capitol Grilling. I’ve done the same for DailyKos.