The web of scandal surrounding Jack Abramoff has made for great political drama. But in some ways, it’s the story of a young man who, misguided as he may have been, got involved in politics to change the world. As he grew older, he climbed the ladder of Washington influence peddlers. The black art of lobbying brought him money and power—whatever was left of his Reagan-era idealism was left behind. (This arc was described by a recent Mother Jones piece, “The Fall of a True Believer.“)
Today’s New York Times details Abramoff’s $9 million dollar deal to arrange a single meeting between Bush and the President of Gabon. Compare that to Abramoff’s work in Africa in the 1980s, where he was deeply involved in an odd chapter of Cold War history: as a prominent or member of various groups working to organizing grassroots and congressional conservative support for anti-communist regimes and militias throughout Africa, it stands to reason that Abramoff did his fair share of roughing it as he helped to fight against the Red Empire.
Not nowadays. When negotiating the Gabon contract, through newly disclosed e-mails, Abramoff offered to travel to Africa, but only “on the basis by which I travel anywhere, being in a private aircraft, which bears a substantial cost unfortunately.” Yes, how unfortunate.