Under detailed questioning from the court, he took the blame for a career spent stealing from his Native American clients, hiding from tax collectors and corrupting members of Congress and their staffs. It was a tortured performance played out in hushed tones. By the time Abramoff rose to beg forgiveness from the Almighty, his voice was barely audible from the gallery.
"Words will not be able to even express my sorrow," Abramoff muttered. "All my remaining days I will feel tremendous sadness and regret."
With that, Abramoff turned states' evidence. He completed his two-year transformation from Republican golden boy, congressional gatekeeper and millionaire glad-hander to disgraced snitch, a man positioned to bring down the political machine he helped create....
At the heart of the Justice Department's case is a quaint, if not naive, claim that is unlikely to take hold in Washington, even after the last indictment is handed out. "Government officials and government action are not for sale," Fisher declared at the afternoon press briefing. It is a statement that is often repeated, and universally aspired to, but that is demonstrably false. In recent years, billions of dollars have been spent by lobbyists and wealthy interest groups to buy access to politicians, pad their war chests, and pay for grass-roots political outreach. In nearly every major bill that faces Congress -- whether it be for defense spending or another tax code rewrite -- big spenders find success at exponentially greater rates than those who eschew political spending. As Abramoff once explained to the New York Times, back when he still maintained his innocence, "Eventually, money wins in politics."
In taking on individual lawmakers and their staffs, prosecutors will seek to demonstrate a clear quid pro quo between the money, trip or meal Abramoff gave and political favors his clients received. "It's a very difficult line to draw," former federal prosecutor E. Lawrence Barcella Jr. said of the legal barriers to bribery or corruption cases. "Intent on both sides is necessary." The more lasting effects of the Abramoff case are likely to come from Congress itself, where a number of proposals to stiffen ethics laws and restrict lobbying have been introduced. On Wednesday, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a man once beset by ethics scandals of his own, is even set to announce his own prescription for lobbying reform.
In the meantime, Abramoff faces a decade in prison, probable bankruptcy and a lifetime of shame. The former president of the College Republicans who rose through the ranks to the top of the political totem poll, Abramoff has long been known as a devoted conservative, a religious man and a die-hard Republican partisan. With his plea today, he made final his betrayal of everything he once claimed to hold dear.
From the Times
Mr. Abramoff's plea bargain is scary to Washington's power brokers precisely because he was so entangled with so many of them.
His ties to Grover G. Norquist, a leading conservative strategist and president of Americans for Tax Reform, and Ralph Reed, the former director of the Christian Coalition who is now a candidate for lieutenant governor in Georgia, date from his college days.
He once worked as a lobbyist alongside David H. Safavian, who was the head of the White House procurement office until just before his arrest last fall in the Abramoff investigation. And Mr. Abramoff's former personal assistant once worked for Karl Rove, President Bush's chief political strategist....
From complimentary meals at his restaurant to lavish golfing trips to Scotland, including one taken by Mr. Ney and another by Mr. DeLay, to lucrative skybox tickets at Washington sports events, Mr. Abramoff's largesse seemed to know no bounds.