The unfolding scandal surrounding lobbyist Jack Abramoff has taken another casualty:
One of Washington’s top lobbying operations will shut down at the end of the month because of its ties to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff and former House majority leader Tom DeLay.
Alexander Strategy Group, which had thrived since its founding in 1998 thanks largely to its close connections to DeLay (R-Tex.), will cease to operate except for a relatively small business-development division, Edwin A. Buckham, the former top DeLay aide who owns the company, said yesterday.
Buckham said in a telephone interview that the company was fatally damaged by publicity about the ongoing federal investigation into the affairs of Abramoff, who pleaded guilty last week to fraud and conspiracy charges. Abramoff is cooperating with prosecutors in their probe of congressional corruption.
DeLay was indicted in Texas last year on money laundering and other charges. He is one of several lawmakers under scrutiny in the Abramoff case, sources knowledgeable about the investigation have said.
“Reports in the press have made it difficult to continue as a lobbying/political entity,” Buckham said.
Buckham’s firm employed DeLay’s wife, Christine, for four years. It also benefited by working closely with Abramoff. Abramoff’s plea agreement mentioned his close ties to Tony C. Rudy, one of Buckham’s colleagues at ASG, identified in the court papers as “Staffer A.”
Rudy, a former DeLay aide, worked for Abramoff before joining ASG. According to the plea document, a political consulting firm run by Rudy’s wife allegedly received $50,000 in exchange for official actions Rudy took while working for DeLay.
A senior ASG employee, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of ongoing discussions at the firm, said Rudy will be leaving the company. Rudy did not return phone calls yesterday.
The firm’s collapse also coincides with DeLay’s announcement that he will not attempt to regain his former post as House majority leader. DeLay has been indicted on money-laundering charges in his home state and, by House rule, had to give up his leadership position, at least temporarily.
I’ve been content to let events on this story unfold and let justice take its course. There is one point I’d like to make, however. Democrats are completely right: if you consider only Abramoff’s direct contributions—which amount to about $200,000 over several years—this is exclusively a Republican scandal. It’s also pretty small potatoes in the context of a Washington, DC awash in money. But if you characterize it as a multi-million dollar scandal you’re including both Abramoff’s direct donations and donations from Abramoff’s clients and both Democrats and Republicans have been on that gravy train.
So this is either a smallish Republican scandal or a big bi-partisan scandal.
That’s the point of Jon Henke’s post on Q&O Blog (posted, coincidentally, just minutes after I’d made the same point in the comments section of a previous post on the blog).
Realistically, we’re never going to get the money out of politics until we get politics out of money. There’s no great likelihood that will happen any time soon since neither major political party has any particular opposition to the federal government spending money—they just want to spend money on different things.
Meanwhile, political corruption of this sort makes a great club to beat your political opponents with. I sincerely hope it doesn’t become merely a club to beat your political opponents with. If Democrats are serious about battling corruption they’ll take Marc Danziger’s advice:
I do think that this is an opportunity for the Democrats – as the party out of power – to make a stand. I don’t delude myself enough to believe that they will make enough of one to radically change the dysfunctional, corrupt system in place.
But there is an opportunity to make things better.
How do they get enough public support? Simple. Make it clear that it is a sea change in the way the Democrats do business, and that it isn’t simply a convenient stick to get Democrats closer to the trough.
Start by picking the most corrupt members of the Democratic party and busting them.
He names names.
I have no great hope that this will happen. The problem with running as a reform party is that it places you under some obligation to reform.