Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Do Rats Still Desert A Sinking Ship If They Own The Cruise Line?

That sound you hear is sphincters tightening all over Washington D.C. because of this.

Lobbyist Jack Abramoff will plead guilty to federal charges in Washington and Miami, clearing the way for him to get all squealy in a massive government investigation of influence peddling involving members of Congress.

"We would recommend that Congresspersons who may have known Mr. Abramoff not buy anything that requires payments," said one federal prosecutor. "In addition, we plan to announce an 800 number they can call for information on where to send their asses, which now belong to us."

As part of the deal, prosecutors filed conspiracy, fraud and tax evasion charges against the embattled lobbyist that said, among other things, Abramoff gave Representative Bob Ney lavish gifts and contributions. "No hablar Ingles," said a spokesperson from Ney's staff when asked about the gifts.

Abramoff is scheduled to appear at a hearing in U.S. District Court. "This guy has named so many names, the perp walk is going to look like the Rose parade. Except without the floats," said department spokesman Bryan Sierra.

Abramoff will also plead guilty to two criminal charges in Florida stemming from a 2000 purchase of a fleet of gambling boats. "We are glad this action occurred after the holiday," said Neal Sonnett, his attorney there. "That way citizens were able to enjoy one last vacation aboard the SS Frist, SS DeLay or the SS Ney before we had to shut down."

The continuing saga of Abramoff's legal problems has caused anxiety at high levels in Washington, in both the Republican and Democratic parties. Reportedly, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist has asked his staff to research the presidential line of succession down to the 241st position "Just in case," said an assistant.

Abramoff's cooperation would be a boon to an ongoing Justice Department investigation of congressional corruption, possibly helping prosecutors build criminal cases against up to two-dozen lawmakers of both parties and their staff members. "We figure quorums are going to be a problem in the next session," said one attorney.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan could not say Tuesday whether Abramoff ever met President Bush. "If he didn't, he's one of the few crooks in Washington who didn't," said White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan.

In a five-year span ending in early 2004, the lobbyist contributed millions of dollars in casino income to congressional campaigns, often routing the money through political action committees for conservative lawmakers who opposed gambling. "Hey, these guys don't like gambling," said one staff member who asked not to be identified. "That doesn't mean they don't like money."

Pressure had been intensifying on Abramoff to strike a deal with prosecutors since another former partner, Adam Kidan, pleaded guilty earlier this month to fraud and conspiracy in connection with the 2000 SunCruz boat deal in Florida. "Well, that and the fact that we've got so much evidence on this guy he was about to go away until the second coming," said one Justice Department spokesperson.

The plea agreement likely would secure the Republican lobbyist's testimony against members of Congress who received favors from him or his clients. "Nobody turns on their own like Republicans," said a lawyer with the Justice Department.

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