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They say that Washington, D.C., is perhaps the only city in America where one can have a second chance after surviving personal and political embarrassment. Again and again, the District has proved that it’s fertile ground for politicians and political operatives to stage a revival: former D.C. Mayor Marion Barry and disgraced former FEMA Director Michael Brown come to mind. Perhaps the familiar story will prove different for disgraced lobbyists. Especially ones serving hard time, such as former lobbyist Jack Abramoff, better known these days as federal inmate No. 27593-112. Sentenced last November after revelations of his free meals for lawmakers, shady charities, defrauded clients, and golf trips to St. Andrews, Abramoff is expertly and plainly chronicled in Peter Stone’s new book, Heist: Superlobbyist Jack Abramoff, His Republican Allies, and the Buying of Washington. Stone, who has covered lobbying and campaign-finance issues for National Journal since the 1990s (and who worked at Legal Times from 1990 to 1992), is probably the best writer to assemble such detailed information, and he does so in a crisp, no-frills manner. The book offers a compelling read, largely because the story itself is so fascinating, made all the more gripping by the Abramoff e-mails. Central to the federal prosecutors’ case against the lobbyist, the e-mails reveal character traits, foibles, and, most importantly, motivations for the actions taken by Abramoff and his associates as they bilked their Indian casino clients of millions while calling them “troglodytes” and “morons” in personal exchanges behind their backs. And the body count continues to climb. Just witness the 2 1/2-year sentence former Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio) received a few weeks ago for trading political favors for golf trips, campaign donations, and other gifts from Abramoff. The book offers a few new insights as some former associates and colleagues flesh Abramoff out, mostly in the form of anonymous anecdotes. He was a different breed of K Street lobbyist. Abramoff valued loyalty to his party first and foremost. He also cared more about working for a handful of clients with a lot at stake than in building a broad policy practice, as many lobbyists do. According to one colleague who worked with Abramoff at Preston Gates Ellis & Rouvelas Meeds (now Kirkpatrick & Lockhart Preston Gates Ellis): “Jack wanted to be number one in the city. He wanted to top Tommy Boggs,” the legendary Democratic lobbyist. Overall, Abramoff and company come off as boy lobbyists, more Peter Pan types than sophisticated K Street operators. Their language in e-mails echoes high school locker-room banter. Their kickback schemes were dubbed “Gimme Five.” In one e-mail to former associate Michael Scanlon, the one-time communications director for former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), Abramoff writes: “YOU IS DA MAN.” In another, Abramoff says that Scanlon is “afraid of a real man” sparring with him on the racquetball court. And the men feasted on food that kids like. At Abramoff’s old watering hole, Signatures Restaurant, Chef Morou Ouattara once quipped to me that the kitchen probably found more ways to reinvent the childhood favorite macaroni and cheese than were necessary. Locker-room banter. Mac and cheese. A childlike obsession with the movie “The Godfather.” Is it any wonder that when Abramoff pleaded guilty in federal court, he chose to leave his lobbying universe dressed like Vito Corleone?
Joe Crea can be contacted at [email protected].

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