Social Studies February 2006

Abramoff and Me: The True Truth

Let it be known that Jonathan Rauch has never, ever received any money from Jack Abramoff, but he is giving it back.

DISCLAIMER. Before proceeding with this week's column, please be advised of the following: I have not received any money from Jack Abramoff, and I am giving it back. Further, to the best of my knowledge, and based upon an intensive and thorough self-investigation, I have not received any money from Jack Abramoff's clients, and I am returning that, too.

Further, lest there be any doubt regarding my moral scruples, let me make clear that Jack Abramoff is a scoundrel who deserves to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, if not beyond, and whose name should be reviled by future generations until the end of time, if not thereafter.

Let the record show that I am the first journalist to make this type of disclaimer. No other journalist has yet demonstrated my level of moral scruple in this matter. Let the record also show that my condemnation of Jack Abramoff is second to none, and that no one in the journalistic community believes more firmly than I that Jack Abramoff is a scoundrel whose actions are dismaying and deplorable. You can quote me on that.

ELABORATION OF DISCLAIMER. You may have noticed that my position in the Abramoff affair is nuanced, inasmuch as I pledge to give back monies that I deny receiving. I would only point out that Washington is rife with nuance in the Abramoff matter.

For example, any number of powerful Washington personages take the position that they did absolutely nothing wrong or inappropriate as a result of receiving money from Jack Abramoff or his clients, which is why they are unloading it as fast as they can. This is a highly nuanced position. According to the Associated Press, as of early January (when Abramoff, a prominent Republican lobbyist, pleaded guilty to corruption charges in federal and Florida courts), at least 70 politicians, from President Bush on down, had returned or donated to charity money given to them by Abramoff or his lobbying clients.

CONTEXTUALIZATION OF DISCLAIMER. To the best of my recollection, Jack Abramoff never bribed me, but please note that I am more than important enough to be bribed, and the fact that I have not actually been bribed in this particular case does not imply that I am not, in principle, worth bribing. If Jack Abramoff had bribed me, that would have been wrong, but it would not have been a worse investment than bribing, say, David Brooks or David Broder, in whose league I definitely am.

ELUCIDATION OF CONTEXTUALIZATION. Please note that because I am 100 percent Abramoff-money-free, at least as far as I can recall and am prepared to admit in print, the Abramoff scandal proves definitively that I am not corrupt. As a result of the Abramoff scandal, you can rest assured that everything you read in this space is true.

This leads me to a very important broader point. It has been alleged that the Abramoff scandal proves that Washington is corrupt. This allegation is false. In fact, the Abramoff scandal proves mathematically that Washington is overwhelmingly noncorrupt. Reason: According to the Center for Responsive Politics, federal candidates raised $4.4 billion for congressional and presidential races from 2000 to 2004, the period when Abramoff was active as a lobbyist. Of that amount, the center reports, personal contributions by Abramoff and his wife account for only $206,253. This proves that Washington is 99.995 percent noncorrupt. Virtually none of the money sloshing through the capital is the evil, tainted money of the scoundrel Jack Abramoff.

Moreover, soon the process of giving back or giving away Jack Abramoff's evil, tainted money will be complete, which means that any day now Washington will be 100 percent noncorrupt. We in Washington can all be grateful that the exposure of the scoundrel Jack Abramoff has allowed us to expunge the dismaying taint of corruption.

SUPPLEMENTARY DECLARATION. To the best of my knowledge, I have never handled cash, whether in the form of coins or bills, that has passed through the hands of the scoundrel Jack Abramoff. Should I have handled any such cash, my doing so was unintentional and does not affect my deeply held moral position that Jack Abramoff is a scoundrel who should be hounded from civilization and then expelled beyond the borders of the known universe.

ADDITIONAL SUPPLEMENTARY DECLARATION. With the possible exception of Kirk Victor, one of this magazine's Capitol Hill reporters, who is thought to be capable of anything, to the best of my knowledge none of my colleagues on the staff of National Journal has received money or other considerations from the scoundrel Jack Abramoff in return for writing anything favorable about him, not that they would have been worth bribing, as I am. The staff of National Journal is made up of diligent, honest journalists who share my disgust and dismay at the disrepute that the scoundrel Abramoff has brought upon all of us in Washington with his deplorable shenanigans, with which we had nothing to do.

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Jonathan Rauch is a contributing editor of The Atlantic and National Journal and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

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