Corruption Watch: John Boehner's Abramoff Connection

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Remember John Boehner, the avatar of change? Take a look at a recent hire and decide whether his calls for "deficit reduction" are a smokescreen for more corporate welfare and government corruption. 


In December, Boehner hired Brett Loper to be his policy director. At the time, articles focused on Loper's previous job as a lobbyist for the Advanced Medical Technology, where Loper vigorously resisted attempts to reduce the deficit by fighting cuts in fees to his clients proposed by the Obama administration. 

That is part of the story. 

But missing from the pieces about Loper have been his connection to the Abramoff scandal and knowledge of how to use government money to "influence" legislators. 

Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words. Here is a photo of Loper (far right), basking in the tropical sun of the Marianas Islands, with Michael Scanlon (center), Jack Abramoff's partner in crime.

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What is Loper doing in the Marianas?  

As a staff member for Tom Delay, Loper was part of a mission to deliver money from the "favor factory," otherwise known as the Appropriations Committee of Congress, to two legislators in the Marianas, Norm Palacios and Alejo Mendiola (between Scanlon and Loper, above). In exchange for money for their two pet projects, Palacios and Mendiola agreed to switch their votes and support Abramoff's key ally in the Marianas, Benigno Fitial, in his bid to become Speaker of the House there.

The gambit worked. Fitial won. Abramoff -- whose lobbying contract to the Marianas had been canceled -- was re-hired by the Marianas. In that capacity, Abramoff resumed lobbying for the continuation of abusive labor practices in the islands. (For more on this, see my film, "Casino Jack and the United States of Money.") Abramoff also continued to make sure that the grateful garment factory owners flowed campaign cash to key mainland Republican legislators, including Tom Delay. 

So, if history is any guide, we can be confident that, with Loper at the helm in charge of policy, Boehner's office will continue to press for wasteful subsidies to big business and the rollback of protections for workers. Deficit reduction appears to be a codeword for corporate welfare in exchange for campaign cash: "pay to play."

Image: Jigsaw Productions
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Alex Gibney is a documentary filmmaker who made Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room. He has won an Emmy, a Peabody, the duPont Columbia Award, and a Grammy. More

Alex Gibney is the writer, director and producer of the 2008 Oscar-winning documentary Taxi to the Dark Side, the Oscar-nominated film Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, and Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, narrated by Johnny Depp. In post-production on My Trip to Al Qaeda, based on the play by Pulitzer Prize–winning author Lawrence Wright, Gibney is also filming a documentary on Lance Armstrong. Gibney served as executive producer for No End in Sight, which was also nominated for an Oscar; a producer for Herbie Hancock: Possibilities, a film about the jazz legend's collaboration with musical talents such as Santana, Sting, and Christina Aguilera; and consulting producer on Who Killed the Electric Car. Gibney's producing credits also include the classic concert film Lightning in a Bottle, directed by Antoine Fuqua; The Blues, an Emmy-nominated series of seven films in association with executive producer Martin Scorsese; and The Trials of Henry Kissinger. Gibney is the recipient of many awards including the Emmy, the Peabody, the duPont Columbia Award, and the Grammy.

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