That the Bush White House would even want the media focusing on how it is doing in Iraq perhaps a sign of just how much it does not want anyone talking about Jack Abramoff.
Jack Abramoff has already pled guilty and many politicians, including President Bush, are rushing to return money linked to the disgraced former lobbyist. In Mr. Bush‘s case, donating $6,000 of the total of $300 million he raised in 2004 to the American Heart Association. How many Mr. Abramoff could donate to some sort of fund of his own is debatable, “The Wall Street Journal” reporting that the lobbyist has said he has information that could implicate 60 of them.
One of the names on the byline of that article, “The Wall Street Journal” reporter Brody Mullins, joined Keith Olbermann on Countdown to offer his take on who may eventually be linked to the Abramoff scandal.
To read an excerpt from their conversation, continue to the text below. To watch the video, click on the "Launch" button to the right.
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST 'COUNTDOWN': Is there reason to believe Mr. Abramoff when he says he has information that could implicate 60 lawmakers? I mean, the number has been mentioned below 20 in some listings.
BRODY MULLINS, REPORTER, “THE WALL STREET JOURNAL”: Probably not. I mean, that‘s Jack Abramoff saying that he thinks that he can implicate 60 members, the idea that he‘s trying to get his jail term down as low as possible from the beginning of 60 to 70 years, he‘s got it down to 10 years. I think the idea is that if he can talk a big game about how he can bring down a lot of members of Congress and provide that information to the Justice Department, that he may be able to get an even lighter sentence.
OLBERMANN: Even the casual political observer might note that lobbyists paying for trips and for meals, for tickets to events, to make campaign contributions, that happens more or less constantly, maybe 24 hours a day, in Washington. What is it that makes the Abramoff case noteworthy and different?
MULLINS: Right. Mr. Abramoff, Jack Abramoff, did a lot of really what most lobbyists do in D.C., he just did it, everything to an extreme. Instead of taking someone to play golf at Congressional Country Club around here in D.C., he would bring them to Scotland. Instead of giving a few thousand dollars in donations, he would recruit all of his clients and of his friends to give $100,000 in donations to someone.
So the Justice Department is really going after these extreme cases, not bringing someone to a Redskins game out here at FedEx field, but flying somebody to the Super Bowl.
OLBERMANN: Are we looking at something along the lines of Abscam here, at least the dimension of it? Does the scale of this seem to compare to the scale of that?
MULLINS: It could be about the same size, maybe a little smaller, maybe a little bigger. It looks like the Justice Department is probably going after two to four, maybe six, members of Congress, perhaps in total two dozen people, including staffers.
But I don‘t know if they‘re going to send staffers to jail. They just want staffers to flip on their former bosses in order to nail some members.
OLBERMANN: And speaking of that, the members, is this, in fact, going to wind up being bipartisan, the prosecutions? I mean, there are many Democrats who also have seemed to have been on Abramoff‘s money-dispensing list. Does it reflect equally poorly on both sides of the political aisle?
MULLINS: There‘s no doubt that this is a Republican scandal. Politically, Democrats may have a little more difficulty saying that Congress was corrupt if they were also taking these trips, and their staffers have been hired by Jack Abramoff. But at the end of the day, this is a Republican scandal.
OLBERMANN: The race to return funds from him, or to donate them to charity, our show “HARDBALL” was running a crawl of the returns earlier today.
OLBERMANN: And it looked like a list of donations to a local telethon or school closings during a snowstorm. Behind the comedic aspect of that, what is this, what is the race to get rid of the cash all about?
MULLINS: Well, it‘s fascinating. Members are giving back campaign contributions today faster than USC was giving back fourth-quarter leads yesterday. But it seems like people are trying to distance themselves. No one wants to be tarred by Abramoff. More than 200 lawmakers have gotten money from him, and now they‘re all trying to give it back, to act like they never knew the guy.
OLBERMANN: And the last question has to be this—what seems like a piece of trivia, but everyone has commented on it. Is there any explanation regarding the big black hat that he wore in Washington Tuesday, and the baseball cap that he wore in Florida yesterday?
MULLINS: It‘s already next year‘s best Halloween costume.
MULLINS: It‘s just a few months too early.
OLBERMANN: It‘s a little like Boris Badinov from the cartoons.