Disgraced Washington lobbyist and convicted felon Jack Abramoff delivered a master class on the dark art of influence-peddling and the relative ease in buying off powerful members of the U.S. Congress on Sunday evening. In an interview with 60 Minutes' Leslie Stahl, Abramoff's account of his years as the Beltway's most pre-eminent dispenser of graft to secure the fealty of at least 100 elected officials was a sobering tale of just how compromised our political system has become. Even more discouraging is that nothing seems to have changed, even with the lobbyist's conviction and three-year prison term on corruption charges. There are, it seems, plenty of other eager Jack Abramoffs still haunting the halls of Congress.
Abramoff provided a vivid narrative of his ability to navigate Washington's power elite by picking up the expenses for golf trips, bar tabs, tickets to sporting events or sponsoring lucrative fundraisers. He promised jobs to congressional staffers, effectively buying their help. So adept was Abramoff in seducing elected officials he joked about writing a book titled "The Idiot's Guide to Buying a Congressman."
More troubling is Abramoff's credible insistence that efforts to reform Washington's lobbying ways have been a mockery, easily subverted by lobbyists. The 60 Minutes interview offered a clearer understanding of how power is bluntly wielded. Unfortunately, Abramoff's confessional also serves for budding lobbyists as a graphic training film on the ABCs of Washington's corrupt culture of influence.