Here is the indictment against Abramoff. Can any of you tell what he did that was illegal? Is this transaction, as you see it laid out in the indictment, unusual and fraudulent? It assumes that the VC’s didn’t know what was going on.
Insofar as the wire fraud is concerned, according to Dr. Jack Wheeler at To The Point News:
So letâ€™s take a close look at the indictment. It alleges â€œwire fraudâ€ on the basis of a fax which â€œappeared to confirm a transfer of moneyâ€ from Kidanâ€™s bank account which at the time had already been closed. The fax was signed by Kidan and a fellow named Ben Waldman.
Jack Abramoffâ€™s signature was not on the fax, it was not sent from his office (it was sent from Kidanâ€™s), and Abramoff has consistently claimed he had no knowledge of it. Yet it was he who was frogmarched while Kidan was allowed to politely surrender to the FBI in private – and Ben Waldman is not part of the indictment at all.
Hereâ€™s a difficult question: Would you spend $80 to make $1000?
OK â€“ would you spend $80 million to make $1 billion? If you did so, would you then claim you were ripped off?
You would if you were Jack Abramoffâ€™s Indian tribe clients.
You might ask, what about the guilty plea? I, again, refer you to Dr. Wheeler with whom I agree on this point:
The prosecutorsâ€™ game is to threaten you with an innumerable number of counts, any one of which could put you in the slammer for years if found guilty, so youâ€™ll â€œplea bargainâ€ â€“ plead guilty on a selected set of counts. In exchange, youâ€™re in prison for far fewer years. The alternative is to fight all their charges, bankrupting you with legal fees, and risking most of the rest of your life behind bars.
Suppose, for example, you are called to testify at a Senate hearing. The committee you must testify before subpoenas your records and correspondence, including all your personal emails. The committee staffers proceed to examine your emails, pluck some juicy quotes from them that, taken out of any context, are the most damaging – and gives them to a reporter for the Washington Post who writes a hit piece on you.
Unlike court-subpoenaed documents, there is no confidentiality with Congressional-subpoenaed documents. Whatever you are compelled to give a House or Senate committee, the committee is legally free to distribute to the world. And that is just what Senator John McCain and his staffers did to Jack Abramoff.
After the WaPoâ€™s first hit piece on Abramoff, McCainâ€™s staffers then went to his clients, the Indian tribes for whom he had lobbied for years. The staffers didnâ€™t bring copies of entire emails, just selected quotes which, with no context, could be imaginatively construed as criticizing them. â€œLook what Abramoff said about you in these private emails,â€ the staffers told the tribal leaders. â€œWe think you should consider canceling your contract with him, and testifying against him at our hearings.â€ They successfully convinced the tribal leaders – who had previously told a WaPo reporter that Abramoff had saved them hundreds of millions of dollars – they were now â€œvictimsâ€ of a racist scheme.
Congress has now increased the penalties for mail and wire fraud to 20 years in prison. What constitutes wire fraud? Anything the prosecutor wants. All he needs is a â€œvictimâ€ and the use of the â€œmailâ€ – which need not have anything to do with the federal Post Office, and includes electronic transmissions (â€œwiresâ€) over privately-owned Internet services.
I want you to think very hard and long on this: any email you have ever sent can be grounds for felony federal wire fraud prosecution threatening you with 20 years in prison. The email, or â€œelectronic transmission,â€ does not itself have to be fraudulent. It can still be â€œwire fraudâ€ if it is only somehow â€œinvolvedâ€ in what the government deems to be a â€œfraudulent scheme”.
Everything I’ve read about this case by the media and conservative bloggers has seemed a tad bit unclear to me. It all seems like a reaction to a system that people think stinks. For instance, one of my favorite bloggers is Debbie Schlussel. She posted something about Abramoff that expressed her “feelings” and “intuition” about Abramoff. Then she posits that the guilty plea justifies said feelings and intuitions.
I would prefer to see evidence. Moreover, I would like to see underlying crimes and real harm to others before people are put away for white collar crimes. Especially when it seems evident that such investigations are politically motivated.
I haven’t seen that here.
Update: Laers at Cheat Seeking Missiles has two posts taking apart the notion that this is a Republican issue. What he posts makes me more convinced that these charges are questionable and partisan driven. I would like to know more about the prosecutors.
I commented at one of Laer’s posts thusly:
Do you think that there is any chance that Abramoff did not commit a crime? I have some real problems with the way prosecutors handle fraud cases. I think that “mail fraud” is a very nebulous crime that can be contorted into whatever form a prosecutor desires.
The fact that he pled out proves nothing to me. When one is talking about a fraud case in the hands of a federal prosecutor, even the innocent have to do a benefit/risk analysis that does not always equate to justice.
The liberal media is too gleeful about this for my taste and have done some awfully one-sided reporting about the allegations against this man. I know some conservatives have piled on too–but I fear that may be an overreaction resulting from a desire that the Republican Party not get tarnished with this brush–rather that a real search for the truth regarding an individual man’s guilt or innocence.