Washington runs on money -- no one understood that better than Jack Abramoff, who built his empire directing huge volumes of sometimes clean, sometimes dirty money from interest groups to politicians (and directed political favors back the other way).
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Another man who understands the maxim is Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS), a senior lawmaker who has helped control the flow of billions of dollars from his seat on the Senate Appropriations Committee for many years.
As it turned out, Abramoff had a fat contract to represent one of the wealthiest interests in Cochran's home state, the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians. So it's no surprise that in the relationship between the three -- Abramoff, Cochran, and the Choctaws -- one might find the purest example of the way money can put politicians to work. And vice versa.
An email obtained by TPMmuckraker and never before published provides perhaps the best example of a lobbyist hitting up his colleagues for donations to a friendly lawmaker. In it, one of Abramoff's lobbyists makes a strong pitch for contributions to Cochran in the midst of his 2002 re-election campaign because "Sen. Cochran's office [had] never said 'no'" to the Mississippi Choctaw -- the casino-owning tribe that was one of Abramoff's prime clients since the beginning of his lobbying career.
"[W]e have been hitting them up for projects almost everyday [sic] the last couple of months," Abramoff associate Todd Boulanger wrote of Cochran's office. The Choctaw tribe is one of the largest employers in Mississippi.
Abramoff and his associates had already donated thousands to Cochran's campaign committee at the time of the email. That was "good," Boulanger allowed, "but not good enough for the member who keeps the lights turned on here at Greenberg."