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Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

Another thought about the Abramoff matter.

Clearly, in less than a decade, Jack Abramoff was able to amass a vast sum of money. Given the nature of the enterprise, it's not clear that we know the full amount even today. But certainly it ran into many tens of millions of dollars.

But pay attention to the big picture rather than just his personal enrichment or particular bad acts.

This is a huge sum of money Abramoff was sitting on. There was lots of money to keep Grover Norquist rolling in cash, lots of spare cash to fund Ralph Reed's transition from Christian Coalition sachem to power lobbyist, money for skyboxes to use to raise more money without the in-kind donation of the use of the skybox, millions of dollars pushed through front organizations then passed on to others.

This isn't just a crooked lobbyist. This is someone managing a slush-fund. The sort of unregulated, unwatched pile of money patronage-based political machines always need to keep running.

So who is he running it for?

Abramoff's lawyer says his client is willing to talk to government prosecutors about the murder of Gus Boulis.

Ahh, the little details. Apparently, when Jack Abramoff was putting in for the $60 million loan to purchase SunCruz in 2000 -- the episode for which he's now been indicted -- he put down Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) as his character reference.

Bolton stopped by for a jailhouse visit with Judy Miller before heading off to the UN? So says Arianna.

Maybe he had pity on her and dropped by to leak some new info.

Okay, so where were we on finding examples of contacts and chummification between Jack Abramoff and Tom DeLay after February 2001 when DeLay allegedly called Jack into his capitol hill office and told him "I want no more dealings with you"?

This, remember, is the account the Post passed on over the weekend, absent any rebuttal, notwithstanding the voluminous public record showing the claim to be false.

So, to the details.

TPM Reader BB points out the $20,000 that Abramoff and his wife Pamela gave to DeLay's leadership PAC ARMPAC in the 2002 and 2004 campaign cycles. But really Abramoff and his wife and his myriad clients gave so much money that I don't even know where to start.

One example is how Abramoff had the Mississippi Choctaws give $6,000 to TRMPAC. And TRMPAC didn't even come into existence until eight months after the DeLay/Abramoff showdown.

Looking over the data it occurred to me that DeLay may have once again been the victim of sloppy reporting, as news outlet after news outlet continued to claim that he was extremely close to Abramoff even though he had dramatically washed his hands of the man.

On March 25th, 2002, as one example of this lousy reporting, USNews spotlighted the battle of the lobbyists between Haley Barbour and Abramoff and called one of Abramoff's trump cards the fact that he was "a big pal of Rep. Tom DeLay."

The weird thing is that Grover Norquist, who was tight with both DeLay and Abramoff (and got tons of cash funneled to him from the latter), was apparently totally in the dark about the falling out too. In April 2002, for instance, Norquist gushed to the Times about how tight Abramoff was with DeLay. "He walks in to see DeLay and DeLay knows that he is representing clients whose views are in sync with DeLay's views."

If Norquist was so out of the loop, you probably can't blame Tom Hamburger and Jim Vandehei for blowing it too. On May 23rd, 2002, in the The Wall Street Journal, they noted that Abramoff was "helping raise money for Mr. DeLay." And apparently even DeLay wasn't quite clear the relationship had gone sour, since he was still asking Abramoff for free meals that same month.

Even the folks who cover the hill full-time were out of the loop. On August 15th, 2002, writing in the Washington Business Forward, Roll Call's John Bresnahan noted Abramoff's "close ties to prominent conservatives like soon-to-be Majority Leader Tom DeLay" as key to Jack's political juice.

And, yes, a few months later, on December 9th, 2002, The Legal Times still thought DeLay's was Abramoff's "friend and political ally." They may have been thrown off the scent by Bresnahan's poor reporting.

As we got more and more examples of DeLay/Abramoff encounters, I started to think that DeLay might be like one of those people we all know who tries to break it off with an abusive or exploiting love interest, but just can't stick to their guns when the baddie comes back to them with that same old sweet talkin'.

That may have been what happened in June 2003, when, according to the Post, Abramoff got DeLay to write a letter to Interior Secretary Gale Norton on behalf of his client, the Louisiana Coushattas. DeLay even got it co-signed by Hastert, Blunt and Cantor. Even the lobbyist who Abramoff outwitted with that coup had to marvel at what Jack could make happen. "I do this for a living," V. Heather Sibbison told the Post, "and I have never seen a letter like that before. It was incredibly unusual for that group of people, who do not normally weigh in on Indian issues, to express such a strong opinion about a particular project not in any of their home states."

I'm not sure whether that was just after or just before Abramoff introduced DeLay at that year's College Republican National Convention. But that may have been part of the new romancing.

Not surprisingly, after that summer relapse, by October 16th, 2003, the Post's Juliet Eilperin had gotten the wrong impression and wrote that Abramoff was still a "lobbyist who advises DeLay."

From what I could tell it was only after the law started to come after Abramoff in early 2004 that most reporters finally got it through their thick heads that DeLay didn't want anything to do with the guy.

Later this morning or perhaps closer to noon, I'm going to put up more morsels from our reader research into sundry instances of chumminess between Tom DeLay and Jack Abramoff after their alleged made-for-Hollywood parting of ways in February 2001.

But for now I wanted to let you know that we have a new Table for One guest at TPMCafe starting this morning, Andrew Rasiej.

He's running for New York City Public Advocate. And I know the great majority of you don't live in New York or the surrounding area. But I had him on because he's talking about a bundle of issues and ideas about technology and reinventing civic life in the United States, ones which are just as relevant in Houston or Cincinnait or San Francisco, and ones which should be of particular interest to many readers of this site.

Stop by the Table for One and see what you think.

As long as we're helping the Washington Post research team find examples of the DeLay friendship after February 2001, I almost forgot about his free-mealing privileges at Signatures. We don't know if DeLay was a Signatures-Free-Mealer at Rep. Dana Rohrabacher's clip. But in May 2002 DeLay did ask Abramoff to set him, his wife and four pals up for a special table and a free meal.

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