Earlier today we linked to the Washington Post's graphic detailing who got money from Jack Abramoff, his lobbying associates and his clients.
There's quite a lot to say about their run-down. Let me try to hit on a few points -- ones we plan on delving into in much more depth in the coming weeks and months.
First, ask yourself, if there was so much money spread around in both parties, why is it that of all the staffers and members of Congress either under indictment or under investigation, every single one seems to be a Republican?
Liberal bias in the Gonzales Justice Department? Probably not.
Let me suggest two very general answers which should put us back on some surer understanding of what this scandal is about -- both in the sense of big-picture substance and the legal direction it is likely to take.
First, lobbyists and their clients give money all over the place. That may be a problem in itself. But that's not the reason Jack Abramoff and his various cronies are in trouble. They're in trouble because they broke a lot of laws -- some to do with fraud and kickbacks, others to do with bribery, others to do with giving de facto inducements to congressional staffers, etc.
If a restaurant is run as a cover for a money-laundering operation, a list of everyone who ate there in the last five years doesn't tell you much about how the scheme went down. It may provide some clues, but not much more. You want to know how the money was laundered. A similar logic applies here.
Second, most of what happened in this scandal didn't happen with 'hard money', i.e., regulated contributions to federal campaigns and campaign committees.
Consider one example. The Post's graphic charts political giving from Abramoff, his associates and clients from 1999 through 2004. The total sum was roughly $5.3 million. During little more than half that period of time (1999-2002) Abramoff funnelled some $4.2 million to just one guy -- his old buddy Ralph Reed.
Certainly there's more to this scandal than these two numbers juxtaposed. But it gives you a sense of how much of the pie the Post discussion covers.
As I've written before, Jack Abramoff wasn't just a crooked lobbyist, he was running a slush fund. It can't be understood outside of the political machine he was part of. Stay tuned.