Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Swamp Life

Your Chicago Tribune's Washington bureau has lauched its blog, The Swamp, by asking the musical question, "Which Illinois lawmakers received money from 'the most politically radioactive man in Washington'"?
[Jack Abramoff] is the well-connected lobbyist who, among other acts, ripped off Native American tribes he was supposed to be representing, and corrupted public officials. The 46-year old Abramoff, stockier than when he appeared before angry members of Congress at hearings in 2004, was in a federal courtroom today in a very somber proceeding to plead guilty to three felony counts.

If he gets the maximum sentence, he could see as much as 30 years in federal custody though a prosecutor said the sentencing guidelines call for about a third of that. He has also agreed to fork over about $25 million in restitution. ***

Once popular with a number of members of Congress for his ability to throw big dollars their way, Abramoff is the most politically radioactive man in Washington now. Today, the only people at the courthouse who approached him were his criminal-defense lawyers and reporters who mobbed him in the corridor as he left the courtroom hoping he’d go a little further in the mea culpa direction. ***

In recent weeks, trying to distance themselves as much as possible from Abramoff, a bipartisan group of lawmakers has engaged in what passes for ritualistic purging in Washington: returning or giving away contributions received from Abramoff. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, since 1999 Illinois’s own Rep. Dennis Hastert, the House Speaker, or his political action committees received $69,000 in money from Abramoff, his casino-boat line and the indian tribes he represented.

Late today, Hastert’s office said he would donate whatever he received from Abramoff and his associates to charity. Hastert's people were still trying to figure out how much they got. Still, the question could be asked of Hastert: Why did he wait until today to make the announcement when the scandal has been brewing for months?
If its juicy premire is any indication, The Swamp will be a welcome addition to Blogginois.

But my question is: Does Tribune columnist Kathleen Parker approve?

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