SUBSCRIBE to Capitol Fax      Advertise Here      Mobile Version     Exclusive Subscriber Content     Updated Posts    Contact
To subscribe to Capitol Fax, click here.
Convicted felon to speak at NCSL event, as ALEC mole returns to hype his campaign

Thursday, Jul 26, 2012

* The National Conference of State Legislatures is holding its big annual meeting in Chicago next month. One of the featured speakers on the group’s home page is none other than convicted felon and former bigtime DC lobbyist Jack Abramoff. From the NCSL website

Thursday, 2:15 to 3:30 p.m. at MPW W183b, Level 1

Term limits, no revolving door, no gifts. These reforms are touted by America’s best-known lobbyist/felon, Jack Abramoff. He will defend his ideas in front of a panel of experienced legislators who will talk about ethics reforms in their states and challenge Abramoff on what makes sense.

Apparently Rod Blagojevich and George Ryan weren’t available to speak to the NCSL gathering because they’re still in prison.

* Abramoff spent over three years in federal prison after being convicted of mail fraud, conspiracy and tax evasion. He’s been promoting his new book “Capitol Punishment: The Hard Truth About Washington Corruption From America’s Most Notorious Lobbyist.” He was on “60 Minutes” not long ago and said that one reform he’d like to see is a complete prohibition on congressional staff and congresscritters from ever becoming lobbyists.

* Abramoff addressed the Kentucky legislature earlier this year and outlined some reforms he’d like to see

* There is a connection between money and politics. Any gift, no matter how small, is a form of bribery.

* Public officials should not be allowed to accept any gifts, including campaign contributions, from lobbyists or their clients or anyone seeking government awards.

* Politicians are human and humans are grateful to people who do nice things for them. This is how lobbyists gain access.

* Terms limits are necessary for lawmakers and their aides to curb a culture of arrogance.

* There should be a lifetime ban on public officials becoming lobbyists–no revolving door.

* Everything about gambling and gaming is political. Stay away from it, he warns. “Beware of the power of money in that industry.”
And remember that a public servant works for the public, not for lobbyists.

* But as former Washington Post reporter R. Jeffrey Smith wrote, Abramoff remains defiant about his own actions in his new book

When it comes to his own role, Abramoff leaves out some embarrassing details, making a reader suspect that there is still more to tell. And his sensible yet improbable prescriptions — which Abramoff says occurred to him while he was doing time at a minimum-security federal prison in Cumberland — are undercut by the pride with which he recounts his lobbying victories. We are left with an odd mixture of candid revelation, defiant celebration and score-settling, all stuck to a postscript of avowed remorse. […]

He dismisses his numerous critics by claiming that they were engaged in “a bloodbath of slander” or bent on the destruction of his clients. He slams The Washington Post in particular for its “vitriolic attacks.” He said the paper was “thrilled to have another angle of attack” when it published a 2004 article by me about Abramoff’s diversion of funds from an avowed sports charity to pet political causes, a short-lived religious school for his kids and an overseas golf trip. […]

For all of its interesting play-by-play — marred in part by numbing accounts of his golf games with clients — the book skims the surface of Abramoff’s psyche. One explanation for his devotion to such hard-edged lobbying is that a habitual rule-breaker will always gravitate toward a profession where ethical norms are few and enforcement is largely missing. But there are hints of other compulsions, including a desire to outperform lobbyists with more cultivated lifestyles. (He writes with relish that his clients and tactics left the partners at Preston Gates squirming “at their wine and brie parties.”)

Even after a few years in prison, Abramoff appears unconvinced that he should be subject to the same rules as others. At one point behind bars, he writes, he violated a rule against circumventing the prison mail system by passing a note to visitors, in hopes of getting a Torah scroll from a local rabbi that he could use to organize a communal reading in prison. Abramoff writes in frustration that the “rabbi ratted me out” and says it was “a badge of honor” to endure another month in prison for having tried to obtain the scroll. He decries the prison’s punishment as “harassment.”

One of the book’s unintended themes is thus that redemption is particularly elusive for those who think they can lobby to get everything they want.

Maybe this wasn’t the best panel choice. We’ll see. Are you going to the conference? What are you planning to do?

* Meanwhile, the ALEC “mole” is back

[Wednesday] is the first day of the American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC) annual meeting. State legislators from around the country will be attending, as will representatives from corporations looking to pitch model legislation.

There will also be spies.

Activists from several progressive groups will sneak into the Salt Lake City conference, (at least, they’ll try), in hopes of capturing some of ALEC’s model legislation. They will be especially motivated now that mass outrage over Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, an ALEC-modeled statute which many presumed would form the basis of George Zimmerman’s legal defense for shooting Trayvon Martin, has lofted ALEC’s profile.

But long before ALEC watching became its own cottage industry, there was Mark Pocan—a Wisconsin state assemblyman who spied on ALEC for more than a decade and frustrated its attempts to advance policy in the Badger State. […]

But the conferences are of dwindling use to a known quantity like Pocan. While his fellow ALEC-affiliated never tried to obstruct him, ALEC’s staff and its sponsors are a different matter. Corporate representatives ensure that he is never invited to the private dinners and sessions where they do some of their choicest lobbying. “That’s where they really wine and dine you,” he said. At last summer’s summit, “I was probably the loneliest guy in New Orleans.”

The only private event Pocan ever made it to was a cigar party. Sponsored by several corporations, it literally consisted of prim servers proffering cigars to legislators on silver platters. Within five minutes of Pocan’s getting there, an ALEC staffer hurried up to him, asked for his invitation, and, after he produced it, brusquely asked him to leave.

* Background

More than a decade ago, Wisconsin state Rep. Mark Pocan began agitating to expose the American Legislative Exchange Council’s behind-the-scenes manipulation of the legislative process in Wisconsin and other states on behalf of multinational corporations. It was a lonely fight at first. Republicans were enthusiastic about ALEC and most Democrats did not have the courage to take on powerful corporations and the lobbying and campaign contribution networks they had developed.

But Pocan, a Madison Democrat who has represented the 78th Assembly District since 1998, persisted, attending ALEC meetings and writing groundbreaking exposes for The Progressive on how the right-wing group crafts “model legislation” that benefits the most powerful corporations in the world — while undermining protections for workers, consumers and the environment. When the Center for Media and Democracy and The Nation magazine developed the “ALEC Exposed” project to reveal the full extent of the secretive group’s manipulation of the legislative process, Pocan lent his experience and insight to the work of naming and shaming corporations that fund ALEC.

As a result, responsible corporations are fleeing ALEC’s membership rolls. Some 25 companies have announced they are no longer associated with ALEC — including, most recently, MillerCoors, Best Buy, CVS, Hewlett-Packard and John Deere & Co. They join Johnson & Johnson, Dell, Kraft, Pepsi, Coca-Cola, McDonalds, Wendy’s, Walmart and Mars. Four nonprofits, including the Gates Foundation, have also ended their involvement in ALEC activities or initiatives.

But Pocan is not satisfied just with the reduction in ALEC’s ranks. The legislator, who is one of several contenders for the open 2nd District congressional seat, is promoting an “ALEC Accountability Act,” which would require the shadowy group to register as a lobbyist in Wisconsin and report the funding sources for the “scholarships” it provides conservative legislators.

* Pocan is running for Congress, and he’s hyping his visit to the media. From a press release…

**Press Advisory**
Pocan At 2nd Day of ALEC Conference
National Coalition Shedding Light on Illegal, Non-Registered Lobby Group

SALT LAKE CITY – State Representative Mark Pocan will attend his second day at the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) Conference in Salt Lake City on Thursday, July 26th. ALEC wines and dines state legislators nationwide in an attempt to lobby for model corporate-sponsored, special interest-inspired legislation. Over the past few years, public awareness of troubling legislation promoted by ALEC has caused 28 corporations and over 50 legislators to leave the organization. In 2012, Pocan introduced the ALEC Accountability Act, which would require ALEC to register as a lobbying organization and own up to its illegal practices.

Is anybody out there at the ALEC conference this week?

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Jul 26, 12 @ 9:36 am:

    ===Apparently Rod Blagojevich and George Ryan weren’t available to speak to the NCSL gathering because they’re still in prison.===

    Gee, thanks Rich! Why open comments, who is going to top THAT one?

    Line of the Day. Well Done.

  2. - Quinn T. Sential - Thursday, Jul 26, 12 @ 9:54 am:

    Given the recent temporary repreive I think Bill Cellini is still available if they would like to expand the presentation to a panel discussion.

    Nothing like local knowledge, and I believe he would qualify as a Subject Matter Expert.

  3. - dang - Thursday, Jul 26, 12 @ 10:04 am:

    Abramoff, while really a sketchy person, does highlight some reforms that would be helpful. Agree with most of them.

  4. - Regular Reader - Thursday, Jul 26, 12 @ 10:22 am:

    I stopped by ALEC this week for a bit. Bellock is being recognized, and I think there’s only 6-7 Illinois lawmakers here.

  5. - langhorne - Thursday, Jul 26, 12 @ 10:49 am:

    i am retired, so not going to ncsl. too expensive to go on my own. there should be a good number of staff there, since they are needed as volunteers.

    abramoff is a good choice as a presenter. his ideas should get the discussion going. no one is as zealous as a convert (also trying to sell books)

  6. - Shore - Thursday, Jul 26, 12 @ 10:50 am:

    Abramoff was disgraced and making kosher pizza for $10 an hour in suburban dc until his latest book tour. This is a guy with no other prospects in life blowing stuff out his end because it’s more fun than spending friday nights asking 15 year olds if you want it extra large and with any sides. If you believe stuff he has to say, you’re nuts.

    Alec has been around a long time doing what they’re doing without much national outrage-which had generally seemed to find most other groups like that. Did they get new leadership prompting this higher visibility or was this just something that blew up?

  7. - Crime Fighter - Thursday, Jul 26, 12 @ 11:06 am:

    With major ship-jumping by policy makers to right-wing corporate cronyism here in Il, its nice to see an occasional pro-democracy convert like flawed Abramoff.

  8. - Michelle Flaherty - Thursday, Jul 26, 12 @ 11:17 am:

    Interesting lineup (pun intended) for the Abramoff presentation.

    Term limits, no revolving door, no gifts. These reforms are touted by America’s best-known lobbyist/felon, Jack Abramoff. He will defend his ideas in front of a panel of experienced legislators who will talk about ethics reforms in their states and challenge Abramoff on what makes sense.

    Moderator: Gene Rose, Marmillion + Co., Colorado
    Speaker: Jack Abramoff, former lobbyist, author and radio host
    Panelists: Representative Rosie M. Berger, Wyoming
    Steve Rauschenberger, former Illinois legislator, Rauschenberger Partners, LLC, Illinois
    Senate President David L. Williams, Kentucky

  9. - wordslinger - Thursday, Jul 26, 12 @ 11:17 am:

    Abramoff is just giving goo-goos the boilerplate they want to hear to flog his book and collect some lecture fees.

    Prosecuting venal fixers is a good way to cut down on corruption. He’s just bitter that a lot of his pals (Ralph Reed, Dick Armey) are still playing the game for big money.

  10. - amalia - Thursday, Jul 26, 12 @ 11:18 am:

    Abramoff mentioned with Torah scroll somehow seems so wrong.

  11. - Aaron - Thursday, Jul 26, 12 @ 12:20 pm:

    If anyone hasn’t seen Alex Gibney’s documentary on the Jack Abramoff scandal, Casino Jack and the United States of Money, I’d urge you to check it out. It’s a well made expose on Abramoff’s web of “lobbying.”

  12. - NIref - Thursday, Jul 26, 12 @ 12:42 pm:

    Moral of the Abramoff story: Bribe politicians with other peoples money, vacation at club Fed, write a book, do lot’s of pressers, and profit.

    Good to know there is hope for Ryan and Blago after they get out.

  13. - Thoughts... - Thursday, Jul 26, 12 @ 12:48 pm:

    Abramoff is an interesting creature. I saw that 60 minutes piece and he came off as more than a little disingenuous, at least to me. It’s just a little too close to the redemption narrative and he just doesn’t seem to play the role well.

    As for his suggestions, I don’t really agree with term limits. I lived in a state with them and the legislature there is a joke. New Speaker and Senate Pres. literally every two years, a woeful lack of institutional knowledge, and it’s filled with folks who either bought seats or are using it as a stepping stone.

    No Congressman or staff should ever be allowed to lobby? In just about every professional setting, one’s position is predicated on one’s experience. Denying these folks the right to use their professional experience entirely doesn’t seem quite right. Further, it would deny many (ok, not the members) the opportunity to advance themselves financially. To me, it doesn’t seem fair that choosing public service for any period of time should consign you to the (relatively) lower income brackets for the rest of your life.

    That said, I’m fine with gift bans, contribution limits (for all, including corporations) and copious amounts of sunshine.

  14. - hisgirlfriday - Thursday, Jul 26, 12 @ 4:11 pm:

    Really enjoyed the documentary (occasionally streaming on Netflix) called “Casino Jack and the United States of Money.”

    That film really laid bare the gross abuses of public trust involved in the DC GOP’s K Street Project, of which Abramoff was just one piece.

    What I didn’t understand after watching that movie is why if Abramoff is a pariah that people like Ralph Reed and Grover Norquists are treated as movement conservatives in good standing. Because that movie really made it seem that they were up to their eyeballs in Abramoff’s misdeeds with Ralph Reed using right-wing Christian groups to mobilize opposition to gambling necessitating the hiring of lobbyists like Abramoff to represent Indian tribes wanting to get into gambling and Grover Norquist helped launder the money that was being raked in via these lobbyist contracts through his political non-profit organizations.

  15. - amalia - Friday, Jul 27, 12 @ 8:06 am:

    have not seen the doc, but your point about only one pariah is a very good one.

  16. - wordslinger - Friday, Jul 27, 12 @ 9:11 am:

    Hisgirlfriday, I think that’s why Abramoff is so honked. He did the time while his pals are still making money and getting invites to nice parties.

    The sinister, vulgar types like Reed and Norquist still draw a lot of water.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

* Question of the day
* Prepare for a skewering
* Rauner apologizes for no budget, blames Dems
* This just in... Mautino to be recommended for Auditor General
* Study: Four of the ten worst cities for African-Americans are in Illinois
* Lip service
* Today's quotable
* War of words resumes
* BND collects two more scalps
* McCarter gearing up to challenge Shimkus
* Caption contest!
* Sorry to see him go, happy to see the other guy leave
* "Unclear" on the concept
* A complete leadership stalemate
* Behind the impasse
* Report: Child care more expensive than state university tuition
* We're not exactly Old Faithful here
* Good morning!
* SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Supplement to today’s edition
* SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Today's edition of Capitol Fax (use all CAPS in password)
* Yesterday's blog posts

Visit our advertisers...







Search This Blog...

Search the 98th General Assembly By Bill Number
(example: HB0001)

Search the 98th General Assembly By Keyword

* BBM update: Sticker Club subscription, PayPal integration
* A future software update will bring Samung Pay to Verizon
* Verizon finally meets up with Samsung Pay
* App Slicing on iOS 9 will help you cut down on your disk space
* October’s Android distribution numbers show little change from last month
* Debacle over Samsung- and TSMC-sourced Apple A9 processors
* Microsoft Lumia 950 / Lumia 950XL hands-on (Video)

* Hawk Harrelson's reduced schedule creates opportunity for White Sox...
* Holliday, Ventura connection goes way back
* 2015 in 3 words: Sale, Abreu, inconsistency
* Hawk cutting '16 broadcast schedule
* Podcast: Shifting the target
* White Sox face toll of three losing seasons
* Montas solid, but offense silenced in finale


Main Menu
Pundit rankings
Subscriber Content
Blagojevich Trial
Updated Posts

October 2015
September 2015
August 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
January 2015
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010
May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006
April 2006
March 2006
February 2006
January 2006
December 2005
April 2005
March 2005
February 2005
January 2005
December 2004
November 2004
October 2004

Blog*Spot Archives
November 2005
October 2005
September 2005
August 2005
July 2005
June 2005
May 2005


RSS Feed 2.0
Comments RSS 2.0


* Providers, clients bash Rauner administration c.....
* Providers, clients bash Illinois Gov. Rauner ad.....
* Cartoonist offers his vision of shared sacrific.....
* IL Representative urges governor to reopen Spar.....
* Parents, day care owners bash Rauner child care.....

* Chicago police chief takes tough questions after complaints
* Illinois stops paying local health clinics for STD testing
* Panel recommends Rep. Mautino for Illinois Auditor General
* EXCHANGE: Nachusa Grasslands plans to add bison this fall
* Route 66 Museum to hold auction in Springfield
* Suburban college recognized for campus safety efforts
* Metra installs charging stations downtown Chicago
* Police superintendent to face alderman demanding his firing
* Terrorism suspect due in court for 2nd straight day
* Chicago aldermen demand firing of police superintendent

* Providers, clients bash Rauner administration changes to day care eligibility
* Illinois stops paying local health clinics for STD testing
* Panel recommends Rep. Mautino for Illinois auditor general
* Chancellor Koch: Budget pressures growing for UIS, other schools
* Illinois to implement new ratings for schools, districts
* Budget impasse cuts services for domestic abuse victims
* Weaver tapped to replace LaHood in Illinois Senate
* Peoria city councilman tapped to replace Darin LaHood in Illinois Senate
* Illinois budget impasse affecting emergency call systems
* Legal marijuana stirs hope in southern Illinois town

* McCarthy says he'll stay on despite complaints
* DC mayor announces settlement in Exelon, Pepco merger
* Exelon-Pepco merger just got a big step closer
* Hyatt Regency debuts largest campaign in its history
* FDA says it's fighting drug shortages

* Regular season carries more weight than ever for Blackhawks
* Meet the newest Blackhawks
* Patrick Kane remains the Blackhawks’ biggest X-factor
* NHL season preview and predictions
* Mihalopoulos: Ald. Burns could wind up feeling the heat
* ‘I’m not done,’ Karen Lewis says a year after cancer diagnosis
* McCarthy ‘extremely disrespectful’ to council, one alderman tells him
* McCarthy ‘extremely disrespectful’ to council, Ald. Beale tells top cop
* Emanuel on McCarthy: ‘I’m standing by him’
* Neighborhood fests overlooked, some aldermen say

* Chicago Teachers Union president running for re-election
* Pilsen residents kept waiting for cleanup of toxic lead contamination
* Lawmakers ask state education officials to explain superintendent perk
* Emanuel wants CPS property tax hike but mum on spending specifics
* Plainfield toddler hurt in lawn mower accident
* Murder charge filed in 2013 crash that killed Chicago boy during cop chase
* Cops: 1 in custody after police shoot at suspect who tried to run them down
* Man given 40 years in prison in cold case murder of teenage mother
* Trial underway for man accused of killing Metra officer
* Lakeshore cities expect marine sanctuary to have huge impact

* Providers, clients bash Rauner administration changes to day care eligibility
* Illinois stops paying local health clinics for STD testing
* Panel recommends Rep. Mautino for Illinois auditor general
* Kathleen Parker: The GOP’s (New) McCarthyism
* Clark Bullard: Unclear if CWLP’s proposed rate changes are fair
* Chancellor Koch: Budget pressures growing for UIS, other schools
* Illinois to implement new ratings for schools, districts
* Paul Findley: Boehner deserves souvenir from Pope's visit
* Budget impasse cuts services for domestic abuse victims
* Weaver tapped to replace LaHood in Illinois Senate

* Woman sentenced to probation in heroin case
* Why I Love the Dead: A Microcosm
* Gifford considers new sign, need to fill positions
* Georgetown regulates outdoor furnaces
* Thomasboro looks at uniform for public works chief
* UPDATED: I-74 lanes open after crashes
* SportsTalk 10-06-15
* Street closures listing
* Field & Stream Store
* Officials seek person who caused Frontier outage

* Classes off in McHenry again Wednesday as negotiations continue
* 8 ways the world has changed since the Cubs' last one-game playoff
* Freight train possibly leaking hazardous substance in Wheeling
* Duckworth, Kirk trade barbs over Letterman fundraiser
* Huntley teacher stands out among peers in state

* House lawmakers overcome hurdle on key tra...
* Rodney Davis talks funding with Bloomingto...
* The agency that fought Illiana gets a new ...
* Rep. Dold takes educational cruise down Ch...
* Lawmakers decry high turnover rate of VA h...
* CBD Oil, and politics
* Simon considering state Senate bid
* Killer Congressman Tom MacArthur trying to...
* Shutdown? State may not notice
* Rep. Bob Dold

* Durbin supports bill to boost regulation o......
* Senator Durbin Discusses Landmark Sentenci......

* Duckworth, Kirk trade barbs over Letterman......
* Today's quotable - The Capitol Fax Blog (b......

* Kotowski's Replacement To Be Sworn Into State Senate
* Americans Receive Out-Of-Network Medical Bills That Reach 'Exorbitant' Heights, Report Finds
* Report: Many U.S. States Fall Short On ID Card Access For Homeless LGBT Youth
* Legislative Panel Recommends Mautino For State Auditor General Post
* Chicago Alderman Stalls Charter School Moratorium Resolution
* Emergency Meeting Held With Electeds To Discuss Chicago Violence
* U.S. Supreme Court Could Take Up Controversial Cases On Abortion, Union Fees
* CTU's Karen Lewis To Run For Re-Election
* Peoria Council Member Selected To Fill LaHood's Illinois Senate Seat
* Advocates: TPP Deal Could Hurt Illinois Jobs And Health

* IEMA Announces Elgin Community College Attains ‘Ready to Respond Campus’ Designation - Elgin one of five Illinois campuses to receive distinction
* New Mortgage Loan Interface Increases Efficiency, Compliance
* State Fire Marshal Ushers In Fire Prevention Week - “Hear the Beep Where You Sleep!”
* October Is Illinois College Application Month! - Over 130 High Schools Will Hold Events to Help Students Get to College
* Illinois Takes Part in Nationwide Community Banking Study, Findings Announced

    Hosted by MCS SUBSCRIBE to Capitol Fax Advertise Here Mobile Version Contact Rich Miller