Yes, Jack Abramoff, you are a bad man

by JS O’Brien

Jack Abramoff was sentenced to four years in prison today, much less than the maximum time for his crimes.  You may remember him as the man who bribed, stole, and otherwise slimed his way to the top of the K Street lobbying establishment in Washington.  He also defrauded the Chippewas, an Amerind tribe, of tens of millions of dollars in a scheme with a PR firm he called the self-congratulatory name, “High Five!”  Yet, in a letter filed with US District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle, Abramoff insists:

I am not a bad man (although to read all the news articles one would think I was Osama Bin Laden), but I did many bad things.

I am not a bad man, but I did many bad things.  This has become a sort of mantra among our criminals, both the garden variety and white-collar sort, these days.  It used to be that people would say, “I done wrong.”  Now, they say, “I made some mistakes” or, even better, “Mistakes were made,” or my all-time favorite, “I made some bad choices.”  It’s not uncommon to hear parents of vicious, violent, juvenile criminals who kill children in drive-by shootings say, “He’s a good kid who made some bad choices.”

So, when do the “mistakes” and “bad choices” add up to making someone a bad person?  Well, when those mistakes involve deliberately hurting other people for your own gain, that makes you a bad person in my book.  The only issue is with degree.  Abramoff’s self-pitying reference about being compared to Osama Bin Laden notwithstanding, he is a very bad person, indeed.

Abramoff goes on to say to Judge Huvelle:

As I have sat alone in prison, realizing what my actions have done to permanently injure people, especially my family, I see that my crimes all had the same cause – my short-sighted and selfish view that the ends could justify the means.

Well – duh.  If the end is your personal enrichment, Mr. Abramoff, and the means to get it is defrauding other people and, in your case, your nation, then all you have told us is that criminals (yes, bad people, Jack) see their own selfish ends as being far more important than the means that hurt others.  And, Jack, you didn’t give a flying happy about the people you hurt until you got caught and thrown in prison now, did you?

The fact is, Jack Abramoff and those like him (many of whom work on K Street, I suspect) are common criminals and cancers on the Republic.  People like Abramoff shorten the life of any republic because they give people yet another reason to believe that their government is corrupt.  There were Abramoffs in the Roman Republic, too.

Abramoff got his sentence reduced by Judge Huvelle, and that’s as it should be.  He cooperated with the prosecution and sent some more scumbags to prison.  Prosecutors need the sentence-reduction carrot to catch as many bad guys as possible.  But there are two things that stink to high heaven, here.  The first is that the sentencing guidelines are too light to begin with.  Someone who did what Abramoff did should be subject to at least a 25-year maximum, which would give prosecutors a lot of leverage for negotiating sentence reduction while still seeing that traitors like Abramoff serve a very long time in the end.  The second is that Abramoff’s actions and letter makes it clear that he repents only getting caught.  He has offered the Chippewas about two cents on the dollar for what he stole, and the tribe says that he has not apologized to them.  His letter is laced with self-pity and self-serving references to the hardship his family is enduring.

So tell me, Jack, when has anyone ever been sent to prison without causing hardship for his family?  Why are you so special?

Oh yeah.  I forgot.  You’re special because you think you are.

Rot in jail.

2 replies »

  1. Thanks Benjamin. I’m in favor of criminalizing deletion of e-mails for public servants for that reason.

    Thanks for the comment.