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‘Corruption is legal in Washington’ – insider tips

Published time: January 18, 2012 11:50
Edited time: January 18, 2012 16:11

Mark Wilson / Getty Images / AFP

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As protesters take to Capitol Hill to denounce corporate influence in US politics, RT talks to a former American lobbyist who has been at the heart of a far-reaching corruption scheme. Jack Abramoff reveals to RT how it all works out in Congress.

­When it comes to big money in America's politics, lobbyists are the people who know exactly how it works.

One of the most powerful lobbyists in the American capital, also known as “the man who bought Washington,” Jack Abramoff was convicted in 2006 of mail fraud and conspiracy. He now explains why he thinks Washington is corrupt to the core.

“What happens here and what’s unfortunate and what I did in terms of pushing over the lines even of this activity,” he told RT’s Gayane Chichakyan, “is – lobbyists and people who want something from the Congress raise money for congressmen, give money to congressmen in terms of political contributions, buy meals for them, take them golfing, take them on trips, take them to sporting events. And I probably did more of it than most did and I pushed over certain lines that are in the sand and broke the law. But it is something that goes on far too often.”

Explaining how it all works, he describes bribing government officials in order to gain political support for his clients. Having served three and a half years in prison he is now a vocal opponent of corruption in Congress.

“As a human being, if somebody gives you something, you feel gratitude,” he says. “Even if you don’t deal with this person once right there, the issue is: if you do something nice for me, in my heart I am going to feel a little bit better about you. And that is the moment of the problem, if you are a public servant.”

Abramoff insists the moment you offer a job to a congressional staffer you own him.  

“There was no greater control that people could have over congressional offices than to have the head of that office know that in a few months he was going to come work for a lobbying firm,” he explained to RT.  ”From that minute on, those people are focused on that lobbying firm and their clients. And it is not just me – I see it all over town. It is not something I invented, it is something I noticed. And it is something I propose now to get rid of by banning people who work on Capitol Hill or members of the Congress ever joining the lobbying industry or the influence industry in America.”

Commenting on the “Occupy Congress” protests and the major demands of the protesters, Abramoff agreed that Americans have a very tough time competing with the special interests of big corporations.

“The special interests come with a lot of money and it is a minuscule amount of money compared to what they [corporations] could do,” he explained. “The problem is the average citizen here is not engaged politically. And when they [corporations] are able to bring in money and influence members of the Congress to vote on things that are not good for the country and are not good for the general interests because someone with the special interest is pushing on it – that’s where the problem starts."

“What I propose in my book and the effort I have been engaged in since I got out of prison is a way to separate money out of politics here and basically to say if you are a lobbyist or you are somebody trying to get something from the government here you may not give a dollar, politically, of any kind.”

“I think that in America getting into, first of all, class envy, is very dangerous,” he continues. “We’ve seen that every great totalitarian movement in the 20th century started with class envy. Instead of class envy, they are to focus themselves not on those who succeed, but on those who cheat, then succeed, in the sense of using the government and using the state to make their lives easier, to make more money. And there are plenty of those.”