Jack Abramoff may be the most notorious and crooked lobbyist of our time. He was at the center of a massive scandal of brazen corruption and influence peddling.
As a Republican lobbyist starting in the mid 1990s, he became a master at showering gifts on lawmakers in return for their votes on legislation and tax breaks favorable to his clients. He was so good at it, he took home $20 million a year.
How corrupt is lobbying in Washington, DC? Enough to get "60 Minutes" correspondent Lesley Stahl angry when she hears how Jack Abramoff bribed and influenced legislators. It all came crashing down five years ago, when Jack Abramoff pled guilty to corrupting public officials, tax evasion and fraud, and served three and a half years in prison. Today he's a symbol of how money corrupts Washington. In our interview tonight, he opens up his playbook for the first time. And explains exactly how he used his clients' money to buy powerful friends and influence legislation.
Extract from the interview:-
Jack Abramoff: I was so far into it that I couldn't figure out where right and wrong was. I believed that I was among the top moral people in the business. I was totally blinded by what was going on.
Jack Abramoff was a whiz at influencing legislation and one way he did that was to get his clients, like some Indian tribes, to make substantial campaign contributions to select members of Congress.
Abramoff: We would certainly try to make the activity legal, if we could. At times we didn't care.
But the "best way" to get a congressional office to do his bidding - he says - was to offer a staffer a job that could triple his salary.
Abramoff: When we would become friendly with an office and they were important to us, and the chief of staff was a competent person, I would say or my staff would say to him or her at some point, "You know, when you're done working on the Hill, we'd very much like you to consider coming to work for us." Now the moment I said that to them or any of our staff said that to 'em, that was it. We owned them. And what does that mean? Every request from our office, every request of our clients, everything that we want, they're gonna do. And not only that, they're gonna think of things we can't think of to do.