Tuli Can't Stop Talking

These are just my thoughts on contemporary issues and an attempt to open up a dialogue.

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Location: New York City

A citizen who cares deeply about the United States Constitution and the Rule of Law.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Carl Hiaasen’s Next Novel.

I am a huge Carl Hiaasen fan (thanks to my friends Jean and Steve Z.) I have read all his books and columns. So, I just cannot wait for his fictional or not so fictional telling of this Republican Scandal.

It has everything you could possibly want in a scandal real or otherwise. It has Washington, Texas, Ohio, Florida, The President, Senators, Congressman, Corporate Icons, Major Law Firms, K-Street, Gambling, Native Americans, Sweat Shops, The Christian Coalition, Fake Charities, The Mafia, Bribery, Fraud, Conspiracy, and a Gangland-style Murder. Oh, and did I mention Grover Norquist and the College Republicans.

Okay, so they are all Republicans, but WOW, this is just so waiting for Carl to pick up his pen or type on his keyboard. I am sure he is clipping stories from newsprint everywhere, and taking mad notes on it all.

That said, here is his latest column on the burgeoning scandal:

Yet another scandal tied to South Florida

There's no truth to the rumor that a hazmat team was brought in to decontaminate the Miami courtroom where Washington vermin Jack Abramoff pleaded guilty to fraud last week.

The former lobbyist and erstwhile travel companion to Rep. Tom DeLay was on the final leg of a plea-copping tour that will make him the star snitch in the burgeoning Republican corruption scandal.

As happened in another infamous political disaster, the plot came unglued in South Florida, where all rivers of sleaze seem to lead.

It was almost 34 years ago when Martin Dardis, an investigator for the Dade State Attorney's Office, discovered that a strange check had gone to a bank account of a Miami burglar who'd broken into Democratic Party offices in a building on the Potomac called the Watergate. That check was traced to Richard Nixon's reelection campaign, and the rest is history.

Now, once again, Florida authorities are the ones who turned over the incriminating rocks. Abramoff might still be riding high if only he'd steered clear of the Sunshine State.

It was his scheme to fraudulently hijack the SunCruz Casinos fleet that put him on the radar of local prosecutors. Before that, he'd risen to untouchable glamour-boy status, boasting powerful connections from Capitol Hill to the White House.

One of Abramoff's lobbyist cohorts was David Safavian, who became head of the White House procurement office before his unseemly arrest last fall. A personal assistant to Abramoff had previously worked for Karl Rove, President Bush's political guru and comfort nurse. Among Abramoff's other well-connected pals are pious conservative hustlers such as Grover Norquist and Ralph Reed, the former head of the Christian Coalition now running for lieutenant governor in Georgia.

Now that Abramoff is squealing, orifices are puckering from K Street to Pennsylvania Avenue. According to The New York Times, as many as a dozen members of Congress -- including one or two Democrats -- are suspected of taking bribes from Abramoff's firm in exchange for legislative favors. Most notable is DeLay, the former Republican House majority leader, now under indictment in a separate case for allegedly laundering campaign funds in his home state of Texas.

DeLay's former press secretary, Michael Scanlon, has al ready pleaded guilty to helping Abramoff scam a fortune from Indian tribes that had gambling interests. Together the men hauled in more than $43 million in lobby fees and $20 million in kickbacks, some of it funneled illegally through tax-exempt foundations and PR firms.

Were it not for one greedy mistake, Abramoff would still be taking congressmen on golf trips to Scotland and hosting political fundraisers in skyboxes purchased with dirty money. In 2000, Abramoff hooked up with Adam Kidan, a defrocked New York lawyer and fellow Republican. Together they decided to buy the SunCruz fleet from entrepreneur Gus Boulis, who was being forced to sell because he wasn't a U.S. citizen.

Boulis proved a feisty negotiator. Out of the blue, Rep. Robert Ney, an Ohio Republican, slammed Boulis in the Congressional Record while praising Kidan, Abramoff's partner. (Prosecutors are expected to allege that Ney did this for Abramoff and Scanlon and was rewarded).

Ultimately the SunCruz deal was finalized. To obtain $60 million in financing, Abramoff and Kidan produced bogus documents showing they'd invested $23 million themselves. In reality, they never put in a dime.

Boulis, who'd kept a stake in SunCruz, was later murdered gangland-style in Fort Lauderdale. One of the three men charged with the crime is a longtime acquaintance of Kidan.

The rope came tight on Abramoff when U.S. prosecutors in Florida began scrutinizing the terms of the casino-fleet purchase. A fraud indictment followed last summer, opening the proverbial can of maggots.

After Boulis' death it had taken only a few months for Kidan and Abramoff to loot the SunCruz operation, paying themselves $500,000 each in salaries and using $310,000 of company money to lease skyboxes for entertaining GOP heavyweights at FedEx Field and the MCI Center, both in the Washington, D.C., area.

Once indicted, Abramoff realized there was no way out but to cut a deal. He had plenty to offer. Now he's yodeling like a tweety bird about what his clients received in return for all the goodies he lavished on politicians. As expected, the politicians are scrambling to cleanse themselves.

Bush has announced that he's giving $6,000 in Abramoff-tainted campaign funds to the American Heart Association, which is fitting when you consider how much cardiac unrest is being caused by the lobbyist's cooperation with prosecutors.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert is hastily giving $69,000 in Abramoff-related donations to charity, and even grumpy Tom DeLay is dumping $15,000 in contributions arranged through Abramoff.

Of course, getting rid of the money is the easy part. It's the stench that won't go away.

I am willing to bet that Barnes & Noble and Borders have already planned the window displays and the space needed for this widely anticipated bestseller.


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