By all accounts, there are a herd of additional shoes yet to drop in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal. The question is whether or not this public scrutiny will be limited to just the low-lying fruit, or if some serious investigations will take place — including an investigation of one of the chief investigators: St. John McCain, Arizona Republican.
When stories of Jack Abramoff taking various Indian tribes to the cleaners first hit the press, McCain — Chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee and author of the un-American, anti-free speech McCain-Feingold campaign censorship law — decided this would be an excellent opportunity to settle some old scores, help out some old pals, and do what Sen. McCain does best…get media attention for Sen. McCain.
But here’s what’s wrong with Sen. McCain using his position as chief of the Indian Affairs committee to pursue an "investigation" of the Indian lobbyist matter: First, this taxpayer-funded fishing expedition has dragged on for over two years now. Heck, the Paula Jones investigation AND the impeachment of Bill Clinton combined took less time. Secondly, McCain — or more
specifically, his all-but-officially-declared presidential campaign —
appears to have profited from this crusade more than truth, justice and the American way.
Before McCain’s investigatory machine sprung into action, Jack Abramoff and another GOP lobbyist named Scott Reed were the two top lobbying dogs for Indian tribes. Yet McCain has used his committee to subject Abramoff’s dealings to a veritable proctological exam while all but ignoring Reed. What’s up with that?
Well, you see, Jack Abramoff had strong connections in conservative circles, and McCain has no love for conservative grassroots activists. Suffice it to say that movement conservatives, especially Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), had a lot to do with derailing McCain’s "Straight Talk Express" in the 2000 presidential primary. And McCain hasn’t forgotten.
As for Reed, there’s no love lost there with conservatives either. A
philosophical liberal, Reed is perhaps best known for "titanic’ing" the disastrous 1996 Bob Dole presidential campaign. He subsequently transformed into a fat-cat lobbyist and "useful idiot" for Big Labor. Nevertheless, Reed still has deep ties into the GOP’s moderate establishment wing dating back to his days with the Republican National Committee. He’d be an asset to anyone running for president in 2008. Like…well, John McCain.
Now, as McCain’s pursuit of Abramoff and grassroots conservatives
progressed, including subpoenas for emails and donor records from ATR, Norquist responded by, according to Ryan Lizza of The New Republic, charging "that McCain’s entire investigation was actually an elaborate plot to help McCain’s favored influence-peddlers score Abramoff’s ex-clients." This was a clear reference to Reed. But not without cause.
As the Washington insider newspaper The Hill reported in March 2004, McCain wrote at least one letter on Senate letterhead praising Reed to one of Abramoff’s clients, the Saginaw Chippewa. Five days later, Abramoff was fired and the Saginaw Chippewa tribe retained Reed. In addition, columnist Bob Novak reported last December that on the eve of the investigation’s hearings, Reed handed some $200,000 in bundled contributions to McCain.
Does this smell, or what?
For his part, again according to Lizza, Reed confronted Norquist on the street in front of ATR’s building and told the anti-tax conservative to, well, uh…do that sex thing to himself which Dick Cheney once suggested to Pat Leahy — if you get my drift and I think you do. Like I said…no love lost.
The thing is, this McCain "investigation" looks like a real scandal in and of itself. If there are/were actual crimes involved, that’s what then Justice Department is for, not the Senate Indian Affairs Committee. Instead, McCain appears to be using his committee and his position to (a) grandstand for his 2008 presidential campaign, (b) pay back conservatives who opposed him in 2000, and (c) scratch the back of a well-heeled lobbyist who is scratching right back.
This is not what congressional hearings are supposed to be about. This smacks of abuse of senatorial power. But will anyone in the fawning mainstream press, with whom McCain has had a long-standing love affair, take this "maverick" to task for his McCarthy-like behavior? Don’t hold you breath waiting. The media won’t do anything to jeopardize a potential John McCain vs. Hillary Clinton race in 2008. Between now and then, St. John could almost get away with murder.