It’s the classic Washington story of politics, arrogance and greed. They always end badly, and there’s always a tell-all memoir.
“I think I’ve learned humility. . . and how cool that is,” said Neil Volz, one of the key players in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal.
Six years after the pay-to-play scheme shook K Street nd the Hill, Volz was back in D.C. promoting “Into the Sun,” a self-published book on his descent into the inner circle of Washington influence. While Abramoff, now out of the pokey, has been all over on the TV circuit for his new book, Volz had a barely-populated reading at Sankofa Books on Tuesday.
Now 41, he says he was an idealistic Ohio State student when he came to D.C. with Rep. Bob Ney in 1995 and became his chief adviser. “I would have taken a bullet for Bob,” Volz told us. They lived together, drank together and plotted to increase the Republican congressman’s growing power base.
Abramoff wooed them both (“Jack was so good at it,” Volz told us), eventually offering Volz a $175K job; he was lobbying his old boss within six months, ethics rules notwithstanding: “I felt like I was part of the Washington machine. Gone was the punishing reality of working for a fickle electorate, ” he writes. “I started to see myself as above it all.”
Or, as Volz told us: “I was a pirate on a ship for hire. . . You can buy your way into a lot of offices with a $1,000 check.” He concedes now he deliberately ignored a lot of red flags. When it came crashing down in 2006, he cooperated with the feds. Abramoff and Ney went to jail; Volz got probation and community service.
Of course he lost everything: His marriage, friends, a future in politics. He’s still paying down $470K in legal bills. Until recently, he worked as a janitor. He says he found peace, as an advocate for the homeless. He also found religion, as so many of them do.
He and Ney are pals again, and they talk a couple times a month; Ney has even read the book. “I think he liked parts of it,” said Volz.
And Abramoff? Volz told us he prayed for him every night of his prison stay, but the two can’t talk until he completes probation. “I would enjoy sitting down for lunch with Jack,” said Volz. “I think both of us could benefit.”
Read earlier: Jack Abramoff book party: Who shows up for that?, 11/16/11