THE MOST RECENT installment in the continuing saga of Jack Abramoff sounds more like a Hollywood thriller than a real-life account of the stealthy operations of one of the capital's most powerful lobbyists as he maneuvered to kill an Internet gambling bill for his $100,000-a-month lobbying client, eLottery Inc.
As reported in Sunday's Post by Susan Schmidt and James V. Grimaldi, the story has all the elements of Washington at its seamiest: lobbyists deploying corporate jets and luxury golf trips to curry favor with senior congressional aides; gambling money disguised by passing it through multiple accounts to hide its origins; conservative lawmakers, in the midst of tough reelection campaigns, being targeted -- by gambling forces -- for being soft on gambling.
We'd encourage you to read all 4,245 delicious words to get the full flavor, but in case you missed it, the juicier details include: a forged letter purportedly from Florida Gov. Jeb Bush; an official of a religious advocacy group who ends up in prison for soliciting sex with minors over the Internet; and "Lucky Louie," the nickname bestowed on the Rev. Louis P. Sheldon, head of the Traditional Values Coalition, who was enlisted to fight the anti-gambling bill on the grounds that it would actually promote gambling -- and who, despite receiving a $25,000 check from eLottery, somehow didn't realize that Mr. Abramoff or the company was involved.
"There was lucky Louie out front hi-fiving with some lobbyists," Mr. Abramoff's lobbying colleague, Patrick Pizzella, now an assistant secretary of labor, recounted in one e-mail after a House victory. Even David H. Safavian, the indicted former White House procurement official and former Abramoff lobbyist, makes a guest appearance, proclaiming -- gotta love this one -- the triumph of policy over politics.
The story offers a particularly rich example of the back-scratching, revolving-door coziness among lobbyists, lawmakers and staff members. Mr. Abramoff wooed Tony C. Rudy, a top aide to then-Majority Whip Tom DeLay, taking Mr. Rudy on two luxury golfing trips -- one to St. Andrews in Scotland, the other to Pebble Beach in California. Mr. Abramoff had eLottery pay $25,000 to a Jewish foundation that also hired Mr. Rudy's wife as a consultant. When Mr. Abramoff was buying a Florida casino -- he's since been indicted for forging a $23 million wire transfer -- he listed Mr. Rudy as a financial reference. Mr. Rudy, for his part, worked closely with Mr. Abramoff, sharing internal e-mails and offering strategic advice -- all this before leaving Mr. DeLay's office to join Mr. Abramoff's lobbying empire.
The eLottery tale also illustrates how corporate money can be disguised -- laundered might be a more appropriate word -- to obscure its questionable origins. Enlisting former Christian Coalition head Ralph Reed to help defeat the Internet gambling ban, Mr. Abramoff used two passthroughs to get Mr. Reed the money. The first stop, Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform, which got a $160,000 check from eLottery, took $10,000 off the top, and passed it on to the second passthrough, the Faith and Family Alliance, which then sent on $150,000 to Mr. Reed. "I was operating as a shell," the group's former director, now in prison on sex charges, told The Post.
The Justice Department continues to investigate the whole smelly Abramoff empire. We don't know what charges will ensue -- but it's sure making for great reading.