Jack Abramoff: The lobbyist's playbook

Crooked lobbyist Jack Abramoff explains how he asserted his influence in Congress for years, and how such corruption continues today

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One of the offices he keyed on was that of his good friend, the Majority Leader Tom Delay, eventually hiring his deputy chief of staff and his press secretary, and going into business with Delay's chief of staff.

Stahl: Did you own his staff?

Abramoff: I was as close to his staff as to any staff. I had a very strong personal relationship with a lot of his staff.

Stahl: How many congressional offices did you actually own?

Abramoff: We probably had very strong influence in 100 offices at the time.

Stahl: Come on.

Abramoff: No.

Stahl: A hundred offices?

Abramoff: In those days, I would view that as a failure. Because that leaves 335 offices that we didn't have strong influence in.

Stahl: Did he own you?

Bob Ney: Oh, I don't believe Jack Abramoff owned me. But were we involved in the culture of corruption together? Absolutely.

Former Republican Congressman Bob Ney was ambitious and looked at Abramoff as a way to build alliances with the White House and the majority leader.

Ney: I wanted to be speaker of the House and Jack Abramoff was the beautiful light of day for me to get to the person who I had had some conflicts with, Tom Delay.

Abramoff began inviting Ney on golf trips including one to Scotland and to his restaurant Signatures, where Ney was given food and drinks on the house, a violation of the congressional gift limit laws. Ney says he was hardly the only one crossing the line.

Ney: But I will still tell you, at that point in time, in order to get a drink at Signatures you had to shove White House staffers of George Bush the heck away from the bar. And it was packed with people. And there were members. Now that doesn't mean everybody did everything for Jack. But if you wanna talk about strict interpretation of violation of the-- of-- of the laws of drink and food, Katey bar the door, she was wide open, two shotguns blarin'.

After months of taking handouts, Ney was approached by Neil Volz, his former chief of staff, by then a lobbyist for Abramoff.

Volz: I let you down man and I'm sorry...

Volz asked Ney to insert some language into a reform bill that would give a backdoor license to an Indian casino owned by one of Abramoff's clients. You often hear about lobbyists getting special secret deals for their clients like this. It's an insidious technique that Abramoff perfected.

Abramoff: So what we did was we crafted language that was so obscure, so confusing, so uninformative, but so precise to change the U.S. code.

Stahl: Here's what you tried to get tacked on to this reform bill.

Abramoff: Yeah.

Stahl: "Public law 100-89 is amended by striking section 207 (101 stat. 668, 672)."

Abramoff: Right. Now isn't that obvious what that means? It was perfect. It was perfect.

Stahl: So that's what you tried to get inserted?