"Jack Abramoff, the notorious former lobbyist at the center of Washington's biggest corruption scandal in decades, spent more than three years in prison for his crimes. Now a free man, he reveals how he was able to influence politicians and their staffers through generous gifts and job offers. He tells Lesley Stahl the reforms instituted in the wake of his scandal have had little effect.
Abramoff: When we would become friendly with an office and they were important to us, and the chief of staff was a competent person, I would say or my staff would say to him or her at some point, "You know, when you're done working on the Hill, we'd very much like you to consider coming to work for us." Now the moment I said that to them or any of our staff said that to 'em, that was it. We owned them. And what does that mean? Every request from our office, every request of our clients, everything that we want, they're gonna do. And not only that, they're gonna think of things we can't think of to do."
The following is a script of "The Lobbyist's Playbook" which aired on Nov. 6, 2011.
"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: And that was gonna provide for a casino?
Stahl: And who on earth is gonna know that?
Abramoff: No one except the chairmen of the committees.
Stahl: Who stuck it in there?
Stahl: And that's one of the things you used to do?
Stahl: And it was deliberately written like that?
Abramoff: Precisely. Yes.
Stahl: And that's done a lot?
Abramoff: Members don't read the bills.
(Neil Volz was one of the staffers Abramoff was talking about. He was chief of staff to Congressman Bob Ney, who as chairman of the House Administration Committee had considerable power to dispense favors. Abramoff targeted Volz and offered him a job.)
Stahl: ( to former congressman Ney)
Ney: Had no idea. And then when we got the written language--
Stahl: Well-- why didn't you know what it was for?
Ney: I didn't-- I didn't care.
Stahl: Was buying favors from lawmakers easy?
Abramoff: I think people are under the impression that the corruption only involves somebody handing over a check and getting a favor. And that's not the case. The corruption, the bribery, call it, because ultimately that's what it is. That's what the whole system is.
Stahl: The whole system's bribery?
Abramoff: In my view. I'm talking about giving a gift to somebody who makes a decision on behalf of the public. At the end of the day, that's really what bribery is. But it is done everyday and it is still being done. The truth is there were very few members who I could even name or could think of who didn't at some level participate in that.
Abramoff: The reform efforts continually are these faux-reform efforts where they'll change, they'll tweak the system. They'll say, "You can have a meal with a congressman if they're standing up, not sitting down."
Jack Abramoff has written a memoir called "Capitol Punishment."
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