Circling the Wagons in Washington

A hundred years after the last of the Indian wars, they’re
circling the wagons again, this time in Washington. There’s
more than a little poetic justice in all that historic neglect
and
abuse, thievery and double-dealing coming home to roost on the
shoulders of the Congress of the United States.

But enough even-handed criticism, let’s get down to cases.

There’s a Democrat on the hot-seat at the moment, lest
we think that spot is reserved primarily and exclusively for
Republicans. He’s shoveling money back in the direction
of the Indian tribes who bought him off, to the tune of $67,000.

Please, take it back. I didn’t mean
it. Who would have expected anyone to find out?

This sticky-fingered legislator sits on the Senate committee
that’s currently
investigating lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Not only does he sit there, he’s
the senior Democrat on the committee. Naughty, naughty.

Our guy-who-didn’t-mean-it is also vice-chairman of
the Indian Affairs Committee.

Vice is a handy word in the United
States Senate, handier by the day it seems. In addition to
the Webster definition designating an officer or an office
that is second in rank or authority
, it is also defined
as moral
weakness, a specific form of evildoing
. Polls suggest
moral evildoer is the preferred usage, chosen by two
out of three
Senators
and Representatives.

But enough fun. The envelope, please!

Sen Byron DorganSenator Byron L. Dorgan of the great state of
North Dakota (where they have their share of Indians) is the
mystery-man, fingered recipient of the sixty-seven grand.

Dorgan
said, without either blush or stutter, that “he has
never met Abramoff, nor did he advocate any program backed
by Abramoff’s
tribal clients that he would not have otherwise embraced.”

Never even met Jack Abramoff? It’s entirely possible
of course that Dorgan isn’t a golfer and that would surely
explain it. Not everyone in Congress feels comfortable in pastels
and
two-tone shoes. Even so, he is probably the only man in Congress
who hasn’t had that honor, particularly strange as he’s
vice-chairman of a committee very close to the dreams and schemes
of the former King of Lobbyists.

Caught somewhat red-handed with the 670 Franklins, Dorgan is
quoted,

“I have returned all contributions to my campaign
committee and my leadership political action committee from
tribes
represented by Mr. Abramoff’s law firm and from individuals
employed by his
law firm during the time he was at the firm. Even though
those contributions were legal and fully reported as required
by law,
I will not knowingly keep even one dollar in contributions
if there is even a remote possibility that they could have
been
the result of any action Mr. Abramoff might have taken.”

Do I smell a loophole in during the time he was at the firm?
Do I smell another in knowingly keep, or am I being
picky? If so, then how is it, according to a Washington Post
article, Dorgan’s

“Aides conceded that the senator
did advocate for programs pushed by Abramoff’s clients
around the time he
was accepting tens of thousands of dollars from associates
and clients of the lobbyist.”

The Justice Department is leading a wide-ranging investigation
of Abramoff and his cronies, the second of whom has recently
copped a plea. Accordingly, there’s been a landslide of
congressional members frantically giving back cash and checking
their e-mail address books, fingers crossed and hoping Abramoff’s
address is mercifully absent.

But there are tens, maybe hundreds of millions out there jingling
in congressional pockets and every week another guy-in-the-know
close to Abramoff cops a plea. If you do the arithmetic, there’s fifteen
times
sixty-seven grand in a single million.

Who’d of thought that after centuries of neglect and abuse,
American Indians would pull off another Little Big Horn?

Justice, when it comes and if it comes, often takes strange
and embarrassing paths.

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