Africa and Aboriginal Tuesdays: Abramoff Scandal Is About Players, Not Victims by Louis Gray
There is some suggestion Jack Abramoff victimized unwary tribes and politicians, but this is more a case of unbridled greed than people taking advantage of powerless tribes and corrupting innocent politicians.
Abramoff is the poster child for all that is wrong with campaign financing, gaming and retention of power.
It would be easy to play the victim card, but that would be avoiding the responsibility many tribes had in their unrelenting drive to protect and obtain more gaming opportunities. The thirst for riches clouded the thinking of many thoughtful leaders. The millions generated bought freedom and choices once thought unachievable.
To be honest, never in tribal history has any economic endeavor ever paid such riches to Indian people. It has created jobs and wealth for many formerly poor people.
But at what price and when is it enough?
Yes, some tribes got worked from every direction in dealing with Abramoff, but the lobbyist with the lead-pipe promises to deliver was apparently hard to say no to.
Politicians at the congressional level know when they are being schmoozed and influenced by the so-called "Mother's Milk" of politics (money and publicity). They rise to power, and know that to hang on to their station in life they must raise millions of dollars to convince the folks back home they are still just like them and are there looking out for their interest. But if people from your hometown are giving you several thousands of dollars each year, and powerful lobbyist like Abramoff are funneling millions of dollars into your campaign war chest, who are you really working for? Their actions say they worked for men like Abramoff, who in turn worked for the highest bidder of his services.
Tribes are not the innocent lambs in the forest they once were. Many of those in gaming have powerful people working for them and dispensing advice in important deliberations.
An analogy with gaming would be with the gambler at the craps table that keeps rolling the dice and coming up a winner every time. Everyone knows the streak has to end someday, but the drive to gain all you can before luck runs out is overwhelming.
The belief that some tribes seeking recognition are fueled by thoughts of blinking casinos pouring millions into once empty pockets is not exactly a false idea. And if someone like Abramoff promises to grease the tracks of opportunity for a hefty price, then what is to stop someone from breaking out their checkbook? But it comes at a price. Nothing is free, everything has consequences and it appears the day of reckoning has now come for quite a few people.
Abramoff is no doubt guilty of bribery and literally swindling millions from Indian people, but everyone from the president of the United States on down to the tribal chairman knew on some level what they were getting into.
Nobody could say no.
This editorial was published by The Native American Times
Tuesday, January 10, 2006