Monday, January 23, 2006

# Posted 11:24 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THIS ROUND IN THE ABRAMOFF DEBATE GOES TO THE LEFT: Following up on my previous post, I've done a brief and highly unscientific survey of online opinion about "directed" contributions.

First of all, there is a degree of implicit confusion about the word 'directed'. Mark Schmitt of TPM Cafe takes 'directed' to mean that Abramoff actively suggested donating money to specific Democrats. Schmitt then deconstructs some evidence Deborah Howell cited in order to show that that's what Abramoff did.

Brad DeLong, also of TPM, takes a different approach, asking whether Abramoff's influence resulted in his clients giving more or less money to Democratic candidates. He says less, citing this passage from the Feb. 22, 2004 edition of the WaPo:
"Under Abramoff's guidance, the four tribes -- Michigan's Saginaw Chippewas, the Agua Caliente of California, the Mississippi Choctaws and the Louisiana Coushattas... have loosened their traditional ties to the Democratic Party, giving Republicans two-thirds of the $2.9 million they have donated to federal candidates since 2001, records show..." [No link]
In other words, DeLong is arguing that it makes no sense to say Abramoff directed his clients' money toward Democratic legislators when actually he was directing it away from them. (See here for a related point.)

But did Abramoff want his clients to give nothing to Democrats, or did he simply want to divert the majority of funds to Republicans? If Abramoff wanted some of the money -- in the neighboorhood of $1 million -- to stay with the Democrats, is that a form of direction? This, I think is where the issue breaks down into semantics.

Which returns me to one of my original questions about this whole subject: Isn't the real issue whether there was a quid pro quo given in exchange for donations from Abramoff's clients, regardless of whether the recipient was a Republican or a Democrat?

The political logic of the moment is that anyone who got any money from Abramoff's clients is somehow dirty. And if anyone got money from Abramoff personally, they must be really dirty. But this is a form of guilt by association. I'd prefer to figure out who actually did favors in exchange for the cash.

Of course, the problem is also with system. Presumably, whichever lobbyist worked for the Abramoff's tribes before in the 1990s 'directed' them to give millions of dollars to Democrats. Should we assume that nothing was expected in exchange for such support?

Finally, I know I haven't gotten around to any right-of-center arguments about this subject. I looked on Instapundit and Power Line and a couple others but didn't turn up anything too good. You can provide links (i.e. not full text) below if you have any recommendations.
(2) opinions -- Add your opinion

One of the explanations I've read (how accurate remains up in the air) explaining the shift from donations by the tribes from Democrats to Republicans was that the initial donations were to first secure the right or ability of the tribes to build or operate the casinos.

At that time, Democrats were the initial supporters of having this "right" by the tribes. Republicans for the most part were either sitting it out or opposed to expanding gambling.

Once that ability or right by the tribes to run the casinos had been created, the new concern by the tribes was to prevent or limit government oversight/regulations of the operations.

And so the donations shifted from the Democrats to the Republicans.

What's Choctaw for "laissez fair les bon temp rouler?"
I suspect that the right-wing weblogs will stay quiet. There are two lines of cleavage here: left-right and paper-electrons. And right-wing weblogs' primary allegiance is to electrons...
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