Saturday, January 28, 2006

The Truth, The Whole Truth and Nothing But the Truth

The title makes little sense. Neither does what it refers to: the way prominent pundits keep arguing that the Abramoff scandal is bipartisan. The American Prospect commissioned a study of the actual Indian tribes donations to Democrats and Republicans, both before they had Abramoff as their lobbyist, and after. The study also compared the donations of Indian tribes who did not employ Abramoff with the donations of those who did. The conclusion of the analysis was this:

"If you're going to make the case that this is a bipartisan scandal, you have to really stretch the imagination," says Morris. "Most individual tribes were predominantly Democratic givers through the last decade. Only Abramoff's clients switched dramatically from largely Democratic to overwhelmingly Republican donors, and that happened only after he got his hands on them."

Yet this is what we heard just yesterday from a mainstream media pundit:

From the January 27 edition of NBC's Today:

LAUER: Howard Dean was on this program yesterday and asserted, basically, that it is a Republican scandal. Let me play you a clip.

DEAN [video clip]: It is a Republican-financed scandal. Not one dime of money from Jack Abramoff ever went to any Democrat. Not one dime.

LAUER: Katie pressed him on that, and then we -- we did some research. We went to the Center for Responsive Politics and we found out that, technically speaking, Howard Dean may be correct. But here's what we found: that 66 percent of the money in this situation went to Republicans, but 34 percent of the money -- not from Abramoff, but from his associates and clients -- went to Democrats.

"Technically correct"! Indian tribes have donated money to the Democratic party for years. Then Abramoff enters the picture, and the tribes which employ him start largely donating money to the Republican party, though they still give something to the Democrats, too. And this is a bipartisan scandal? Except in the "technically correct sense"? I need to bang my head against the garage wall. Excuse me for a moment.

Then there is the real scandal of this whole scandal: That we are all discussing calmly how much influence money can buy in a system that is supposed to be a democracy.