Sound like a bad joke? Welcome to the wonderful world of superlobbyist Jack Abramoff. Yesterday, during a Senate hearing looking into Abramoff's lobbying practices with American Indian tribes, Sen. McCain and Sen. Dorgan explored two issues: Abranoff's request to a rabbi for a phony award and the creation of an “international think tank.”
Abramoff's request for the phony award was made to conservative radio host and Rabbi Daniel Lapin. Abramoff's request included asking if Lapin could back date the phony award and make sure that it had a “a sufficiently academic title.” Why did he want the award? So he could fit in at the Cosmo's Club (as Abramoff described in his email to Lapin, the Cosmo’s Club is a "very distinguished club in Washington, DC, comprised of Nobel Prize winners, etc"). And what was Lapin’s response to this seemingly bizarre request? No problem. Lapin wrote “I just need to know what needs to be produced. Letters? Plaques?" Oy vay!
The other issued covered was Abramoff's creation of the American International Center, a so called "think tank" located in the beach resort town of Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. The "think tank" was to be run by two boyhood friends of partner and former DeLay aide Michael Scanlon--Brian Mann, a yoga instructor, and David Grosh, a life guard who also lists on his CV construction worker and bartender. Grosh, who said during the hearing that he was "embarrassed and disgusted to be a part of this whole thing," when asked by reporters why he accepted the job said "it was wintertime in Rehoboth. You need to make rent money."
Missing from the room were the political power players whose names are also getting kicked around this scandal--Ralph Reed and Majority Leader Tom DeLay. As the Washington Post put it:
"There were also the ghosts in the room: Republican activists Ralph
Reed and Grover Norquist (who appeared often in Abramoff's correspondence but who weren't the focus of yesterday's inquiry) and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), a friend of Abramoff's referred to elliptically as an unnamed 'member of Congress.'"
The story also received coverage in The Hill newspaper.