We know how it works. We know that lobbyists use campaign contributions every day on Capitol Hill to secure legislative favors. But until we had Jack Abramoff and all his emails, did we ever have such an inside view?
AP reports that a series of emails show that "Abramoff's team repeatedly discussed donations as the reason Republican leaders should intervene for the Saginaw." Abramoff's team successfully sought money for the tribe to secure federal school building money.
Here's an email from Abramoff deputy Todd Boulanger:
"The tribes that want this (not just ours) are the only guys who take care of the Rs," Abramoff deputy Todd Boulanger wrote in a June 19, 2002, e-mail to Abramoff and his lobbying team, using "Rs" as shorthand for Republicans.
"We're going to seriously reconsider our priorities in the current lists I'm drafting right now if our friends don't weigh in with some juice. If leadership isn't going to cash in a chit for (easily) our most important project, then they are out of luck from here on out," he wrote, referring to political donation lists.
Both oversaw subcomittees that controlled Interior's budget, and the two lawmakers wrote a letter in May 2003 in an effort to overcome resistance inside Interior's Bureau of Indian Affairs, which was arguing the Saginaw shouldn't qualify for the school program.
A month before the letter, Abramoff's firm threw Taylor a fundraiser on April 11, 2003, that scored thousands of dollars in donations for the lawmaker's campaign, including $2,000 from Abramoff and $1,000 from the Saginaw. The tribe donated $3,000 more to Taylor a month after he sent the letter.
"It memorializes what a lot of people suspect: that money buys access," Charles La Bella, who oversaw a 1990s investigation into Clinton-era fundraising, told the AP, "Politicians, because of the way the system is set up, need money. And money is used as a carrot and a stick by lobbyists to encourage or discourage legislative action."