I’m a little startled that the newest blogger for Atlantic.com (Atlantic Monthly Magazine) is Jack Abramoff, the corruption-selling lobbyist, now out of prison. But, from experience, he knows some things the rest of us can mostly only speculate about and if he’s willing to level, I’m willing to read. He’s off to a good start with his first post in which he says flatly that campaign contributions and other gifts to members of Congress are intended to be bribes and function as bribes although, according to Abramoff, both the giver and receiver denies in their own minds that this is so. Writes Abramoff:
“During the years I was lobbying, I purveyed millions of my own and clients’ dollars to congressmen, especially at … decisive moments. I never contemplated that these payments were really just bribes, but they were. Like most dissembling Washington hacks, I viewed these payments as legitimate political contributions, expressions of my admiration of and fealty to the venerable statesman I needed to influence.
“Outside our capital city (and its ever-prosperous contiguous counties), the campaign contributions of special interests are rightly seen as nothing but bribes. The purposeful dissonance of the political class enables congressmen to accept donations and solemnly recite their real oath of office: My vote is not for sale for a mere contribution. They are wrong. Their votes are very much for sale, only they don’t wish to admit it. The reason they don’t feel they are being bought is that the interaction seems so normal. In fact, were they not public servants, it would be very normal.
“In polite society, we want to create indebtedness and gratitude. These are the sensations that build great civilizations. When I do something nice for you, unless you are a jerk, you feel some gratitude and try, in some way, to reciprocate. One kindness breeds another. That’s what we should all desire.
“The human soul does not permit us to leave our debts unpaid, and gratitude is the minimal sensation of repayment a normal person can provide. This is all fine for normal society, but when the recipient of kindness and administrator of gratitude is a public servant, the otherwise positive relationship dynamic becomes negative and venal.
“When a public servant has a debt to someone seeking a favor from the government, the foundation of our government is at risk. Each time a lobbyist or special interest makes a political contribution to a public servant, a debt is created. Lobbyists are very adept at collecting these debts. Unfortunately, the true debtor on these obligations is the American people. In a very real way, congressmen who take contributions from lobbyists and special interests are selling our nation to repay their debts of gratitude. That is the price of their votes and offices — and it must stop.”