Good report on CBS’60 Minutes on Jack Abramoff, the (in)famous US lobbyist sentenced to 3 and half years in jail for his improprieties during his period of work with Congress. He paints a situation which shows that United States is by no means an example to follow in its entirety when it comes to the integrity of its legislation and Congress’activities, even after reform following Abramoff’s demise was enacted.
Many issues are raised. The most relevant for me? The “best way” to get a congressional office to do his bidding : to offer a staffer a job that could triple his salary! Here is Abramoff:
“When we would become friendly with an office and they were important to us, and the chief of staff was a competent person, I would say or my staff would say to him or her at some point, “You know, when you’re done working on the Hill, we’d very much like you to consider coming to work for us.” Now the moment I said that to them or any of our staff said that to ‘em, that was it. We owned them. And what does that mean? Every request from our office, every request of our clients, everything that we want, they’re gonna do. And not only that, they’re gonna think of things we can’t think of to do.”
So what are we going to do about this? Should we rely on individuals’ best intention or should we strictly regulate “revolving doors” without worrying too much if some talented individuals will not work for the public sector once it will appear less attractive because of this regulation? To me (and actually to the new Abramoff!) the answer is quite easy: right now the costs of such a regulation appear way lower than its advantages.