WASHINGTON – As disgraced super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff makes the rounds promoting himself as a campaign finance reformer, he’s being aided by several friendly mainstream journalists and even watchdog groups.
(For full details, check out Abramoff Scandal Secrets: Tribal Confrontation Sparks Journalist Mystery)
Tribal leaders and advocates are left shaking their heads, remembering full well that Abramoff privately said racist things about Indians, calling them “troglodytes,” “morons,” and “monkeys,” while at the same time defrauding tribes of millions of dollars in the late-1990s and early 2000s.
Abramoff and his associate Michael Scanlon also attempted to sell out Indian elders by offering to take out life insurance policies on them. It’s a slight not easily forgotten in Indian country.
Indians and tribal officials are now calling it an injustice for some mainstream news outlets and watchdog groups to be promoting Abramoff as a serious reformer.
“It has been abusive how the mainstream media has sought to resurrect and give him a platform on the backs of Native Americans.” tribal lobbyist Tom Rodgers, a citizen of the Blackfeet Nation, told ICTMN.
Plus, Abramoff has been recently hired by United Republic, a nonprofit electoral reform group, to blog about lobbying and campaign finance reform.
“It is extremely upsetting to the tribes that the good-government groups are trying to leverage his darkness and have not considered how Native Americans feel about them rehabilitating Jack,” Rodgers toldThe Hill newspaper about that development.
Abramoff, meanwhile, has only apologized to Indians through statements to the mainstream press. He has passed on an interview with ICTMN. And he has not met with tribal citizens.
A sincere apology to Indians, Rodgers has said, would involve volunteering on a reservation to help improve the lives of impoverished Indians.
It’s not just Rodgers who sees a problem; several tribal leaders and advocates are now speaking out. Here are a few of their quotes making headlines:
"It's all bullshit,” Rick Hill, former chairman of the National Indian Gaming Association and the Oneida Indian Tribe of Wisconsin, told the Huffington Post after a recent Abramoff appearance at The National Press Club. “You look at Jack—though he took money from my elders and our kids, and now he comes here, and he gets to prop himself up, and it's an acceptable part of D.C. culture. He wouldn't stand a minute on the reservation.
“What he did to the Tiguas in Texas. That community doesn't have anything. He made sure they didn't have anything at the end of the day,” Hill added to HuffPo regarding the Tigua Tribe, which Abramoff defrauded of $4.2 million.
“The names he called us alone says what kind of man he is,” Jay St. Goddard, chairman of the Montana-Wyoming Tribal Leaders Council, told The Hill. “Now he’s lobbying for forgiveness, but he’ll strike again. Coyotes always do.
“These people who want to put him up on a pedestal should be ashamed of themselves,” St. Goddard added in an interview with the newspaper.
"It's business as usual in Washington," Monica Lubiarz-Quigley, a former lawyer for the Saginaw Chippewa Tribe, told HuffPo. "Certainly the tribes and what happened to the tribes seems to be like an 'Oh, well,' and it doesn't surprise me. ... That's how the insiders in Washington see it. They're not terribly concerned with what happened to the tribes. And that's how they got away with it in the first place”
"[Abramoff] might have hurt us, but we've been through this before, we will survive,” Lt. Gov. Carlos Hisa of the Tigua Tribe, toldThe El Paso Times, last December. “We've been here before the United States was even the United States of America. We went through just a lot of rough times and we stand proud and strong."