By Justin Sink - 12/08/11 12:54 PM EST
Disgraced former lobbyist Jack Abramoff hit Republican presidential front-runner Newt Gingrich for his claims that he did no lobbying on behalf of the mortgage and healthcare companies that paid him millions in consulting fees, calling the system of providing “strategic advice” corrupt.
“I don’t want to say he’s lying — he may believe what he’s saying — but people have to understand that lobbying isn’t just going to meet with members,” Abramoff said.
Abramoff served more than three years in prison following a conviction for corruption and fraud stemming from gifts he provided in exchange for votes to benefit American Indian tribes and casinos.
“I just want to emphasize this: I did no lobbying, I did not reach out to Capitol Hill,” Gingrich said last month. “I was not directly engaged in that way. I gave them advice on what they could do. But I’m not in the business of lobbying, period.”
But Abramoff accused Gingrich of profiting from his public service.
“I think the point is that Newt and others like him — he’s not alone at this, they call themselves strategic advisers — but they want to cash in on their public service,” Abramoff said.
He also advocated eliminating the ability of members to join lobbying firms once leaving Congress, while taking a swipe at Gingrich.
“Close the revolving door between public service and cashing in entirely, not this delay, not this ‘I’m going to be a strategic adviser, or a history professor,’ or whatever the euphemism of the day is going to be,” Abramoff said. Gingrich was a history professor before he joined Congress.
Later in the interview, Abramoff sympathized with former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D), who was sentenced Wednesday to 14 years in federal prison on his own corruption charges. Blagojevich was accused of attempting to sell an appointment to President Obama’s former U.S. Senate seat.
“Having served in prison, I agree, I don’t like to see anyone go to prison, especially for that long,” Abramoff said.
“My heart goes out to him, I can’t help but feel pain.”