13, 2019The head of a Silicon Valley hedge
fund who became ensnared in a massive college bribery scandal
is stepping down. Manuel Henriquez will be replaced as CEO and
chairman of Hercules Capital in Palo Alto. Henriquez was arrested in
New York City and released on $500,000 bail after a brief appearance
in Manhattan federal court Tuesday.
Jack Abramoff: The
Jack Abramoff, the notorious former lobbyist at the center of
Washington's biggest corruption scandal in decades, spent more than
three years in prison for his crimes. Now a free man, he reveals how
he was able to influence politicians and their staffers through
generous gifts and job offers. He tells Lesley Stahl the reforms
instituted in the wake of his scandal have had little effect.
The following is a script of "The Lobbyist's Playbook" which aired on
Nov. 6, 2011. Lesley Stahl is the correspondent. Ira Rosen, producer.
Jack Abramoff may be the most notorious and crooked lobbyist of our
time. He was at the center of a massive scandal of brazen corruption
and influence peddling.
60 Minutes Overtime
Jack Abramoff: Inside Capitol corruption »
As a Republican lobbyist starting in the mid 1990s, he became a master
at showering gifts on lawmakers in return for their votes on
legislation and tax breaks favorable to his clients. He was so good at
it, he took home $20 million a year.
It all came crashing down five years ago, when Jack Abramoff pled
guilty to corrupting public officials, tax evasion and fraud, and
served three and a half years in prison.
Today he's a symbol of how money corrupts Washington. In our interview
tonight, he opens up his playbook for the first time.
And explains exactly how he used his clients' money to buy powerful
friends and influence legislation.
Jack Abramoff: I was so far into it that I couldn't figure out where
right and wrong was. I believed that I was among the top moral people
in the business. I was totally blinded by what was going on.
Jack Abramoff was a whiz at influencing legislation and one way he did
that was to get his clients, like some Indian tribes, to make
substantial campaign contributions to select members of Congress.
Abramoff: As I look back it was effective. It certainly helped the
people I was trying to help, both the clients and the Republicans at
Lesley Stahl: But even that, you're now saying, was corrupt?
Stahl: Can you quantify how much it costs to corrupt a congressman?
Abramoff: I was actually thinking of writing a book - "The Idiot's
Guide to Buying a Congressman" - as a way to put this all down. First,
I think most congressmen don't feel they're being bought. Most
congressmen, I think, can in their own mind justify the system.
Abramoff: --rationalize it and by the way we wanted as lobbyists for
them to feel that way.
Abramoff would provide freebies and gifts - looking for favors for his
clients in return. He'd lavish certain congressmen and senators with
access to private jets and junkets to the world's great golf
destinations like St. Andrews in Scotland. Free meals at his own
upscale Washington restaurant and access to the best tickets to all
the area's sporting events; including two skyboxes at Washington
Abramoff: I spent over a million dollars a year on tickets to sporting
events and concerts and what not at all the venues.
Stahl: A million dollars?
Abramoff: Ya. Ya.
Stahl: For the best seats?
Abramoff: The best seats. I had two people on my staff whose virtual
full-time job was booking tickets. We were Ticketmaster for these
Stahl: And the congressman or senator could take his favorite people
from his district to the game--
Abramoff: The congressman or senator uh, could take two dozen of his
favorite people from their district.
Stahl: Was all that legal?
Abramoff: We would certainly try to make the activity legal, if we
could. At times we didn't care.
But the "best way" to get a congressional office to do his bidding -
he says - was to offer a staffer a job that could triple his salary.
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.
Neil Volz: Jack Abramoff could sweet talk a dog off a meat truck,
that's how persuasive he was.
Neil Volz was one of the staffers Abramoff was talking about. He was
chief of staff to Congressman Bob Ney, who as chairman of the House
Administration Committee had considerable power to dispense favors.
Abramoff targeted Volz and offered him a job.
Stahl: You're the chief of staff of a powerful congressman. And Jack
owns you and you haven't even left working for the congressman.
Volz: I have the distinct memory of, you know, negotiating with Jack
at a hockey game. So we're, you know, just a few rows back. The
crowd's goin' crazy. And Jack and I are havin' a business
conversation. And, you know, I'm-- I'm wrestlin' with how much I think
I should get paid. And then five minutes later we're-- he's askin' me
questions about some clients of his.
Stahl: When you look back was that the corrupting moment?
Volz: I think we were guilty of engaging in a corrupt relationship. So
there were several corrupting moments. There isn't just one moment.
There were many.
Abramoff: At the end of the day most of the people that I encountered
who worked on Capitol Hill wanted to come work on K Street, wanted to
Stahl: You're telling me this, the genius of figuring out you could
own the office by offering a job to the chief of staff, say. I'm
having two reactions. One is brilliant. And the other is I'm sick to
Abramoff: Right. Evil. Yeah. Terrible.
Stahl: 'Cause it's hurting our country.
Abramoff: Shameful. Absolutely. It's the worst thing that could
happen. All parts of the system.
Stahl: I'm mad at you.
Abramoff: I was mad at me--
Stahl: I'm not kidding. I'm not kidding.
Abramoff: Look I did things and I was involved in the system I should
not have been in. I'm ashamed of the fact I was there, the very reason
why now I'm speaking about it. And now I'm trying to do something, in
recompense, is the fact that I thought it was-- it was wrong of me to
One of the offices he keyed on was that of his good friend, the
Majority Leader Tom Delay, eventually hiring his deputy chief of staff
and his press secretary, and going into business with Delay's chief of
Stahl: Did you own his staff?
Abramoff: I was as close to his staff as to any staff. I had a very
strong personal relationship with a lot of his staff.
Stahl: How many congressional offices did you actually own?
Abramoff: We probably had very strong influence in 100 offices at the
Stahl: Come on.
Stahl: A hundred offices?
Abramoff: In those days, I would view that as a failure. Because that
leaves 335 offices that we didn't have strong influence in.
Stahl: Did he own you?
Bob Ney: Oh, I don't believe Jack Abramoff owned me. But were we
involved in the culture of corruption together? Absolutely.
Former Republican Congressman Bob Ney was ambitious and looked at
Abramoff as a way to build alliances with the White House and the
Ney: I wanted to be speaker of the House and Jack Abramoff was the
beautiful light of day for me to get to the person who I had had some
conflicts with, Tom Delay.
Abramoff began inviting Ney on golf trips including one to Scotland
and to his restaurant Signatures, where Ney was given food and drinks
on the house, a violation of the congressional gift limit laws. Ney
says he was hardly the only one crossing the line.
Ney: But I will still tell you, at that point in time, in order to get
a drink at Signatures you had to shove White House staffers of George
Bush the heck away from the bar. And it was packed with people. And
there were members. Now that doesn't mean everybody did everything for
Jack. But if you wanna talk about strict interpretation of violation
of the-- of-- of the laws of drink and food, Katey bar the door, she
was wide open, two shotguns blarin'.
After months of taking handouts, Ney was approached by Neil Volz, his
former chief of staff, by then a lobbyist for Abramoff.
Volz: I let you down man and I'm sorry...
Volz asked Ney to insert some language into a reform bill that would
give a backdoor license to an Indian casino owned by one of Abramoff's
clients. You often hear about lobbyists getting special secret deals
for their clients like this. It's an insidious technique that Abramoff
Abramoff: So what we did was we crafted language that was so obscure,
so confusing, so uninformative, but so precise to change the U.S.
Stahl: Here's what you tried to get tacked on to this reform bill.
Stahl: "Public law 100-89 is amended by striking section 207 (101
stat. 668, 672)."
Abramoff: Right. Now isn't that obvious what that means? It was
perfect. It was perfect.
Stahl: So that's what you tried to get inserted?
Stahl: And that was gonna provide for a casino?
Stahl: And who on earth is gonna know that?
Abramoff: No one except the chairmen of the committees.
Stahl: Who stuck it in there?
Stahl: And that's one of the things you used to do?
Stahl: And it was deliberately written like that?
Abramoff: Precisely. Yes.
Stahl: And that's done a lot?
Abramoff: Members don't read the bills.
Stahl: You didn't even know what it was for?
Ney: Had no idea. And then when we got the written language--
Stahl: Well-- why didn't you know what it was for?
Ney: I didn't-- I didn't care.
Ney: It was a great big shell game. And I was in the middle of it,
whether, you know, knowing or not. I-- I was dumb enough to not say,
"What's this thing do?"
Ney would eventually serve 17 months in federal prison, the only
congressman who was ever charged in the scandal. But Abramoff says
that there were many other members that did his bidding that could
have been charged.
Stahl: Was buying favors from lawmakers easy?
Abramoff: I think people are under the impression that the corruption
only involves somebody handing over a check and getting a favor. And
that's not the case. The corruption, the bribery, call it, because
ultimately that's what it is. That's what the whole system is.
Stahl: The whole system's bribery?
Abramoff: In my view. I'm talking about giving a gift to somebody who
makes a decision on behalf of the public. At the end of the day,
that's really what bribery is. But it is done everyday and it is still
being done. The truth is there were very few members who I could even
name or could think of who didn't at some level participate in that.
Abramoff prided himself on being a man who did good. He was devoutly
religious and exorbitantly charitable and he says he gave away 80
percent of his earnings. When he fell from grace, his reputation was
in tatters because it was not just that he had corrupted Congress - it
was found he had cheated his clients, like the Indian tribes.
Abramoff: Most of the money I made I gave away, to either communal or
charitable causes. So I thought frankly I was one of the most moral
lobbyists out there.
Things began to unravel for Abramoff when the Washington Post
published a largely unflattering portrait of him in 2004, reporting
that he charged his clients 10 times more than any other lobbyist in
Abramoff: My first response was, "What's the big deal? I don't
understand what this is about. This is what lobbyists do.
What he didn't understand was the part that said he and a former aide
to Tom Delay had overbilled four of his Indian casino clients by $45
In the end, he was brought up on federal charges of tax evasion and
ripping off Indian tribes. On the day he went to court and pled
guilty, Abramoff looked grim. The judge sentenced him to four years.
Stahl: I really think what you were doing was-- was subverting the
essence of our system.
Abramoff: Yes. Absolutely right. But our system is flawed and has to
be fixed. Human beings populate our system. Human beings are weak.
Stahl: And you preyed on that?
Abramoff: I did. I was one of many who did. I did. And I'm ashamed of
He was sent to a medium security facility in Cumberland, Maryland.
When he was released last June, he began working as an accountant at a
kosher pizza parlor. Turns out Jack Abramoff was broke, partly because
he is paying off nearly $24 million in restitution to the Indian
tribes. Today he lives in his old house in Maryland with his wife,
five children and the two doberman pinschers Mrs. Abramoff bought to
protect the family while he was away.
After the scandal, Congress instituted a package of reforms, making
what Abramoff did - like plying members of Congress with free
expensive meals - illegal. But he doesn't see the new reforms as being
Abramoff: The reform efforts continually are these faux-reform efforts
where they'll change, they'll tweak the system. They'll say, "You can
have a meal with a congressman if they're standing up, not sitting
Stahl: Is that serious? Or are you joking?
Abramoff: Oh no, I'm not joking at all.
Stahl: So, it's okay if you pay for lunch as long as you stand up?
Abramoff: Well, it's actually worse than that. You can't take a
congressman to lunch for $25 and buy him a hamburger or a steak of
something like that. But you can take him to a fundraising lunch and
not only buy him that steak, but give him $25,000 extra and call it a
fundraiser. And have all the same access and all the same interaction
with that congressman. So the people who make the reforms are the
people in the system.
Stahl: Could you do the same thing today? I'm asking you whether you
think the system's been cleaned up?
Abramoff: Could do the same thing that I? Yeah. No, the system hasn't
been cleaned up at all.
Stahl: At all.
Abramoff: There's an arrogance on the part of lobbyists, and certainly
there was on the part of me and my team, that no matter what they come
up we, we're smarter than they are and we'll overcome it. We'll just
find another way through. That's all.
He says the most important thing that needs to be done is to prohibit
members of Congress and their staff from ever becoming lobbyists in
Abramoff: If you make the choice to serve the public, public service,
then serve the public, not yourself. When you're done, go home.
Washington's a dangerous place. Don't hang around.
Former Congressman Bob Ney now works part-time as a radio host.
His former chief of staff Neil Volz is currently working as a night
janitor at a Florida restaurant.
And Jack Abramoff has written a memoir called "Capitol Punishment."
A sub-investigation of
The Department of Energy Scandal
- Federal bribes are never clean. They always become complicated
because of the "I want some too" factor
- The transactions, and documented quid pro quo, not only qualify for,
but exceed, the requirements for Federal Racketeering
- When an adjacent entity finds out there is a bribe going on, they
can use the knowledge of the bribe to extort sub-bribes
- Crook One = Billionaire campaign backers who were investors in
Google, Tesla and "CleanTech"
- Crook Two = DNC and Presidential campaign office
- Crook 2.5 = The Obama White House
- Crook Three = Goldman Sachs
- Crook Four+ = Aligned Silicon Valley Venture Capital Groups
- Crook Five+ = Russian investors
- Crook Six+ = General Motors, Ford, Nissan and Chrysler working as a
- Payola item 1 = Free NASA jet fuel, NASA partial agency closure and
exclusive private supplier contracts to Space X, NASA Ames airport
exclusive hand-over for Google & billionaire jets as payback for
- Payola item 2 = Exclusive free federal taxpayer cash from Department
of Energy in spite of low credit ratings and failing reviews in actual
side-by-side comparisons of ALL applicants
- Payola item 3 = Exclusive tax credits, exclusive carbon credits,
exclusive factory fee discounts, exclusive employee tax
waivers, and land discounts from state underwritten by feds
- Payola item 4 = First position in federal contract allocations
- Payola item 5 = Real estate discounts and ongoing revenue upsides
from contiguous Tesla/Solyndra real estate and pass-along leases which
Senator Feinstein's family exploited
- Payola item 6 = Loans by Billonaire campaign backers who were
investors in Google, Tesla and "CleanTech" to Senators campaign PACs
- Payola item 7 = Loans by Billonaire campaign backers who were
investors in Google, Tesla and "CleanTech" to DNC and Presidential
campaign office campaign PACs and funds via conduited means
- Payola item 8 = Payments of campaign bills by Billionaire campaign
backers who were investors in Google, Tesla and "CleanTech via
- Payola item 9 = Provision of Search Engine manipulation, mood
manipulation and competing interest web-search deletion on Silicon
Valley global web architecture
- Payola item 10 = Sex workers as deal incentives
- Payola item 11 = Provision of federal funds and filings in a manner
intended to be used for, and which were used to alter SEC securities
filings, aligned with manipulated news distribution by insiders in
order to defraud the stock market and falsify stock values for
personal profit relative to Tesla, Solyndra, Abound, Fisker and
- Payola item 12 = The service, provided by the Department of Energy,
whereby all competitors to the stock portfolios of the Billonaire
campaign backers who were investors in Google, Tesla and "CleanTech"
were terminated, stone-walled and review-manipulated by the actions of
the Department of Energy
- Payola item 13 = Revolving door jobs for White House and DOE staff
in exchange for favorable federal decisions
- Payola item 14 = Custom authored white-papers by McKinsey
Consulting, the content of which was directed by Billionaire campaign
backers, who were investors in Google, Tesla and "CleanTech, and
Steven Chu, Steven Spinner and Matt Rogers, who then became the heads
of the DOE funding. These White Papers were distributed to the White
House and Congress by lobbyists working for the Billionaire campaign
backers who were investors in Google, Tesla and "CleanTech". The
white-papers were constructed in order to give a false impression of
Clean-tech and happened to favor only the stock investments of
Billionaire campaign backers, who were investors in Google, Tesla and
"CleanTech". The manipulated white-papers were used to sell Congress,
via contrived data, on plans beneficial only to the Billionaire
campaign backers, who were investors in Google, Tesla and "CleanTech
- Payola item 15 = Possible terminations. An inordinately large number
of individuals connected to this bribe died during this event. All of
the deaths were unexpected, untimely, non-indicated by current medical
conditions and game-changing by ironically reducing the risk of
exposure in most of the cases
- Payola item 16 = Orders by White House staff, to DOJ, SEC & FBI
to "leave this matter alone for now". Ordered failure-to-enforce
- Payola item 17 = Senior position Jobs at DOE and DOJ
- Payola item 18 = Lack of review, "don't observe" process as
Solyndra, Abound, Fisker, etc. were immediately failing. Orders to
avoid noticing the failures in order to cover up campaign negatives
- Payola item 19 = Down-favoring of non portfolio and competing
technologies by the Department of Energy via Steven Chu, thus removing
them from support and off the playing field