Over the past few days, politicians -- from President Bush and House Speaker Dennis Hastert on down -- raced to return Abramoff contributions, or compassionately sent the moolah off to charity. There's a scramble to treat him as a wildly defective gene in an otherwise healthy body politic, and to erase the past. But seeing the record of the past clearly is essential to fixing the future.
Abramoff, who used to pall around with close Bush allies Grover Norquist and Ralph Reed in the College Republicans and who has been a central figure in the rise of Republican dominance in Washington, is not a lone wolf. He is a particularly egregious example of how the GOP's political-corporate-lobbying complex has overwhelmed the idealistic wing of the Republican Party.
Now there's no doubt that Abramoff was representative of all that's bad in politics today. And while Media Matters has a point that there has no illegality shown for the Democratic officials who took money from Abramoff's clients (and no money from Abramoff himself), let's make one thing perfectly clear: people give money to politicians because they think politicians will do something in their interest, even those who give money to both parties.
That's why we have to get money out of politics, or at least limit its influence.