‘Top Line’ at the Movies – ‘Casino Jack’ and Abramoff’s Wake

By Jonathan Blakely

May 7, 2010 2:51pm

ABC News’ Rick Klein reports: The strange, complex saga of the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal is expertly told in documentary form in the new film “Casino Jack and the United States of Money.” Director Alex Gibney sat down with many of the principals — including former Reps. Tom DeLay and Bob Ney, and (though not on camera for the film) Abramoff himself — to help recount the events that tarnished so much of Washington’s Republican political establishment last decade. On ABC’s “Top Line” today, Gibney told us that, in his judgment, not much has changed in how Washington operates in the four years since Abramoff pleaded guilty to federal fraud and conspiracy charges, in connection with the wide-ranging lobbying operation he’d built. “I think Jack Abramoff is an oversized example of this, but he’s not a bad apple in the sense that he’s peculiar. He’s kind of spectacular, outsized evidence of how rotten is the barrel,” Gibney said. The film reminds viewers of Abramoff’s ties to, among many others, Ralph Reed, Grover Norquist, Karl Rove, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., and former President George W. Bush.  ”I think there’s a concern that some people and their associations with Jack Abramoff will be rediscovered,” Gibney said when asked how his film is being received. “But I hope you know — I hope what people in Washington will take away from this is look, everybody, both sides of the aisle, it’s out of control in terms of this fundraising system. And there are a lot of people who want to do good and they can’t do it because they’re compromised by having to spend all their time raising money.” Abramoff himself initially agreed to appear on-camera in the documentary, but backed out via his lawyers – the result, Gibney said he suspects, of the Department of Justice’s “rather heavy hand of carrots and sticks.” Abramoff is scheduled to be released from prison at the end of this year, and Gibney said to expect a changed man, but not a different man: “He is a fascinating figure. He does seem contrite and in some ways not changed and in some ways changed. I mean I found him to be very charming, good story-teller, very smart. But I think he was humbled by what he’s had to do, which is to serve four years in prison.” Among those who have already served their time is Ney, R-Ohio, who looks fit and tan after being released from prison in August 2008, having served 17 months. When I mentioned on Twitter that we were interviewing Gibney, Ney chimed in on why he decided to cooperate with the filmmaker: “At first I was not going to do it, then I realized Gibney was going for a piece that delivered a message, not just a story,” Ney wrote via Twitter. “Gibney did a good job of putting a complicate story together & leaves the idea that nothing has changed & where do we go from here,” he added. Watch that portion of “Top Line” HERE: We also checked in with Melinda Henneberger of Politics Daily on how the latest economic news is playing out politically, plus the politics of national security after last weekend’s failed terrorist attack in New York City.  Watch that portion of “Top Line” HERE:

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