The Common Good
March 2006

Arresting Developments

by Ed Spivey Jr. | March 2006

Apparently, 'a-wassailing' means 'meeting with my lawyers.'

Setting a high moral tone for the coming year, elected officials have extended the traditional Christmas spirit by spontaneously contributing thousands of dollars to charity. Admittedly, most of the money was from confessed criminal lobbyist Jack Abramoff, but this should not detract from the fact that members of Congress wanted to send a powerful message of charity to the American people, many of whom might one day serve on their juries.

Abramoff was first to get things started when he returned from a Christmas season spent a-wassailing (an Old English phrase that means “meeting with my lawyers”) and announced that his New Year’s resolution is to fully cooperate with federal prosecutors in their probe of bribery and influence peddling on Capitol Hill. In pleading guilty to numerous felony counts, he left many members of Congress trembling with, I’m guessing, admiration. Anyway, they were trembling.

Abramoff voluntarily appeared in court after his lawyers patiently explained that his career was similar to—but not nearly as pleasant as—toast.

Thus, Abramoff stood before a judge, wearing the best suit Native American casino money can buy, and pleaded for leniency. (Note: Since one of the charges against him is under-reporting income on his tax forms, he will no doubt be declaring the cost of that suit at, say, $6 million or so, if he can just find the receipt. Unfortunately, Abramoff also forgot to write off some of his other legitimate purchases, such as the House of Representatives.)

Among the charges to which Abramoff admitted guilt are tax evasion, corruption, bribery, and, most seriously, giving the word “scoundrel” a bad name.

A chastened Abramoff told the judge: “I just want to say that words will not ever be able to express my sorrow and my profound regret for all my actions and mistakes.” (Translation: “Since words can’t express my sorrow to you, your honor, how about a new car?”) He went on to add, “For all my remaining days, I will feel tremendous sadness and regret for what I have done. I only hope that I can merit forgiveness from the Almighty and from those I have wronged or caused to suffer.” (Translation: “This is gonna hurt, isn’t it?”)

Attempts at contacting the Almighty were not successful, but a spokesperson from the other side of the aisle—Satan—admitted that he was unprepared for the severity of Abramoff’s crimes. “We’re having to completely rethink what to do with this guy. I mean, he’s really lowered the bar, and frankly I’m starting to worry about my job. He’s just too good. I mean…bad.”

After his multiple guilty pleas in Washington, D.C., Abramoff then flew to Miami to plead guilty to defrauding lenders during the purchase of 20 casino boats. For the sake of fairness, it’s still not clear whether Abramoff wanted the boats to help victims of Hurricane Katrina or—more likely—he planned to board each boat with a Bible in one hand and a whip in the other and personally drive out the gamblers and charlatans that had turned these humble crafts into floating pleasure palaces of sin. HALLELUJAH!

Despite his many legal troubles, there was a bright spot. A judge recently cleared Abramoff of suspicion in the gangland-style murder of his Florida business partner, a move that should help establish the strength of his moral character when it comes time for sentencing. Legal experts confirmed that judges usually go a little easier on defendants who don’t kill people gangland-style.

Reportedly, Abramoff’s greatest crime was bribing members of Congress. But frankly, who among us could turn down one of his all-expenses-paid golfing trips to Scotland where, against the backdrop of the beautiful mist-shrouded coasts, one pictures Tom DeLay complaining loudly that his slice is still just as bad as it was on that crummy public course next to the landfill in East Texas. (DeLay: “How can I concentrate on my drive with ALL THIS MIST!?”)

Washington pundits are now saying that, because of his involvement in the scandals, DeLay’s political career is DeFunct, and he may even have trouble resuming his old job as exterminator back home in Texas. Others disagree, saying that DeLay is now even more qualified to clear out a house full of vermin. “What self-respecting pest would want to be in the same room as this guy?”

Meanwhile, in an effort to reform themselves and regain the public trust, elected officials from both parties have enrolled in ethics classes which, among other things, teach the difference between a gift and a bribe. (Answer: It depends on how gullible the judge is.) The class also employs the use of flash cards printed with new words like “integrity,” “honesty,” and “minimizing prison time.”

Ed Spivey Jr. is art director of Sojourners.

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