An honest man in Washington?
David Grosh testifying before the Senate Indian Affairs Committee Thursday.
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Diogenes the Cynic is said to have wandered the streets of Athens, searching in vain for an honest man.
Well, we found one -- 2,400 years later. In Washington, of all places.
That's rare enough to qualify for the political Play of the Week.
The setting? A hearing on lobbying activities -- of a highly questionable nature, one witness argued.
"It has become apparent that Jack Abramoff and Mike Scanlon engaged in a consistent pattern of kickbacks, misappropriated funds, payments induced under false pretenses and padded billing," said Donald Kilgore, attorney general of the Choctaw Indian tribe.
The Senate Indian Affairs Committee and a federal task force are investigating whether Abramoff, a former Republican lobbyist with ties to House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, and his business partner Scanlon, bilked several Indian tribes out of millions of dollars while representing their gambling interests.
Three former associates of Abramoff and Scanlon who were summoned to testify took the Fifth.
But not David Grosh.
"I'm embarrassed and disgusted to be part of this whole thing," he told the Senate Indian Affairs Committee Thursday.
What thing? Grosh, a former lifeguard, was approached by his longtime friend, now a high-powered Washington lobbyist.
"'Do you want to be head of an international corporation?'" Grosh said Scanlon asked him.
It was "a hard one to turn down," he noted.
What did the job entail?
"I asked him what I had to do, and he said, 'Nothing,' so that sounded pretty good to me," Grosh said.
What did Grosh get for being head of the American International Center, located in the basement of his house?
No more than $2,500, he said, plus fringe benefits: "We went to a Washington Capitals-Pittsburgh Penguins hockey game."
But apparently others got something out of the American International Center.
"According to Mr. Abramoff, quote, 'I'm going to try to get us $175,000, $100,000 to Ralph, $25,000 to contribution, $5,000 immediately to the Conservative Caucus -- rest, gimme five," Committee Chairman John McCain said, reading from emails released Thursday.
According to the emails, "gimme five" was the name Abramoff and Scanlon gave their kickback and tax evasion scheme.
Grosh decided the whole deal smelled bad.
"When I found out it involved the federal government, Indian tribes and gambling, I knew that it was headed down the wrong way," he said.
An honest man in Washington?
"Got nothing to hide, plain and simple," he said.
Grosh's testimony got him on the front page of the New York Times the next day. Above the fold.
Straight talk! A rarity in Washington. And the political Play of the Week.
Lawyers for Abramoff and his partner claim their clients are being singled out for lobbying activities that are commonplace in Washington.
In other words, it's worse than you imagined.
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