Unger Report: Indictment Index For those puzzled by the scandal surrounding former lobbyist Jack Abramoff, we offer the "Unger Indictment Index." Regular contributor Brian Unger has this simple guide to help you keep tabs on this -- or really, any -- political scandal.
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Unger Report: Indictment Index

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Unger Report: Indictment Index

Unger Report: Indictment Index

Unger Report: Indictment Index

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For those puzzled by the scandal surrounding former lobbyist Jack Abramoff, we offer the "Unger Indictment Index." Regular contributor Brian Unger has this simple guide to help you keep tabs on this — or really, any — political scandal.

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

Are you having trouble following the story surrounding the indictment of Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff? Not even sure what an influence peddler looks like? Well, you're not alone. Here's Brian Unger with today's "Unger Report."

BRIAN UNGER reporting:

As the storm clouds of scandal once again gather over Washington, what rains down on the citizenry is confusion over who did exactly what to whom. At this point, most people think Abramoff is a Russian vodka, not a political scandal, and who can blame them? Scandals involving campaign finance and influence peddling are more a matrix of criminality than a single illegal act. And, like depression, once you recognize the signs, understanding the causes can be complicated, laborious and time-consuming. Today scandal's intelligent design allows it to operate in the political ether: more gas than solid, hard to detect, tough to explain in a headline or soundbite. Abramoffgate doesn't even sound good.

(Soundbite of music)

UNGER: Makes one hanker for the days of break-ins, burglaries and undercover stings, an audio recording, a ransacked office or even a romp through the tidal basin. Those were physical acts of scandal we could wrap our heads around and eventually hire Hollywood actors to re-create.

(Soundbite of Hollywood production)

Unidentified Woman: All my life, I've lived on other peoples' money. Now I want some of my own.

UNGER: The Abramoff movie? No less insidious a plot but other than the trench coat and fedora, this villain's story is proving to be remarkably untelegenic, mind-numbingly confusing and much longer than "King Kong."

How, then, to inspire public interest or outrage over the corrupt business as usual practices in Washington? The first step is understanding the simple anatomy of scandal courtesy of the Unger Indictment Index. The basis for all scandal begins with scandalous ties to people defined as associates, friends, staffers, deputies, spouses and extramarital romantic interests, former associates, friends, staffers, deputies, spouses and extramarital romantic interests rosters clients, both overseas and domestic, and cousins, who utilize services provided by lobbyists, usually flamboyant, lawmakers, organizations, firms, groups, tribes, operations, webs, networks, partners, franchises, PACs, caucuses, donors, candidates, leaders, peddlers, tinkers and coddlers, who consult, lobby, launder, pay, hire, funnel, fund-raise, promise, broker, conspire, bilk, influence, trade or pressure after receiving or giving money, gifts--always lavish--donations, vacations, favors, referrals, fees, perks, jobs, largesse, hotel rooms, jewelry, box seats and golf trips, golf clubs or any golf paraphernalia that result in official acts, legislation, votes, patterns of activity, indictments, pleas agreements, charges, inquiries, tactics, rebukes and probes that amount to breaches, violations, bribery, money laundering, kickbacks, defrauding, ethical lapses, corruption, misdeeds, evasion from taxes and truth, indictment, censure, impeachment or conviction that in the end require reform. And in a nutshell, that's pretty much the Abramoff affair, in a nutshell, and that is today's "Unger Report." I'm Brian Unger.

BRAND: DAY TO DAY is a production of NPR News with contributions from Slate.com. I'm Madeleine Brand.

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