A CLOCKWORK ORANGE

Meanwhile, during one three-year period, Abramoff took in $82 million in lobbying and public relations fees from six Indian tribes -- and lived to brag about overbilling the tribes. He's being investigated for that, too. And once again Rohrabacher is rushing to his defense.

"Jack replaced a lot of lobbyists who had made money in the past treating the Indians as incompetents," Rohrabacher reportedly said, adding that even though "it's clear that greed played a role in this . . . I've seen nothing that wasn't done 100 times more when the Democrats were in charge. This is standard operating procedure."

I'll tell you what's SOP: the they-did-it-so-we-can-do-it-too defense. Works around Washington every time.

Rohrabacher has so stridently defended Abramoff that good-government blogger Ellen Miller has included Dana as one of The Abramoff 6. Other teammates are Reps. DeLay, Bob Ney (R-Ohio), Conrad Burns (R-Montana), Dave Vitter (R-Louisiana) and Tom Feeney (R-Florida).

So slimy are Rohrabacher's ties to Abramoff that even Fox News -- let that sink in: FOX NEWS!!! -- has weighed in, citing Dana as among a close-knit group of three congressmen who enjoyed island vacations bought and paid for by Abramoff's lobbying team.

Additional unwanted attention came April 12 when the New York Times revealed that Federal Elections Commission reports and separate records in Texas disclosed that DeLay PACs and campaign committees have paid DeLay's wife and daughter more than $500,000 since 2001. The habit of paying family members for campaign work was common among the Abramoff 6: FEC records show Rhonda Carmony, Rohrabacher's wife, is still pulling down $40,000 a year as his campaign manager. According to those reports, she has been receiving bi-weekly payments of $1,169.85 since the conclusion of his last campaign in 2004. She is the only "staffer" still drawing a salary, and the only one that we know of who has borne Rohrabacher triplets.

* * *

So how'd these two crazy kids -- Rohrabacher and Abramoff -- get together? You have to go way back to the earliest Reagan White House years. Fresh from writing right-wing/libertarian opinion pieces for what was then called the Santa Ana Register, Rohrabacher got a gig as a speechwriter for Reagan. He was sort of the cool, idolized older brother to younger men in the College Republicans/Youth for Reagan/Young Americans for Freedom crowd. He was on the phone one day in 1983 with Youth for Reagan buddy Jack Wheeler, who was back home in Malibu after several world travels as a self-styled adventurer, when Wheeler mentioned that "a spontaneous outbreak of revolts in the Soviet colonies" was in progress and that nobody had grasped its potential. Properly nurtured, he told Rohrabacher, such revolts could destroy the Evil Empire's "very core."

"There was silence for several seconds," Wheeler later recounted to a magazine writer. "Then Dana said, 'Nobody here where I work has ever said anything like that before.'"

Rohrabacher urged Wheeler to book a flight to Washington and begin studying "these people fighting the Soviets." With funding from the libertarian Reason Foundation, Wheeler set off to visit anti-communist insurrections. After six months among the Nicaraguan contras, Afghan mujahedin, and African rebels, he landed at Washington's National Airport, where Rohrabacher picked him up and drove him straight to the Old Executive Office Building. It was during Wheeler's subsequent meetings with Reagan officials that the term "freedom fighters" was born. It was also the birth of the Reagan Doctrine.

Jack Hume was one of Reagan's informal advisers at the time, a central California millionaire who made his fortune as the world's largest processor of dehydrated onions and garlic. He leveraged his wealth to become part of a small coterie of conservative Californians who backed Ronald Reagan -- encouraged his entry into public life, hired political polishers, bankrolled his campaigns. Years later, during a meeting at the Reagan White House with Lew Lehrman, four years removed from his partnership with George W. Bush in the failed Texas oil operation Arbusto, Lehrman and Hume founded Citizens for America (CFA) to sell the public on Reagan's pet projects, among them Star Wars and the savage terror campaign to topple the Nicaraguan government. Lehrman was CFA's first chairman. (He would later go on to lose bids to become Reagan's treasury secretary -- because of his insistence that America return to the gold standard -- and New York's governor -- because he was not Mario Cuomo. Lehrman is now a big wig at the right-wing Heritage Foundation.)

In 1985, while Congress was debating aid to the Nicaraguan contras, CFA officials flew with Reagan's blessing to Angola to organize international terrorists from four countries the Democratic International. Attendees included Jonas Savimbi, head of UNITA (the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola, then supported by the CIA and South Africa's apartheid government); Adolfo Calero, leader of the 15,000-man terrorist army called the Nicaraguan Democratic Force; Ghulam Wardak of the Islamic Unity of Afghanistan Mujahedeen, then fighting the Soviet Red Army; and Pa Kao Her of the Ethnic Liberation Organization of Laos.

The White House point man on the deal was none other than Dana Rohrabacher, with heavy lifting from two young Republicans/future powerful lobbyists: Grover Norquist and Jack Abramoff.

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