Could Jack Abramoff come back? A look at other Beltway felons who rebounded into the game
Could Jack come back -- to Washington?
Now that he's wrapped up his three-and-a-half-year stint in federal custody, we might wonder what's next for Jack Abramoff. On the one hand: The disgraced lobbyist's fortune is gone, his clout evaporated, his reputation in tatters. On the other hand: He's only 52. And history shows that more than one Beltway felon has rebounded in the business that landed him in trouble in the first place. (Hey, don't hate the playa, hate the game.)
For every Chuck Colson (the Nixon aide who devoted himself to prison ministry after his Watergate prison term) or Bob Ney (Abramoff's congressional crony, who has retreated into Tibetan Buddhism studies since his release), there's a Marvin Mandel: The former Maryland governor emerged from prison to become a respected wise man of state politics. (It helped that his mail fraud/racketeering conviction was later overturned.) At 90, he's still practicing law and sitting on boards and commissions.
There is also, less successfully thus far, ex-Rep.James Traficant, who got right back up on the horse after he finished doing his time for political corruption in 2009. He did not win his old House seat back last month -- but he tried!
And many others try. After all, politics is what they know -- can you blame them for going back? Assuming they ever really gave it up: Former representative Randy "Duke" Cunningham has been writing his old House colleagues from behind bars to advocate for prison reform. "Maybe that's why God put me here," he told a San Diego paper this year.
For lobbyist Bruce Bereano, it helped that he was able to continue working while in a halfway house and home detention for 10 months in the late '90s. Within a couple of years after his release, he was again one of Annapolis's top lobbyists. How did he do it?
"It's all attitude," Bereano told us. "You realize, there is a lot of life ahead of you, there's a reason to live and be a productive member of society."
He said his conviction on mail fraud taught him how to deal with adversity -- and who his real friends were. ("I was very overwhelmed and blessed.") Starting anew wasn't easy: "When you walk in a room, people are going to whisper about you. But don't let it get you unfocused."
Are we forgetting someone? Oh, right -- what about a certain former mayor-for-life? How did he do it? Marion Barry told us it's all about being reflective while doing your time.
"Read a lot, pray a lot, don't count the days, be prepared for possible embarrassment and don't let it break your spirit. Come out ready and fresh to do what you want to do."
He sure did: After serving six months in the federal pen for cocaine possession, he came out in 1992 and won back a D.C. Council seat that same year. Two years later, he was reelected mayor. He said the best thing he did, despite his fears, was to show up at a UDC convocation shortly after his release. "Don't be afraid," he told us. "Just do it. Develop the courage. Those who do it succeed. Those who don't, don't. That's my advice."
Abramoff's lawyer did not return a call to discuss his client's plans.
The Reliable Source
| December 16, 2010; 12:00 AM ET
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