Clad in a gray suit, one of the most infamous men in Washington took his seat Monday afternoon amid a full room of reporters and lobby reformers who he once fought against.
"Jack is someone who doesn't need an introduction, and I won't give him one," says Public Citizen President Robert Weissman.
Fresh out of prison, Abramoff admits he still thinks like a lobbyist. After decades in the profession; even a federal indictment won't change that. [D.C. Corruption Didn't Go Away.]
He hopes, however, to use his mind-set to combat corruption.
"Frankly there was nothing more that I wanted to do then crawl into a hole and not be reading about myself in the paper, not be seeing my name out there on the Internet, and just go away," he says. "Or I could take what I knew and I could think about how could I be helpful...I could find a way when I got out to maybe help create some reform that's meaningful and serious."
It's been nearly eight years since Abramoff's last day as a lobbyist and while he would have never accepted then the reforms he proposes today, Abramoff offers a few suggestions on what should be done to stop the corruption. [Barack Obama: Polarizer-in-Chief.]
He wishes it were illegal for lobbyists or special interests to give money politically, he urges lawmakers and their staffers to stop moving from the public service sector to the influence industry, believes all laws Congress makes should apply to the members of the governing body, and endorses term limits for everyone on the Hill from the congressman to his chief of staff, although he acknowledges that would be tough to do.
"When I was a lobbyist, frankly, I was against [term limits] because once you purchase an office you don't want to have to repurchase that same office down the line."
And while Abramoff addressed many legal bribery tactics he used as well as illegal moves he made, the former lobbyist made sure to share that not every lobbyist out there has bad intentions.
"There aren't 150,000 Jack Abramoffs walking around out there," he says.
Abramoff also offered some insight into three and a half years he spent in prison, describing his 150-square-foot space, which he shared with five others, as a "dreadful place."
Abramoff says that during his first 18 months, he was subjected to brutal treatment by the guards, who were instructed not to speak or even look at what one psychiatrist at the prison described as the "most manipulative person in the world."
At one point, Abramoff spent time in "the hole," a kind of solitary confinement that he shared with one other person due to the overcrowded nature of the prison.
Abramoff says he was one of the only inmates not allowed to attend their parents funerals--his mother died while he was in prison--but says he's thankful he was never assaulted while behind bars. As terrible as it was, Abramoff says, he takes responsibility for his actions.
"I don't think at any point it wasn't I who brought myself to where I went," he says.
As for the future, Abramoff hopes he can help to lend some reform insights. He's promoting his book, writing a few columns here or there.
He owes $44 million in reparations to those he harmed and survives off of the donations from friends and what little income he has coming in. [Why Americans Think Politics Is Corrupt.]
"It's hard to be a felon in America," Abramoff says. "I'm just doing my best to get by."
The man who once claims to have controlled more than 100 offices on the Hill, admits he probably couldn't even get one meeting today with a representative if he tried. He used to give the maximum amount of money he could to candidates he wanted elected and now won't even verbally endorse one for president.
"I try to avoid saying anything positive about any presidential candidate for fear that if I actually like them then I will kill their campaign," Abramoff says.
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