- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 29, 2006


Fallen lobbyist Jack Abramoff may be persona non grata in official Washington, but plenty of his friends in the outside world are singing his praises in an effort to spare him prison time.

More than 260 friends, relatives and beneficiaries of Abramoff’s largess have written letters to a federal judge who is sentencing him today, asking that he be shown mercy and viewed in a different light.

He was, they said, a champion for the underprivileged who donated much of his riches — even the ill-gotten — to charity; a principled racquetball player who called fouls on himself; a dedicated father who once spent a night searching for a lost hamster.

“Tragically, Mr. Abramoff led two lives — a very flawed and reckless professional life but on the other hand his personal life was dedicated to helping others,” friend Eli W. Schlossberg wrote.

Weighing in with similar letters were dozens of religious leaders as well as a journalist, a couple of lawmakers, military officers and neighbors.

Friend Monty Warner wrote that Abramoff’s glitzy capital restaurant, Signatures, wasn’t just for wining and dining lawmakers or hosting political fundraisers. It also was a place where Abramoff gave free meals and advice to friends down on their luck.

“Jack was the kind of person who would offer his guest a glass of water if a server wasn’t around to do so,” Mr. Warner said, noting that Abramoff always picked up the check as he counseled friends on financial, marital or career problems.

Abramoff and a former colleague each face prison time of just more than seven years when they are sentenced today in Florida. Abramoff faces separate prison time in a corruption case in Washington. He is cooperating with prosecutors investigating suspected corruption in Congress.

Abramoff received a single letter of support from a member of Congress, his longtime friend Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, California Republican.

“Over many years, I’ve known a far different Jack than the profit-seeking megalomaniac portrayed in the press,” Mr. Rohrabacher wrote. “Jack was a selfless patriot for most of the time I knew him.”

A former top Republican official in California’s Assembly, Steve Baldwin, and two military officers were the others with government connections willing to attach their names to letters appearing in Abramoff’s court case.

The letters from average citizens — many from Abramoff’s Orthodox Jewish community — were strewn with references to his generosity, like the time the lobbyist gave $10,000 to a rabbi “overwhelmed by medical bills.”

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