Still lobbying?

John McCaslin
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Posted: Mar 14, 2006 9:05 AM

"Please do not share this e-mail or forward it to anyone. I have sent it (to) a limited number of friends and hope you will honor this request. Thanks."

So reads a Sunday-night missive received (that much we can confirm) by an acquaintance of disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff (requesting anonymity, we can tell you the recipient is a high-profile politico in Washington who, given the lobbying atmosphere these days, smartly washed his hands of the correspondence and forwarded it to The Beltway Beat).

"My dear friends," it reads, "I am saddened and embarrassed to have to write to you under these circumstances and hope that you will forgive my not calling, as unfortunately the matter is urgent, and (as you will see) I must reach out to as many friends as possible very quickly . . .

"As you may have seen in the recent press accounts, the judge on my case in Florida has denied the motion of the government and my attorneys to have my sentencing delayed until after I have completed my cooperation with the government. Since that period may take a few years, the judge did not want to leave the matter hanging and set March 29, 2006, as the date of sentencing.

"While the judge is unlikely to incarcerate me while I am still cooperating, the sentence he imposes will have a direct bearing on a possible more sympathetic re-sentencing when my cooperation has ended," it explains. "My attorneys have advised me to seek help from friends in the form of letters to the judge on my behalf ...

"The reason letters from friends are so important is that Judge Paul C. Huck in Florida has not been privy to much of my background and life. He probably only knows of me through the harsh media caricature which has plagued me for the past two years. It may only be through letters of friends that any compassion and balance can be achieved."

The once-powerful lobbyist, who has pleaded guilty to federal charges of conspiracy and wire fraud in a wide-ranging corruption probe, asks that any letters of compassion include "suggestions for alternatives to or reduction of amount of incarceration and any reference to any redeeming character trait or actions of mine."

He then provides the judge's court address in Miami.

STRAW POL

"I'm nothing," said John, "if not cunning,"
Before an upset that was stunning.
"But, now that I see
No one's voting for me,
I'll pretend that I'm not even running."
- F.R. Duplantier, on Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain

TELLING MY FRIENDS

It is with genuine relief, following a most terrifying flight from Minneapolis to Washington late Sunday night, that I file this report.

Given that day's deadly late-winter storms that tore through the Midwest, the pilot of Northwest Airlines Flight 1712, scheduled to arrive at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport at 10:01 p.m., warned passengers ahead of takeoff to expect strong turbulence.

But it was the explosive "bang" and flash of fire that scared the writer's ink out of me.

As the packed Airbus 320 climbed through dark and turbulent skies en route to a cruising altitude of 35,000 feet, there suddenly was a loud explosion and fireball that shot out from beneath the right wing barely feet from the cabin (I had an amazing view, buckled as I was into window seat 17F, just one row behind the wing.)

Startled passengers held hands and began praying. A Washington lawyer in my row began to cry. Still, from the cockpit, only eerie silence.

Seated next to me, it so happened, was Dr. Moqim Rahmanzai, president of the Afghan Medical Relief Foundation (we'll tell you more about his organization tomorrow), who when not consoling the counsel next to him politely listened to my suggestion that one of us get up to alert the flight crew in the front of the plane. Sadly, he knew better.

Finally, after several agonizing minutes of not knowing whether an engine blew or if there was an explosion of sinister sorts in the belly of the plane, the bouncing Airbus emerged above the clouds and the calming voice of the captain came over the intercom.

He told passengers that in all of his years as a professional pilot - "since 1969" - he could count on one hand the number of times his plane took such a direct hit from lightning.

"It certainly got our attention up here," he assured passengers. "But fortunately this airplane performed as it was designed to, and now you have something to tell your friends about."

COURT JESTER

Number of the 193 "laughing episodes" during Supreme Court arguments last term that were caused by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia: 77

Number caused by Justice Clarence Thomas: 0

- Harper's Index, March 2006

NORTH TO SOUTH

We'd written earlier that Maryland Republican Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, who is in a tough campaign to win the seat of retiring Democratic Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, was getting some out-of-state fundraising help from cosmetics queen Georgette Mosbacher and Mallory and Elizabeth Factor at a pair of private events in New York City.

Now we've received another invitation to a Steele reception next Monday evening hosted by, among other couples, presidential brother Marvin Bush and his actress wife Margaret, and former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie and his politically savvy bride Cathy.

Special guests expected to be on hand at the Gillespie home in Alexandria: Virginia Republican Sens. John Warner and George Allen.

Steele is the first black to serve in a Maryland statewide office.

FAN OF DENNY'S

We have to laugh at a comparison chart forwarded to The Beltway Beat by Scott Hodge, president of the Tax Foundation in Washington, which seeks to explain some big numbers in layman's terms.

It shows that if Americans were able to save the $265 billion in tax-compliance paperwork costs and spend the money elsewhere, it could pay for a "six-month supply of Denny's Grand Slam breakfasts for every U.S. citizen."

Or else, "one treadmill for every American - to help work off any Denny's breakfasts."

RICHMOND EXERCISE

Hours before President Bush arrived in Pakistan  during his tour of South Asia, a suicide attacker rammed a car packed with explosives into a vehicle carrying an American diplomat, killing the envoy and three others.

Indeed, U.S. officials posted in terror-plagued nations are at their most vulnerable while traversing streets and highways, often in motorcades that stick out like sore thumbs.

We now learn that in southern Virginia, the U.S. Agency for International Development is giving drivers assigned to U.S. missions much-needed training in counterterrorism.

Most recently, 14 drivers from USAID missions stretching from Iraq to Cambodia attended driver training school near the small town of West Point, all of them "unsung heroes that transport daily USAID's most valuable asset -- personnel," says Roger Rowe, a security specialist at USAID headquarters here in Washington.

In fact, Rowe reveals in the USAID publication Front Lines that the group of drivers one day resorted to the busy streets of downtown Richmond as an exercise ground for driving alternate routes when confronting a matrix of danger spots.

"Each day the instruction became more comprehensive and demanding to include crashing through a road block, checking the wiring under the hood for signs of tampering, and learning how to maneuver with guns firing at the vehicle (blanks and paint guns are used for simulation)," explains Rowe, who adds that by the end of the week each driver realized "how important it is to believe that they are in control of their destinies when they are behind the wheel."

PEACE-MINDED

Georgetown University is now the second largest producer of Peace Corps volunteers among all private colleges and universities in the country, trailing only Boston University.

At last count during 2005, 54 alumni of the Jesuit campus were serving in the Peace Corps.

"Georgetown students and alumni share a deep commitment to making a difference in their communities and in the world," explains Georgetown President John J. DeGioia.