tv Q A CSPAN June 13, 2010 8:00pm-9:00pm EDT
jack abramoff had just been released from prison to a halfway house in baltimore this week? >> well, i knew it was going to and frankly, you know, i thought he had spent enough time in a might well have gone to prison but didn't. he's out in a halfway house. i think that's all right. >> when was the first time that you thought about doing your documentary, brand-new, called "casino jack and the united states of money"? stories in "the washington post," and i was astounded really by sort of the audacity of the story and how colorful it was. so i thought it would make a good movie because i'm always interested in stories per se, and jack is a fascinating character. very colorful, very outrageous. at thh same time, the other interesting to me was it was a story that seemed to me to poont out the most fundamental problem in our democracy right now, which is the way that money
rules our democracy. it's beccme so unbalanced that i think it's become the fundamental problem in our society. >> let's un a clip just so the audience can get some sense of where you're going with this, and this is about a minute, 25 seconds. it's near the beginning of the documentary. >> it was immediately apparent that it was going to be a muuh bigger deal, because he was such a well-known figure on capitol hill, really an uber lobbyist, and his connections were so widespread both in the republican party itself and in the republican congress. >> the government says abramoff has admitted to bribing as many as 20 members of congress. >> his activities went far beyond lawful lobbying. >> he was the number one lobbyist in washington. he could get you in touch with the best and most innluential members of congress. >> it was amazing how many members of congress wanted in with jack. >> when the story broke, president bush tried to distance himself from jack abramoff.
>> i frankly don't even remember having my picture taken with the guy. >> all of a sudden, nobody remembered jack abramoff. >> i don't know him. >> of course bush knew him. absolutely. >> it's just amazing how close abramoof and his people got to + the leaders of power in washington. >> we had no idea that it would lead to the resignation of tom delay, to the conviction offbob may, to tony rudy, to neil holts, so many people were pulled into this web. ralph reid, john doolittle, karl rove, dick army, onrad burns, don young. it was all about the money. >> almost everyone on that screen is gone from where they were when they either got in a couple of them are still ce.- there. who did we just see and why did you start withhthose peoplee >> i started with those people because it was interesting to me
to show that jack abramoff wasn't on the periphery, that e was at a certain moment in time, his moment, the late 1990's, early 2000's, that he was at the center of washington. and so you saw a lot of people there, ralph reid, karl rove and others, and george w. bush who were right at the center of power in washington, because i think there have been a pretty abramoff in a way to be the scapegoat. not that he didn't do things wrong. he did a lot that was dead--rong. but to lay all the blame at his doorstep as if to sajak was a unique character who operated on the fringes of goveenment, didn't have much affect on somebody. he was at the center, that's why i showed a lot of those people. >> you've done several other documenn riss, but go back to the beginning of when you personally got interested in politics. >> i was always interested in politics. it was always about finding a
way in. i think some years back, something happened. i've done a number of tv documentaries, and then at a certain point in time, it seemed like there was an oppprtunity to say things in a more interesting way by doing documentaries that the first one of those i did was one i wrote and produced called "the trials of henry kissinger." then i did one that broke through called "enron: the smartest guys in the room," which was about thattfamous 3 then i did a film called "taxi to the dark side," which was about the bush administration's policy of torture, which was a very important project to me because y father had been a navy interrogator in world war ii. and i did a film called "gonzo: the life and work of dr. hunter s. thompsonn about the famous gonzo journalist. and recently "casino jack and >> how would you define your politics? >> hard to say. a skeptic. i wouldn't -- i tend to look at
things skeptically. i try to seek out stories that have a kind of moral component rather than here's to the democrats or here's to the republicans. i think it's fair to say that i often give republicans a hard time, but at the same time, in the film "taxi to the dark side," some of the heroes of that film are republicans. so i tend to look at things from the point of view of a mooalist. >> your father frank gibney, is he still alive, and what does he do, or what did he do for a living? >> my father frank gibney is no longer with us. he died a few years ago.. he was a writer, an editor. he was vice chairman of the board of editors at britain ca. he worked at time" and "newsday," "life" magazine. he was a journalist. and during world war ii, he
learned japanese as part of his experience to become an interrogator.. that set him off as a journalist. he became the youngest bureau he had a big influence on me because he never lost his abiliiy to be curious. >> from youu documentary, here is jack abramoff and the college rrpublicans. >> you can't get a 35-year-old to teach the republican party how to get to young people. you just can't rely upon it. young people have got to reach other young people, and that's what we're sseking to do. first of all, voter registration issprobably the most important function we're undertaking now.+ >> this is a generation that came on to campus in the 1970's rebeling against the whole ethos of the 1960's. >> we are hoping that mr. nixon through his past, we have seen that he is at least more anti-communist than the last administration. >> i was a young american for
freedom. we were always working in coordination with the college republicans, but they weren't idaho logically conservative until jack abramoff became involved. then they became ide logically conservative. >> abramoff is a little older than i am, but i was a college republican in the early 1980's. when the college republicans took that sharp turn to the 3 i was going in. a lot of the same heroes. i thought ronald reagan was the greatest man who ever livee. >> in this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem. government is the problem. >> where do you find thhngs like -pthat clip of karl rove or dan rain shower backer? >> oh, man, we just dig and dig and dig. that's one of the fun things
about my job. you start ooking and you starr believing that stuff is out there that hasn't been seen before and you usually find something. >> how do you find it? if i were sitting in your shoes, who would you call to find somethhng like that? >> well, the first place you start is you go to the networks and you say, you know, send me all your material that has stuff about either jack abramoff or karl rove or others, and sometimes you get stuff. but then sometimes there's certain ncidents you'ree interested in, and there's another incident innthe film about this famous sort of right wing woodstock that jack abramoff held in angola. we knew about it, the networks had a tiny clip, but we kept asking people who had been there if they knew of anybody who was ssooting it. and low and behole, we got a name, we tracked that name down, we found a person in london. we asked him if he still had footage.
lo and behold, he had 20 hours of it. it's a lot of shue leather. >> where were you based and how many people would work on something like this documentary? >> i'm based in new york city. i live in the great state of new and i have an office in chelsea in new york city. dead crated -- dedicated crew. i'd say the core group is about six people. it stands massively to be about 50 by the time you bring in cinematographers, assissant editors, the people who mix the film, some of the outlying researchers. we employ people sometimes in different places aal over the world to do this or that ffr us as we're putting somethhng together. >> here's some more familiar faces. it's a republican national convention. don't have the year. maybe you can remember it. and some faces that we haven't seen for a while. let's watch this and get your reaction to it. >> ladies and gentlemen, the chairman of the college
republican national committee, jack abramoff for purposes of addressing the convention. >> part of me wanted to give a rarara, we're all young people. they rejected my speech, and i got up to the podium, and their speech went up on the teleprompter. >> fellow republicans, i come before you today representing american students. the future of our republican party. >> and as i deviated froo that text and went bacc to my text, which i memorized, the teleprompter fellow was looking for this on the speech, so the teleprompters are going up and down, up and down. >> the first political experience of my generation was an america drooppng with hostage shame and shoulders burdened with the democrats' no growth, no win future. >> all of a sudden, i felt rumbling on my feet. i was told they're going to lower the floor to get rid of me. so i'm gram of cocaine hold of the podium, holding it as hard
as i am to give the speech. >> the support of anti-soviet freedom fighter and victoryyover communism guarantees us security for our nation. thank you. >> did you have to manipulate thaa video to show that? >> you mean the little shaking of the podium? >> either the shoking of the podium r the fact that they were lowering the podium. >> the shaking of the podium i think was there. the lowering was a little bit of poetic license. >> why did you pick that? >> again, it was interesting to me to see young jack. this was a guy who didn't juss pop on to the scene. this was a guy who was a very confident, political activist. really a zell lot. you can kind of see both the poise he had, his willingness to go before a big crowd, but also the sense he wasn't going to play by the rules or do whhtt
other people said. i thought those were the two interesting things about that. he was very interesting in power, very interesting in politics, but not willing to play by other people's rules. episode. >> as you know, when he went to prison, he was supposed to bb -pthere i guess according to wh i read until 2012. he got out this week. how well do you know him and why did he get out early? >> well, my understand is the sentence was revised to a four-year sentence with timm already served, so he was supposed to be in for another six months and he went through a drug rehab prrgram and got out early to go to a halfway house near baltimore. i think that -- i mean, i knew him. i had met him very briefly long ago prior to going into prison. but i did in fact go visit him while he was in prison. we had a number of very long talks. it was very iiteresting and
instructive or me. i tried very hard to interview him on camera, but the department of justice took a very dim view of that and intervened. >> why? >> i don't know why. we tried very hard to get an answer from the departmmnt of justice to say why would you resist us? and of course their point of view would be they didn't resist. officially, jack -- at one time jack said yes, we want to dd it, and we put everything in motion. and then the word came back from abramoff, no, i do not wish to be interviewed by mr. gibney. i discovered in the interim, the department of justice had leaned very hard on abramoff and said, you know, you do the interview, and we're going to make life difficult for you. so, you know, a little abuse of power in my view. also i think something that did not accrue to the best public interest. i think the department of justice's view is we want our truth to emerge from jack
abramoff. we don't wwnt other people to e able to ggt their ands on testimony that jack abramoff may have given to somebody else besides our lawyers. you know, that's a traditional lawyer's point of view. i don't hink in this instance it served the public interest very well because, you know, jack had been sentenced and there were no -- there was no abridgement on his freedom of speech, his first amendment rights, so he should have been able to talk to us by all accounts, and i think the public interest would have been served. >> describe how far it is from washington to the prison and exactly what you saw when you got there. is he in a cell? how big is ii if he is? and how mmch time couud you spend talking to im when you would drive out there? >> for me from newwjersey, it took about six hours, maybe a littte bit more. it's a long way. it's in a funny sliver of m.d. that -- maryland that is way west.
it's a very antiseptic prison. it looks almost like a mini mall. as you go in, you go by some officers and you enter a visiting room area, which is a of them facing ach other. many they call the prisoner, the prisoner comes in, and you talk. i went and visited him a number of times, maybe three times, i believe, and each time talked with him for about wo or three hours. >> how would you describe his attitude about all this at this point? >> about all what? >> what's happened to him, the sentence he got. was it fair? the restitution, he has to give back $25 million? all that kind of thing. >> look, i think he felt victimized. but i also -- at least to me, he seemed very contrite. i think he felt he paid a heavy price.. so heavy. re that the price was
you know, prison is not a nice place. and, you know, so -- but the way -- his point of view on it was that he had been unfairly singled out. and i must say to some extent i agree with that. i think that there were many people involved in what jack abramoff did whob didn't pay a price, and ittsurprises me. you know, i don't know everything the departtent of justice knows, but i think even jack abramoff was surprised that certain people weren't indicted, particularly some congress people and senators. but i think jack fflt connrite. he feet very deeply burdened. you know, i think there was a certain ammunt of rather unglamorous self-pity. he got himself into this mess, nobody else did. and i think he accepted that to some extent, though there were other times he felt victimized.
>> if you look at the list, and i think there have been something like 18 people or 19 people that have either pled guilty to a felony or charged, there was a former aide to don young, a former chief of staff of bob nacars, former tom delay aide, a former aide to senator thad cochran. former aid to us took. most of those are gone from the congress. were those the people you indicted? any of those? >> not really. to me i'm surprised that onll the minnows showed up in court, that the really big fish got away. now, you know, i can't be the judde of whether or not there were indictable offenses for people like former congressman for former senator onrad burns.
but some of these people i think were at the heart of jack abramoff's dealings, and it's a little surprising to me that more of the big fish didn't get netted by the federal investigation. >> from your documentary "casino jack and the united states of money," here's a one-minute clip. you're introducing us to neil volets. >> this is truly a wildly historic night. >> i was a college student, and i was a true believer in the whole republican revolution. >> neil volets came to washington with bob nay from ohio. >> the move was electric. 40-some years, of democrat
control which i and others at one point in time said it won't change in our lifetime, and it did. >> the demoorats had run the congress for 40 years. there was a certain level of corruption that had taken hold, so we're rallying against that. and it's so ironic that years later, i would be a face a similar type of orruption to a whole different group of people. >> neil volets said there was a certain kind of corruption that was there ever a documentary done on them? no, and i think it long, it was deeply corrupt. a former senator from new jersey >> are you talking about seller?
steve went to jail. >> right. >> we're talking about a documentary noo. i think it will be a heaathy and useful documentary to dig into that kind of institutionalized corruption on the part of the democrats. more power to somebody to do it. >> do you have a hero in your life in politics? somebody that was in elected office? >> martin luther king. sorry, that's not elected office. it was more of a ground swell. i like -- in terms of hero, i mean, that's a good question. and i should have a better answer. phere are some people in congress now i like. but a hero, i don't know. i guess i still go with the outsider. >> could you give us an example of somebody you like now? >> well, you know, i was very
impressed with carl levin's investigation when he was on the armed services committee into the torture scandal. i felt that was very impressive. i think dick durbin and some of his recent attempts to try to staunch the flow of money in politics have been interesting. those would be two examples of a couple of people that i think are pretty good. >> ww go back to the last clip, you saw the young man neil volets. why did he talk to you, where did he talk to you, and why did bob nay who wassa congress who went to ppison talk to you? neil volets was bob nay's chief of stafff he came to bob -- you know, as he said, very idealisticly,
which was interesting to me and important for me to hear. they were rightfully trying to run against the kind of institutionalized corruption in washington. but the relationship of neil and bob was a very interesting one in the film because you can see how the corruption sort of gnaws away attthem and their relationship, you know, it's like something out of lord of the rings where fro doe and sam begin to go at each other's throats because of the corruption of the ringg so did neil and bob. what's really instructive about their relationship too is that in the case of neil, he did the classic washington journey where he comes to congress as a staffer with a congressperson, but then over time, realizes oh, my god, i really need more money, i need to do better with my life, so he crosses to k street where he can make the really big bucks.
he starts to work for jack abramoff. then even though he's not supposed to, he starts immediately lobbying his former boss, bob nay. and it's the use -- it's the corrupt use of those personal relationships that lobbyists excel at. and so it was very important to have in the midst of the story. in terms of how i got him to talk, i mean, i went to neil right after he had been sentenced and just said, look, let's go ouu and have a beer and let's talk off the record, let's just talk. and i told them about what i was trying to do. i said i was interested in him. and would he be interested in talking to me in sort of a broad way about his own experience, but with a largee connext involved. and i think after a number of conversations, we got to a kind of trust level whhre he felt that would be a good idea. i think the same thing happened withhbob naa. when i initially wrote him, i wrote him in prison. he tried to shred my letters.
he was very scared. prison is a scary place. if you do things that the prison offfcials don't like, you can be punished. he didn't want to have anything to do with me. after he got out, one of my producers met him and talked to him about it. he then actually went and watched some of my films, and i was able to persuade him with dana's help that i would honor his testimony in a way that would not try to cheapen it and -pto give him sort of vent to wt he wanted to say and put him in a broader perspective. i think also after having spent that much time in prison, bob was interested in trying to find a way to tell his story in a way that would have some larger impact. it was not just here's some juicy jack abramoff story. it's about, you kkow, what's really wrong with washington. for alllthose reasons, i think bob and neil came forward. i'm glad they did. they're the beating heart of the film.
and where are the twoff of them today? >> i interviewed neil in washington, d.c., and bob came to new york. bob is still in ohio. he has a radio show. he's a radio show host. neil lives in florida now and he has a -- he works for a community group and also works at a restaurant, i believe. >> a minute and 32-second clip for you from your documentary on the background of abramoff and his access to tom delay. ♪ >> abramoff gave up movie producing to becooe a lobbyist. a republican in washington, jack was the right man at the right time. >> his credentials with the conservative movement gaveehim access and entree with the new
leadership, and instantly, he saw how he could build a client base and then that client base in turn could fund the leadership politically with campaigg contributions. it became sort of symbiotic relationship. >> the relationship became ever more important. his camppign costs began to soar. >> the cost of campaigns wentt+ through the roof in the modern era in the last 35 years. it's just a staggering increase. the trouble is the new technology of politics, commercials on television, polls and focus groups to design the commercials for television, are just very expensive. and no serious candidate or indumb want can say, no, i'm not going to do that hat's beneath me, i'm not going to put myself into 30-second spots. they all do it. one of the dirty little secrets in washington today is how much time members of the house and senate spend every week, not just in the election season, but all the time, year-round, on the
telephone begging for money. technique there. you often havv an interviewee pith a shadow on one side of their face. whht's that technique? photographic technique, a sculpting of the face, which makes the face more interesting. still portraitture. sthrst something about that that brings out the face a little bit more. also to some extent, there is a way in which that shadow emphasizes a sense of moral ambiguity, that people -- i don't want to get too symbolic about it, but that there is a shadow, there is a light. i'm interested in that. but i didn't really do it particularly for those symbolic reasons. i think it's beautiful actually to look at. but there is in the elements of
the shadow a sense that things happen in the shadows that we don't always know about. >> the music, where does that come from? >> the music, you know, onn of the most fun things about my job really is picking the music for+ these films. i generally have a lot of music in my films. it often acts in two ways. one is a kind of toe-tapping greek chorus, and it stands ii for my point of view sometimes. reveaaing character, of being a kind of theme song for character. and i find it also gives the film a littll bit of energyy in terms of where i get it, i spend a lot of timeelistening to all sorts of music from all sorts of different genrrs, everything from hip-hop to blues to country to regular old rock 'n' roll to classical or jazz and try to find ongs that seem to fit both the mood and the character and sometimes my own
point of view. >> who's the narrator? >> i am. >> jack abramoff was born in atlantic city in 1959. business and then moved to beverly hills when abramoof was 10. surrounned by children of the movie industry, jack was a film buff at beverly hills high where he was also active in student polittcs. a tough competitor, jack was an all-conference lineman on tte football team, and a champponship weight lifter. he could power squat 510 pounds. >> that may be the biggest flaw in the film. it started for me with "taxi to the dark side," and, you know, we were going to get a ceeeerity narrator for that film, but then i included a short clip of my father at thh veey end of the film, a video of him just before he died, and that made that film very personal to me, so i decided to do the narration on
that film myself. in fact, i often do the temp narration before the actor comes in. on this one, i worked on it a long time. i just decided to do it myself it may not be the world's greatest voice, but it has the virtue of being authentic, as to say it is truly my voice. >> and how long is this documentary? >> 118 minutes. >> here's some more. >> you had to get to one mann tom delay. >> jack abramoff was a committed conservativee he was well-known in the conservative movement, and i dealt with him no differently than i dealt with any other lobbyist. >> jack was not like any other lobbyist. relationship with tom delay. he took him on trips to russia, scotland, and the south pacific. he made sure that his clients showered money on delay's foundation and employed his wife. in return, delay let jack market
himself as the man who had access to delay's power. >> the fist time i met jack whip's office at an event. >> jack is one of a kind. he comes in for five minutes, sits down next to somebody who is willing to spend millions of dollars to lobby washington, and then he leaaes in five minutes. and the guy or the woman thinks that jack's talking to the president, but he's probably playing solitary on his computer, and then he comes back in and he's like, sorry about that, but he's ggt two more minutes. by the way, i need about $250,000 a month. and then walks out the door. one of a kind. one of a kind. >> has jack abramoff seen this documentary, aad if so, what's his realaska to it? >> i don't know if he's seen it. and now that he's in a halfway house, i'm going to see if i can get him a copy..
his lawyer abby lowwll saw it. said he liked it. said there are a few issues he had with it, but heenever told me exeak what they were. so i don't know yet. i know a number of people close to jack have seen it. >> if they don't like it, what's the reason? >> well, some people like jack feel it's too tough on him. it doesn't go very easy on jack, but i think that's fair and >> is it accurate to describe the prosecution of jack abramoff as coming from a swrussties department that was run by republicans? >> yeah. i think that's accurate. there's no doubt that the department of justice that came after jack abramoff was during the -- was during the period of george w. bush. administration. >> we heard a lot of criticism of the justice department during
george bush's adminnstration. have we heard any positive things about the fact that inside that justice department, jack bramoff and the rest of these people we'vv been talking about were prosecuted? and if so, if we haven't heard it, why not? >> i think to be honest, i have to say that it's a mixed bag in terms of the prosecution. there was an attempt to go after this influence pedaling, but i'm not sure they did the world's best job. i know alberto gonzalez of bob nay told me a very funny story they were broadcasting the hearings of alberto gonzalez bragging bought how he put bob nay in jail. it's trre, bob nay is a republican congressman and he's in jail, but i'm not sure that the department of justice really got to the bottom of the abramoff scandal. i should say got to the top of the abramoff scandal.
of justice is a funny place. there are a lottof career people who are there. there are a lot of people who do a very good job. and yet there is a lot of political interference. i think that was one of the administration, particularly with the attorney scandal, and i would say the torture scandal. >> i watched your documentary in a theater, and it wasn't very and i've seen most of your documenttries at one time or another. offen documentaries don't have big crowds. what's your reaction? did you make money off of this? i know it's early in the process. how mucc did your need for making money drive you in making the documentary in the first place? >> well, i always hope that my documentaries will make money because in a way, that's what keeps me going. if they don't make ny money at all, then i don't make them. i think it's fair to say that "casino jack" is not one of my
more financially successful documentaries, at least so far. you know, i think the subject for people is tough. it's a little bit mystifying to me. most people i know who actually go see the film call me and tell me how much they like it. they could be flattering me, i don't know. but it's been hard to get peopll to go to this film. with a film like "enron: the smartest guys in the room," that made quite a bit of money for investors, and that was a good thing for them and for me. in a way, i don't believe that the market is the only force that we should pay attention to, but the market is an important force, and i think to some extent, the market has given me freedom, because some of my films really have made money. >> here's a clip on the relationship etween jack abramoff and tte commonwealth of northern mariano islands. >> we were told that nobody could go through tom delay without going through jack abramoff, and it cost us millions of dollars. >> for theirrservices, abramoff
and his firm preston gates charged the cnmi over $200,000 a month. part of the plan was to mount tours to cnmi for conservative writers to sympathetic congressmen. >> we went out there to take a look at some of these cloohing factories that had come in from various parts of the world in order to set up operation there, and it looked like to me that it was working. >> what they would do is take a quick tour of the garment factories and emerge in the front doors of the factory saying, hey, there's nothing we don't see any abuues. so what are you guys talking about? >> and what would they do thee rest of the time? >> r&r. generally they would stay at the hyatt regency hotel, five stars. there are at least five
championship golf courses. >> at some point, jack must have realized that that's how you sell the mariana islands. this abominable labor basically. it's one step from slavery. but you brinn people over theree it's beeutiful, the golf courses, nice hotels. they fell for it. >> we've been out here a week now, and i think the first day will help us maybe enlighten some of the others that haven'' been pushing in our direction. >> by day, there were sports and games. by night, cocktails, cockfights, and clubs. >> this thing about the marianas is absolutely preposterous. we didn't find anything that was described. to suggest that i'm for slavery and human trafficking is ludicrous. >> one member of congrrss after another was going out there looking around saying, looks good to me. jack abramoff said, i can help
you. >> by the way, all that video, directly related to northern mariana islands? or when you saw an asian ttere, the prostitutes obviously, was that from there or from somewhere else? >> it was all from the marianas. there was some production footage we took out theree >> did you ever ask anybody whyy they would go that far to play 3 >> well, i did ask congressman rohrbacker. he said it was a miserable experience for me because i'm a surfer and the surf wasn't that good. i don't know. but it didn't look like ffom the footage that we had that they were suffering that much. i think they went out there because it was fun. it was a long way, but it was fun. they got to play golf, they got to go snorkeling, go out to the clubs at night, and they got a
little take-hooe giff usually in the form of some kind of campaign contributions or, you know, a reminder that this would help them down the line in terms of influence with tom delay. >> did you find out whether or not they flew out there on an air force plane? >> i didn't. i didn't find that out. >> and did you find out how much jack abramoff made off of that whole event out there? >> you know, i'm not going to remember the figure, but it was millions of dollars. it's kind of an ironic thing really for a free market ideo log like jack abramoff, because a lot of the federal dollars flow into the commonwealth of the northern marianas and they were using in many ways some of those federal dollars to pay jack abramoff to lobby against federal influence. it's kind of ironic. but also there wws a certain amount of money from the factooy owners that was going to congress people and senators.
>> can you give us a ballpark figure on how much this documentary cost you? >> sure. the documentary cost about $1.6 million. >> and where do you get finance3 >> well, in this case, the film was co-financed by two people. film distribution and production company that's owned by todd who owns the dallas mavericks, 3 smartest guys in the room" and also "gonzo," so we have a relationship. also participant, which is a group that has funded a numbee of fiction and non-fiction films, notabll "an inconvenient truth" by al gore. not by al gore. starring al gore. it's by davis guggenheim. and "good night and good luck." that came onboard. key partners-
to the participant's credit, they've put together a website that people can investigate to explore the issue of money and politics in a way that i think is very helpful. that outreach aspect of this enttrprise is very interesting to me. >> you mentioned guggenheim, is that the charlie guggenheim family? >> yes, believe it is. >> and you also mentioned mark cuban. i saw your documentary at his theater here, the landmark theaters in washington, and he's got theaters as you know in over 15 cities in the united states. if he wwsn't in this business and if he wasn't financing something like this, would you still be doing documentaries? + would there still be places in this country to go see these things? >> i think there would be, but i'm glad he's out there. -pi think he's doing a great jo i also like the landmark theater chain. it's a good, healthy outlet for independent films. he's not the only one doing it, but he's an important force. >> back to your docummntary. this is ralph reid, a nameethat
people watching this network will remember. let's watch it. it's a minute and 30 seconds. >> abramoff got ralph reid to not only mount public opposition to thhs plan, but to put pressure on members of congress who then put pressure on the department of interior to prevent the gina tribe from opening at casino. >> it was very interesting to us in indian country when a letter came out signed by a number of representatives to department of interior saying please stop what >> most of them got campaign checks from competing casinos. >> ultimately, the jay that lost. the janea did not get their -pcasino. abramoff lost.
>> jack used tribal money from all his indian clients as a big gi bank to send over $5 milliin to political causes and candidates, mostly republican. some of the biggest recipients were top names. tom delay, john doolittle. j.d. heyward, patrick kennedy, jack abramoff was so skillful at convincing a lot of indian tribes or companies to donate all kinds of money to political candidates and political parties as he saw fit. so yeah, jack abramoff was a huge rainmaker, one of the largest rainmakerr in town. >> you know, there are a lot of names that popped up on there. that? >> how did i do what? >> that whole scene with the slot machine. >> oh, well, we worked with a great design firm called big star in new york, and we had the concept, and they helped us to
execute it, to actually put the photographs in, to composite it and put the shadows so it has a -- we actually shot a real slot machinee which turned out to be more difficult to do than i thought, and then we put it ll together in a post-production process. it was fun. >> i know i've said this a couple times, but it's amazing how many people in your documentary are no longer in politics, no longer in power. but some are. john brill waa on that list.3 harry reid. congressman kennedy is leaving office. on and on. did you get any sense as you saw all these names come by you that this scandal had the impact of chasing people out of congress? >> i think it did have the impact of chasinn people out of congress. that was probably a positive development. so i don't want to minimize or overdue the idea that jack 3
sense that there was no other impact. i think the abramoff scandal so called really did have an impact and people left. on the other hand, what's interesting about washington is you see them coming bark and j.d. heywerth would be a good example of that. he ay unseat john mccain, who was the guy that went after abramoff, in a kind of bitter irony. j.d. heywerth now touts the fact that mccain's committee didn't find anything wrong with what he was doing during this influence pedaling scandal. maybe john mccain wishes he had dug a little deeper and released a few more e-mails that might have revealed more about j.d. heywerth's role. but anyway, there's no doubt, your question is very good, and there was definitely an impact and a lot of people lost their jobs. >> there are a lot of connections and names that you've been using, and there's another one i want to ask you about. that's the name will yam
slonkaufman. >> the activist minister was my stepfather. he was the chaplain at yale. he married my mother when i was around 14. 196, he was chargeddwith conspiracy, i believe, with doctor. spock, the famous baby doctor. he had known my mother before. he came up to be in the trial and would come by the house and they fell in llve and they got married, and i moved to new haven and ultimately went to yale, and bill was a big influence on my life. i remember he also was -- he died as it happened right around the same time that my father died. it was a big blow. i think in the obituary of "the washington post," my father was on the top of the page and william was on the bottom of the page. my father would haae been annoyed that bill booted him off the obituary page of "the new
york times." but, you know, there you go. bill was a very important influence on my life and he also, when i was making "taxi to the dark side," urged me to hurry up. 3 issue. >> another quick connectiin here. your father had seven childree, i understand, and one of them is a brother that's here at the "natiooal journal" -- thee atlantic monthly? >> that's right. he's an editor at the aatantic monthly, james gibney. and i have another brother, frank gibney jr. who is also a journalist. so three out of the seven went -- and i'm not a print journalist, i work in fiim, but nevertheless, i have, i am told, so journalistic tendencies. so three of us followed in our father's footsteps, and i have i think three sisters and one >> another name in your documentary, we haven't seen much of him yet, but it's michael scanlynne, who iss awaiting sentencing, i understand.
let's watch. >> in washington, jack's huge fees angered rival llbbyists. they began to leak information to "the washington post's" sue sccmidt. >> i got a call from a washington, a republican, and he told me, you ought to look into jack abramoff. he's representing these indian tribes, and charging millions of dollars and he's working with thhs young guy mike scanlynne, who came off tom delay's staff, and scanlynn is, you know, living like a sultan. >> an irresistible pitch man, scanlynne because jack's go-to guy for selling grass roots political campaigns to the indian tribes. >> what we have built is a political grass roots data base. say, forrexample, we had a problem with a particular state senator. let's say you wanted to make sure that somebody didn't win. we might not have enough to get our candidate enough votes guaranteed to win it, but we can
certainly, certainly prevent somebody from gettiig elected. [laughter] >> sccnlynne's political work paid off. only a couple years after he left delay's office, scanlynne was flying in private jets,, dressing in hand-tailored european suits, and buying more than $20 million in real estate, including a sprawling compound once owned by the duponts. >> michael scanlynne. where is he today? >> mmchael scanlynne, so far as i am aware, is still living there. one of my producers actually went up and chattee with him briefly, not to any consequence. but last i looked, he was still there. and he's awaiting sentencing. i believe one of the reasons that's takkng so long is they're waiting for the result of the fraud case that's going up before the supreme court very soon, as i understand it. so that would be a tough irony, i think, for jack abramoff, if
the supreme court overturns anna service's fraud. it's possible he might go free and not serve any time, which if i were jack abramoff would be a bitter pill to swallow. because i think -- jack abramoff in my view was a zellout who became corrupt. scanlynne was closer to a washington criminal. >> we're going to show a clip, and had a lot of debbte whether or not to run it. it's bad language. if you don't want to hear it, please turn this off now. we're doing it because it shows the strength of the language behind thh scenes that you found in e-mails. it's only a minute 10 seconds. >> everyone should learn one 3
writing. >> they are ripe for the picking. can you meet me tomorrow? >> it's at least 100 k. enough? you is the man. >> i couldn't believe he was talking about this through e-mail. + >> i can't believe they're e-mailing back and forth about something like this. >> they are cheap motherfucker's that don't want to pay our fee. i say fuck them. >> i almost dropped to the floor. i couldn't believe it. >> 2.75 is chump change. what the hell were we thinking? >> according to your e-maiis, you and mr. scan lynne referred to tribes as morons, stupid enemies, which you say is a lower form of existence. >> i told cherokee to come up with the doe or prepare for
another trail of tears. >> why did you use that? >> because i thought very much like the audiotapes of the enron traders who took down the california grid that it betrayed -- the language itself betrayed a kind of lawful bankruptcy, really. and you can hear the viciousness -- it's the viciousness of the language that i think is telling, and that's why it was important to use it and not just bleep it. sometimes it's hard to hear the face of immorality, but that would be it. >> people want to buy this and watch the whole thing. what's it cost and can they do it now? >> i don't think they can do it yet. it will be out on video. it's still depending on where you live making the rounds in theaters around thh country. and the best place to find out about that is to go to the website, magnolia pictures website. i think it's magpictures.com. >> you had a lot of reviews.
one is rather critical. i'm sure you read it, by gary chafse. you know him? i played tennis with him. when we pulled it down. he's a former boston globe recorder, on the the huffington post," which you''e also written for. >> i have. >> he priorrto that sayssthat -- he says you're both hardcore liberaas. put all that into context for us. >> i'm not sure how to put it -pinto context. gary and i had long arguments about this. gary wrote a book about this called "the perfect villain" in which he tried to make the
argument that jack abramoff was wrongly accused, shouldn't have been prosecuted, shouldnnt have gone to jail, and fundamentally didn'' do anything terribly wrong. and i just disagree. in terms of was it objective or balanced, i think you have to say that, you know, a lot of sides were represented in this. tom delay is interviewed for the bob nay is interviewed for the film. neil volets is interviewed for the film. i went out to the marianas. sue schmidt, who helped to break the whole monica lewinsky scandal is interviewed for the film. this is not like a packettof liberals ganging up on republicans. it's just the opposite. it's actually more or less from the inside-out of the republican party. and i did i think what gary didn't do. gary didn't go out to the marianas. gary didn't go to speak with the tribe in el paso, texas.
he didn't go to l.a. he didn't talk to bob nay. he didn't talk to adam kaddn. he didn't talk to a lot of people. my view is that i did a pretty thorough job of reporting and filming this story, and i just disagree with what gary says. >> by the way, he calls -- in 3 schmidt did lazy. why would he do that? what's his point on that one? >> that's a good question. gary, in his book, is very angry about sue schmidt's reporting. he believes that she grossly misrepresented the teegwa affair. i think gary's argument is overwrought. susan schmidt and her colleagues won a pulitzer prize. i don't think it was sleazey. >> last clip before we say goodbye. you use mr. schmidt goes to
waahington. let's watch. >> it has become so accepted, so part of our political culture now that it's normal. your average citizen doesn't have the voice that he or she would expect to have because these voices are much louder and they're much better financed. ♪ >> this is the story about human i mean, i don't think that corruption as a part is an issue. the corruption i was involved in was the human failure. it's an issue of power. i became just a machine. a cog in the machine. like hey, get up, go do yoor thing, get yours. i just lost track offwhat brought me here. >> abramoff couldn't have
was not corrupt. were the need for money, the members of congress and their need for money is so huge that they don't have their guard up. >> this has all gone into a feeding frenzy with money. >> what do you expect me to do? >> i don't know what the solution is. i would have loved to have here's yyur money and here's your money. you don't have to raise any. thhs would end all of that if you had a different system. but right now, we don't. >> there's no place out there for greed or lies or compromise of human liberties. great principles don't get lost unless they come to light. they're all here. >> the price for a free society iithink is to be vigilant about our democracy. they were only able to be influenceddby jack abramoff and take advantage of the money he was offering because we let
them. "mr. smith goes to washington." anything changed since that came out with jimmy stewart? >> the french have an expression. the more things change, the more things stay the same. i think things have gotten a lot worse in terms of the influence of money in politics, a lot worse. but corruption was alwwys there. that's why i think melny sloan's comment about how we have to be eternally vigilant is the right one. but jefferson smith is a really interesting figure and character because he embodies the american i-95ty, but it's important because the urge to create out of moral wreckage something good. ironically, i think he's also kind of an argument against term limits. one of the reason that jefferson smith in that great camera film "mr. smith goes to washington" gets manipulated is because he