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In Sunday's Washington Post Peter Carlson takes a look at the films of Jack Abramoff. Now everybody is describing Jack as a guy from Hollywood who came to Washington after 1994 to take advantage of the GOP takeover as a freshly minted lobbyist. That is just another Abramoff myth. The truth is more interesting and, like all things Abramoff, tied to GOP RW causes, money and international scoundrels.

If Jack was a Hollywood producer between 1985 and 1994, he was a flop. He made just two films: Red Scorpion in 1988, and Red Scorpion 2 in 1994. So how did Jack pay the bills during this time?

Easy, he was a lobbyist for the South African secret police during the worst days of Apartheid.

More on the jump...

Carlson does a good job of focusing on the Bad cinema of Abramoff. Both films were stinkers. He did miss one earlier Abramoff film that was reported in the WaPo back on August 5, 1987. A Sidney Blumenthal article (North & The Charge of The Right Brigade) reports on Jack's early work, on video:

Jack Abramoff, president of the International Freedom Foundation, who was associated with North on the contra cause when North was on the NSC staff, is among those rushing a video of North's greatest hits into production. "He was always appreciated by the movement," says Abramoff. His tape will include North's complete pro-contra slide-show, which he performed for the committee without the slides. That, Abramoff complains, was "unfair."

Did you spot the reference to Jack's role in Iran-Contra? He helped North organize the Contra speaking tours (among other duties) as Executive Director for Citizen for America (CFA) a "grassroot" lobbying effort to support the policies of Reagan Administration. But that's another story.

But Carlson does capture the central aspect of why Red Scorpion was made:

When "Red Scorpion" was released, it was picketed by anti-apartheid protesters angry that Abramoff had shot the movie in territory controlled by South Africa's white supremacist government, using soldiers and military equipment lent by the South Africans. The protesters would have been even angrier if they'd known that the International Freedom Foundation, a right-wing group founded by Abramoff, was secretly bankrolled by the South African army -- but that wasn't known until a South African colonel revealed it in 1995.

During Jack's time as a filmmaker, the International Freedom Foundation (IFF) was his real full-time gig. As mentioned above, the IFF was a front for the South African secret police during Aparthied. A July 16, 1995 Newsday article (Front for Apartheid) reported:

"The International Freedom Foundation was a former SA Defence Force project," Army Col. John Rolt, a military spokesman, said in a terse response to an inquiry. A member of the IFF"s international board of directors also conceded Friday that at least half of the foundation's funds came from projects undertaken on behalf of South Africa's military intelligence, although he refused to say what these projects were except that many of them were directed against Nelson Mandela's African National Congress.

A three-month Newsday investigation determined that one of the project's broad objectives was to try to reverse the apartheid regime's pariah status in Western political circles. More specifically, the IFF sought to portray the ANC as a tool of Soviet communism, thus undercutting the movement's growing international acceptance as the government-in-waiting of a future multiracial South Africa. [snip]

Rep. Dan Burton, who was the ranking Republican on the House subcommittee on Africa, and Rep. Robert Dornan were active in IFF projects, frequently serving on its delegations to international forums. Alan Keyes, currently a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, also served as adviser. (He did not return a call seeking comment.) The Washington lobbyist and former movie producer Jack Abramoff, and rising conservative stars like Duncan Sellers, helped run the foundation. [snip]

But in some cases, such as Abramoffs, the relationship with the South African security apparatus was more than merely coincidental, according to Williamson and others. A former chief of intelligence, now retired, said emphatically that the South African military helped finance Abramoffs 1988 movie "Red Scorpion." The movie was a sympathetic portrayal of an anti-communist African guerrilla commander loosely based on Jones Savimbi, the Angolan rebel leader allied to both Washington and Pretoria. Williamson also said the production of "Red Scorpion" was "funded by our guys," who in addition provided military trucks and equipment -as well as extras .

Abramoff reacted with anger when told of the allegations Friday, saying his movie was funded by private investors and had nothing to do with the South African government. "This is outrageous," he said.

Details of South Africa's intelligence operations in the last years of apartheid have begun to rapidly emerge with the imminent establishment of a Truth Commission by the Mandela government. The commission will elicit confessions of "dirty tricks" by apartheid's foot soldiers and their Commanders, in exchange for immunity from prosecution. Williamson, for instance, recently revealed that he was involved in the assassination of Ruth First, wife of the ANC and South African Communist Party leader Joe Slovo, and other anti-apartheid activists.

One wonders what records there are about Jack and the IFF over in South Africa. And I guess we can add Dan Burton to the list of GOP Congressmen with Abramoff worries.

So the truth is that Jack wasn't a Hollywood producer come to Washington in 1994. He had been working the shadows of Right-Wing world all along. He was a lobbyist for the South African secret police (who made one feature film in defiance of the cultural boycott of South Africa in 1989). In 1993 South Africa cut its funding for the IFF. And Jack needed a new source of income.

As reported in the Seattle Weekly, by 1994, (and possibly earlier) Jack had been introduced to Tom DeLay by Daniel Lapin, a South African Rabbi Jack stayed with on some of his visits to South Africa:

Years ago, Lapin introduced Abramoff to DeLay. "It was just, 'Jack? Meet Tom'--very informal at a D.C. dinner," says a Lapin follower. "Just people who see eye to eye." Abramoff and DeLay went on to form a cozy lobbyist/lawmaker relationship that is now a subject of investigations by the Senate, the House, the Justice Department, and a federal grand jury. [snip]

"I met Mr. Abramoff many years ago," David Lapin told Seattle Weekly by phone. "He was on a trip to South Africa and was a guest of mine." (David and his brother were born in South Africa, and both became rabbis and businessmen in the U.S.) David Lapin, now CEO of Strategic Business Ethics, once ran a Jewish academy established by Abramoff in the D.C. area. "Jack and I are good friends and there was nothing improper about this deal," David Lapin said. [snip]

Lapin is involved in other religious/political alliances that worked to get George W. Bush elected and re-elected. Last year, Newsweek reported, "When fundraising began for Bush's re-election effort, Rabbi Daniel Lapin . . . urged friends and colleagues to steer campaign checks to Bush via Abramoff." President Bush recently reappointed Lapin to the U.S. Commission for the Preservation of America's Heritage Abroad, which helps preserve cemeteries, monuments, and historic buildings in Eastern and Central Europe. Donors to his charity, according to IRS tax filings, comprise the cream of the religious right, such as Lenore Broughton, the Carthage Foundation, and the Scaife Family Foundation.

And Lou Dubose reports in Texas Monthly that Jack help Tom raise money for GOP candidates in 1994:

But it was at Preston Gates, where he was hired after the Gingrich Revolution delivered the House to the Republicans in 1994, that Jack Abramoff's career took off. His relationship with Tom DeLay helped put him on the fast track. Abramoff had been introduced to DeLay by Rabbi Daniel Lapin, a South African-born Orthodox Jew who, with Abramoff, founded Toward Tradition: a Torah-based group that works to strengthen relations between Jews and Christians. In 1994 Abramoff got behind DeLay's whip race. When DeLay won--after spending $700,000 on Republican House candidates' campaigns while Gingrich's candidate, Bob Walker, spent $1,000--Abramoff was a made man. "He's someone on our side," said Ed Buckham, DeLay's chief of staff at the time. "He has access to DeLay."

And that leads us to current history.

Originally posted to dengre on Mon Nov 28, 2005 at 06:08 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Wow. (none)
    This Abramoff story is just amazing. Every day a new facet comes out, each one more jaw-dropping than the last.

    Actually, given the ties between some of the contractors involved in the Iraq war and South Africa, these guys seem to have a lot of ties to the discredited apartheid regime.

    Check out Answer Guy Online. Thoughts from a bottomless pool of useless information.

    by Answer Guy on Mon Nov 28, 2005 at 06:38:19 AM PST

  •  WaPo article (none)
    I read the Washington Post article on Sunday as well. The paragraph about Abramoff's ties to the South African army stood out to me. Thanks for tying up all these strings.

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