Lobbyist Jack Abramoff's guilty plea to charges of mail fraud, tax evasion and conspiracy to bribe public officials, could potentially open a Pandora's Box on both K Street and Capitol Hill, industry experts said.
"This thing is going to get a lot worse before it gets a lot better," said Paul Miller, President of the American League of Lobbyists. "And as busy as it's been, this is the calm before the storm."
The storm will be sparked by Abramoff's plea agreement, which stipulates that the lobbyist must provide information and testimony to prosecutors "concerning any matter," presumably including his dealings with members of Congress and their staff as investigators continue to scrutinize the relationship between politicians and K Street.
Throughout the past decade, the Center for Public Integrity has scrutinized and monitored the lobbying industry. The Center's LobbyWatch project provides access to data from 2.2 million public documents and details who the lobbyists and lobbying firms are, how much they spend and on whom.
For example, the Center found that Abramoff was one of 52 registered lobbyists who were major fundraisers for George W. Bush's presidential campaigns. Abramoff raised at least $100,000 for Bush's 2004 campaign and lobbied on issues brought before the White House for 19 clients.
In addition, federally registered lobbyists have served as the treasurers of at least 868 political committees since 1998. These committees have spent more than $525 million to influence the political process.