Jack the rip-off artist

Pasatiempo - - Moving Images - Casey Sanchez The New Mex­i­can

ICasino Jack and the United States of Money, doc­u­men­tary, rated R, CCA Cine­math­eque, 3 chiles Be­hind ev­ery ide­o­logue, there’s a blood-drenched B movie. Whether such fig­ures are of the left or right, pol­i­tics is but a set­ting to en­act their pulp­film fan­tasies. What are Tea Party ad­her­ents, garbed in colo­nial drag and shout­ing “Kill the bill!” but re­ac­tionary mid­dle-aged Brave­heart fan­boys, chan­nel­ing their in­ner Wil­liam Wal­lace — or at least the ver­sion of Wal­lace pro­moted in Mel Gib­son’s bloated, free­dom-shout­ing epic. In the same vein, it’s hard to watch the masked an­ti­hero of V for Vendetta as he hi­jacks the govern­ment-run TV sta­tions of a neo-fas­cist Bri­tain, pro­claim­ing that “Artists use lies to tell the truth; politi­cians use lies to cover it up,” and not feel as if you’ve stum­bled across the col­lec­tive fan­tasy life of the net­roots left.

I was re­minded of the con­nec­tion be­tween po­lit­i­cal con­spir­a­cies and ac­tion thrillers while watch­ing Casino Jack and the United States of Money, a new doc­u­men­tary about the life of lob­by­ist and con man ex­traor­di­naire Jack Abramoff. The film by Alex Gib­ney ( En­ron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, Taxi to the Dark Side) makes it clear that Abramoff wasn’t just mas­sively cor­rupt, he tor­pe­doed the ca­reers of con­gress­men, dal­lied with the mob, sank In­dian gam­ing casi­nos, and toyed with the lives of Asian gar­ment work­ers — all in or­der to trans­form his life into some­thing re­sem­bling the pulp spy movies he loved as a teenager.

As chair of the Col­lege Repub­li­cans, a na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tion that incubates young con­ser­va­tive lead­ers, Abramoff left the group in­debted by spend­ing its re­main­ing funds on thou­sands of copies of a para­noiac Cold War spy novel in 1983. Through­out the 1980s, Abramoff burned through mil­lions of dol­lars do­nated by Repub­li­cans in or­der to cre­ate schlocky free­dom-fighter pro­pa­ganda in sup­port of du­bi­ous Third World anti-com­mu­nist forces.

Pay to play: friends of Jack

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