The K Street Gang: The Rise and Fall of the Republican Machine, by Matthew Continetti.
Democratic critics latched onto the Jack Abramoff scandals to score political points; Weekly Standard writer Matthew Continetti uses them to illustrate how the Reagan-Gingrich Revolution went bad. It is a sobering tale of young, ideological conservatives who came to shrink government and change Washington, and who instead ended up betraying their principles and enriching themselves.
The book contains little first-hand reporting, but Continetti's strength is his fluid and engaging writing style, which captures the full range of shady, unethical, and illegal behavior. He reveals a deep and pernicious cynicism running through much of the "Republican Machine." One of the more damning, and underreported, stories is that of the Northern Mariana Islands. Conservatives touted this U.S. territory as the perfect laboratory for free-market policies. In reality, the island was little more than a large sweatshop, whose profits lined the pockets of conservative lobbyists who, in turn, operated a slick PR machine.
There is no doubt that Abramoff, Ralph Reed, Grover Norquist, and many other smaller players were guilty of excess and hubris. Nor is there any doubt that the battle for limited government has stalled. Yet it is not clear how pervasive this corruption was, beyond the usual vices that infect Washington no matter what party is in power. The answer to what went wrong in the past 12 years goes deeper, alas, than the K Street Gang.
—Vincent J. Cannato
University of Massachusetts, Boston
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This article appeared in the Winter 2006 issue of the Claremont Review of Books