February 7, 2012 / 12:34 AM / 6 years ago

Former lobbyist Abramoff balks at naming ex-associates

Former Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff (L) arrives at the Miami Courthouse in Miami January 4, 2006.Joe Skipper

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Jack Abramoff, the former lobbyist at the center of a U.S. bribery scandal six years ago, said on Monday he does not want to publicly identify former associates because he does not want to see more people hurt.

His stance puts him at odds with some advocates of greater government transparency who in recent months have become his unlikely allies in pushing for stricter ethics laws.

In 2006, Abramoff pleaded guilty to fraud and bribery-related charges. He spent four years in prison, away from his wife and five children.

"I can't be the agent of doing that to someone else. I can't be the agent of sending someone to prison," Abramoff said at an event hosted by Public Citizen, a consumer group in Washington.

Abramoff cooperated with prosecutors, leading to criminal convictions of former business partners and government officials including former Republican Representative Bob Ney of Ohio.

Abramoff boasted on CBS' "60 Minutes" TV news program in November that he and his team of lobbyists had strong influence over 100 congressional offices, in many cases because he promised future jobs to top staff members.

He said he does not plan to give details of those discussions, for example. Besides causing harm, making the details public might pull him back into Washington's "swamp" and distract from a focus on systemic problems, he said.

Ellen Miller, executive director of the Sunlight Foundation, a group that advocates stricter regulation of lobbyists, called Abramoff's hesitation a disappointment.

"If he really wants to create change and reform, he will name names," creating discomfort for lawmakers and making "the current situation untenable," Miller said.

Public Citizen President Robert Weissman said more details from Abramoff "would be helpful" but that Abramoff has a unique platform nonetheless.

"I hope we can leverage his voice," Weissman said.

Abramoff has been on a media tour since November, appearing at Harvard Law School, selling a book, and proposing a television show. He has spoken with nonprofits such as the Sunlight Foundation and Public Citizen to try to ban some of the lobbying methods he practiced.

He has proposed prohibiting congressional staff members from going to work as lobbyists and banning campaign contributions from those seeking to influence the government.

Abramoff wrote an opinion piece as a guest columnist for Reuters in November.

Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Doina Chiacu

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