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Tough questions for Jack Abramoff, in Tallahassee today for shady solar advocates

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Notorious former lobbyist Jack Abramoff tells anyone who will listen he really wants to improve his image.

Fronting a shady, dark money organization is not the best way to go about it.

Tuesday morning, Abramoff enters the Florida solar energy fray with an appearance at a news conference hosted by Conservatives for Energy Freedom. The media event is set for 10:30 a.m. at the Florida Press Center in Tallahassee.

Abramoff spent nearly four years in federal prison on a variety of charges linked to his Indian gaming lobbying practice – including conspiracy to bribe public officials. He now appears regularly across the country speaking out on the influence of money in politics.

Of that, he certainly knows well.

Even as a born-again “government reformer,” however, Abramoff insists that most of his prior actions – those of which he was convicted in court – was within the letter of the law.

In fact, at a 2012 speech before the National Conference of State Legislatures – one he needed permission from his probation officer to attend – Abramoff told the audience that “99 percent of his lobbying was ethical, and that he believes there is a need to close the loopholes in the system.”

Nevertheless, he was not sent to prison for doing legal things; he had broken the law.

It’s ironic for someone who was ultimately taken down by the system to then turn around and blame that same system, and not the corrupt individuals looking for ways to bend – or in Abramoff’s case, break – rules to their advantage.

So as he stands Tuesday morning with Conservatives for Energy Freedom to extol the virtues of the group’s proposed Solar Choice constitutional amendment, Abramoff — a former big money man – will have to face some very real and very pertinent questions.

Such as:

Who is paying for him to be there, and where do they get their money?

As someone who preaches about the evils of money and its influence in politics, isn’t it hypocritical to work on behalf of a dark money group, one that existed for no more than a year and refuses to disclose its source of funding?

The group in question, Conservatives for Energy Freedom, is led by a woman who has faced a $16,000 judgment for unpaid hotel bills in Georgia, yet gives $35,000 to the Solar Choice initiative. Where do those funds come from?

Even though representatives of the group swear they are not supported by solar companies, why is it they continue to avoid disclosing a donor list, while traveling throughout the country speaking about solar?

Abramoff – who knows a thing or two about shady dealings – is not helping his rebranding effort by casting his lot with yet another shady organization, this time one with secret donors and dark money.

Certainly, there are better ways for him to rehabilitate a tarnished image.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

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