Super Jack's Guilty Plea

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Jack Abramoff leaves Federal Court in Washington, Tuesday. The lobbyist pleaded guilty to federal charges of conspiracy, tax evasion and mail fraud

Former super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff pleaded guilty today to three felony counts of conspiracy, fraud and tax evasion, sending another tremor through Washington as expectations mount that the man who had access to many of the most powerful members of Congress could take some of them down with him. The plea agreement lays out in tantalizingly oblique strokes the way Abramoff raised millions of dollars on the sly from Indian tribal clients and then bought influence on Capitol Hill through lavish gifts of money, travel and entertainment. "Words will not be able to ever express how sorry I am for this," he told U.S. District Court Judge Ellen Huvelle. "I have profound regret and sorrow for the multitude of mistakes and harm I have caused."

Abramoff has made Republicans on the Hill increasingly nervous over the last year, as the investigation widened and details emerged about the gravy train of perks he lavished on lawmakers—from expensive meals to golf outings to tickets to sporting events. So far, only one Representative, Bob Ney of Ohio, has been identified in public Justice Department documents as part of the Abramoff investigation, though he has not been charged. Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who traveled with Abramoff to Scotland and Moscow in 1997 and 2000, is among as many as 40 current and former lawmakers and staffers believed to be under scrutiny by a Justice-led task force looking into Abramoff's activities.

The plea deal comes as the House Republican leadership faces trying times. DeLay was forced to step down as Houe Majority Leader after he was indicted on unrelated money laundering charges in Texas, and his temporary replacement, Majority Whip Roy Blunt of Missouri, has failed to corral increasingly fractious House Republicans. Leadership elections are expected when the House reconvenes at the end of January. And nervous incumbents worry that the Abramoff and DeLay scandals will hurt them in mid-term elections next fall.

Abramoff, 46, faces up to 30 years in prison and as much as $25 million in restitution to the victims of his alleged conspiracy alone. As part of the deal, he agreed to hand over more than $1.7 million in unpaid taxes to the IRS. On Wednesday, he's expected to plead guilty to fraud and conspiracy in a related case, involving his purchase of the SunCruz casino boat line.