Abscam Scandal

Published: 1980
Play Audio Archive Story - UPI

Nick Charles: The Federal Bureau of Investigation ended a two year undercover operation in February 1980 named Abscam, in which Federal agents posed as businessmen and Arab Sheikhs willing to pay bribes. Merrily Cox (ph) says it was the largest investigation involving members of Congress. One Senator and five Congressmen were implicated.

Merrily Cox: Word of the investigation first surfaced in early February. Seven members of Congress and one Senator had been implicated in an undercover FBI operation that had the elements of foreign intrigue, big money pay-offs and high technology. FBI agents posed as representatives of phony Arab Sheikhs. They offered public officials money in exchange for influence and they videotaped most of the meetings where attempted deals were struck. Florida's Richard Kelly was one of the six Congressmen indited in Abscam. He never denied he took the cash, but insisted he did it because he was conducting an investigation of his own.

Richard Kelly: My judgment was that these people wanted to transform me into a member of Congress that would be in their control because it would be established by my association with them that I was on the take and a crook and they could trust me, and that's precisely why I was doing that. It did not seem to me as though this form of investigation could do any damage in any way to the United States because I wasn't been asked to do anything, it wasn't been done everyday anyway.

Merrily Cox: Michael “Ozzie” Myers was the first to be indited and convicted in connection with Abscam. He also became the first to lose his job as a result. In early October, he was expelled from the house. Another victim, South Carolina Congressmen John Jenrette, obviously shaken when he told reporters after his conviction it was the video tapes of his encounters with undercover agents that did him in.

John Jenrette: I believe the judicial system, but I just can't see how all the evidence if they looked at it could have been run through and just won't listen to three, three 17:28 tapes to be in. Obviously, the videos were all they considered.

Merrily Cox: Most of those involved appealed their convictions, a process that could take months to resolve. Most will pursue those appeals as private citizens all but one lost either in primaries or in the general election. Merrily Cox, Washington.

Nick Charles: You are listening to Recap 80. We will continue in a moment.