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Abramoff started his career at the bottom

WASHINGTON—For a Republican, Jack Abramoff started at the bottom of the bottom: in Massachusetts, the quintessential "blue state."

He was a college kid from Brandeis University, working in 1980 to help elect Ronald Reagan. He worked closely with Grover Norquist, who'd go on to become an influential Republican strategist, anti-tax crusader and White House confidant.

Moving to Washington, they joined with another young Republican, Ralph Reed, who eventually would become the director of the Christian Coalition and also an influential Republican strategist.

For a man in a hurry, those relationships helped build the network that Abramoff exploited to become a multimillion-dollar lobbyist. But before he came to stand atop the intersection of money and politics—then lose his way—it took much more than that.

Abramoff was ambitious and bold. He produced two Hollywood movies. He opened two Washington restaurants. He leased skyboxes at Washington sports events. He bought a cruise line. He founded a religious school in Maryland.

Tuesday, it all crashed down on him. He faces years in prison. He must repay clients more than $25 million, and the government an undermined amount in income taxes. He's back at the bottom.

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(c) 2006, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

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