CUMBERLAND, Md. – One-time power broker Jack Abramoff lamented "this nightmare" political scandal that stretches from Congress to the White House and looked toward being with family and friends again someday as he entered a federal prison Wednesday.
Abramoff, who parlayed campaign donations and expensive gifts into political influence, arrived at about 6:30 a.m. EST at a relatively secluded prison facility in western Maryland. He will serve a nearly six-year sentence for a fraudulent Florida business deal.
"This nightmare has gone on for almost three years so far and I expect we are not even half way through," Abramoff wrote in an e-mail to friends before dawn Wednesday.
Still hanging over Abramoff is a public corruption case in Washington, where prosecutors are investigating Bush administration officials, federal lawmakers and their aides. Abramoff pleaded guilty in that case and is helping prosecutors.
"Unfortunately, things are going to get worse (starting today no doubt) before they get better, but I am confident that ultimately the turmoil will subside and we will have our lives back," Abramoff wrote in his e-mail.
The e-mail, described by Abramoff as "My last e-mail for a while," was provided to The Associated Press by one his correspondents, who asked to remain anonymous.
Abramoff, inmate No. 27593-112, was delivered to prison out of sight of waiting reporters and camera crews. He will be held at a 334-bed minimum-security prison camp near an industrial park along the north branch of the Potomac River.
From prison, Abramoff will continue cooperating with the Justice Department, helping explain how he manipulated government decisions and who else was involved. The case has already led to the conviction of former Bush administration official David Safavian and guilty pleas from former U.S. Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, and several congressional aides.
The scandal also contributed to the election day defeat of Republicans nationwide.
Like all federal prisoners, Abramoff will be required to have a prison job. Unlike his previous job, which involved chartering jets for exotic golf excursions and facilitating huge campaign donations, Abramoff will make between 12 and 40 cents an hour. Stephen Finger, executive assistant at the prison, said new inmates typically start in menial jobs such as food service work.
The all-male prison camp, which is surrounded by Appalachian Mountain ridges, consists of cinderblock two-story dormitories, each containing six-bed cubicles.
In his e-mail, Abramoff told friends he understood if they couldn't make the trip to visit him. He explained the 15-minute time limit on phone calls, said he wouldn't have access to e-mail but hoped he'd have use of a typewriter.
"Please bear in mind, though, that I am not permitted to conduct any ongoing business while in prison, and plan to be even stricter on myself than the rules require," he wrote.
He also noted that authorities could — and likely would — read his mail.
An Orthodox Jew, he did not spell out the word "God" in his e-mail, but told friends he would look for spiritual meaning in prison.
"I have learned more lessons in the past three years than I have my whole life, and I am hoping that my family and I can see the good in G-d's plan for us during these times, and gain strength from it," Abramoff wrote.
Federal prisons make arrangements for religious needs, including prayer services and kosher meals, prison officials said.
The Abramoff investigation has also ensnared Ney's former chief of staff and two aides to former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas. The case cost DeLay his leadership seat before he ultimately resigned, and it contributed to the Election Day defeat of Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont.
Safavian was sentenced in October to 18 months in prison for lying to investigators about his ties to Abramoff. He is asking a federal judge to postpone his sentence until he can appeal his conviction.
Burns, who received about $150,000 in Abramoff-related donations and whose aides traveled on the lobbyist's jet to the 2001 Super Bowl, has denied any wrongdoing. Though two of DeLay's aides have pleaded guilty, the former majority leader maintains his innocence and has not been charged.
Also under scrutiny are Rep. John Doolittle, R-Calif., who accepted campaign money from Abramoff and used the lobbyist's luxury sports box for a fundraiser without initially reporting it, and former Deputy Interior Secretary Steven Griles, who senators and a former colleague said gave preferential treatment to Abramoff and his Indian tribe clients.