Like any new employee, Jack Abramoff is trying to keep a low profile — or as low a profile as a cause célèbre disgraced lobbyist and convicted felon can keep when news cameramen keep staking out his new workplace.
Mr. Abramoff started his new gig this week at Tov Pizza — “the best kosher pizza in town,” according to a catchy jingle that plays while callers are on hold.
He has so far stayed largely cloistered in a back office. He will work about 40 hours a week, said the owner, Ron Rosenbluth. He comes in around 10:30 a.m., leaves around 5:30 p.m., and wears a yarmulke to work, as many of the male customers and employees here do. He earns between $7.50 and $10 an hour (“or a little less than what he used to make”). He has been responsible, punctual, courteous. “He is not the monster he has been portrayed as,” Mr. Rosenbluth said.
Mr. Abramoff did not appear at the front of the restaurant during a two-hour stretch late Wednesday afternoon as families walked in and out, having ordered slices, veggie burgers and baked ziti. There was, however, a chance sighting in a back office (he wore a red polo shirt and appeared to be reading something).
He declined a request for an interview through Mr. Rosenbluth, and departed through a side entrance, skirting photographers waiting for him in a parking lot.
It is too soon to tell if Mr. Abramoff is cut out for a career in the pizza business, Mr. Rosenbluth said Wednesday. “He’s only been here three days,” said Mr. Rosenbluth, who has been here 26 years.
But of course, Mr. Abramoff stands out among the 18 people who work here. He is that Jack Abramoff, the former lobbying macher who pleaded guilty in 2006 to felony counts involving fraud, corruption and conspiracy, and served three and a half years at a minimum security prison camp in Cumberland, Md. He is now living at a nearby halfway house, which arranged for Mr. Abramoff’s employment here.
“People ask me, ‘Why would you ever hire Jack Abramoff?’ ” said Mr. Rosenbluth, who said he has not bothered to learn much about Mr. Abramoff’s past. “I say, ‘Why wouldn’t I hire Jack Abramoff?’ He’s paying his debt to society, right?”
While in prison, Mr. Abramoff reportedly gave regular Torah lectures, according to a report this week in The Baltimore Jewish Times, quoting a former inmate. Mr. Abramoff focused on Jewish law and also led an introduction to prayer course, the publication said.
Mr. Rosenbluth says he is hoping that he can get help with marketing strategies from Mr. Abramoff, who used to run Signatures, a kosher restaurant in Washington.
By “marketing,” Mr. Rosenbluth does not mean that Mr. Abramoff will win notoriety for his establishment — though he clearly has, since the media attention has been steady and, judging from Mr. Rosenbluth’s disposition, somewhat annoying. “I have a restaurant I need to run,” he said.
Still, better Tov Pizza get the attention than the other kosher pizzerias in Baltimore, said Jason Broth, the restaurant’s night manager.
He added, “I think the marketing term is, there’s no such thing as bad publicity.”