We don’t say “bagman” anymore; the papers today would call James Ingersoll an “embezzler,” a “fixer” or a “money-launderer.” Ingersoll was all those things, but language has a tendency to drift over time, especially in matters of the law. “Graft” becomes “corruption,” “grifter” becomes “politician,” and “emolument” becomes some Russian asbestos baron’s room service tab at the Trump International Hotel.
In the end, of course, a bagman is a bagman is a bagman, and we are swimming in them these days. One such just testified against Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, who is on trial in a Virginia courtroom on charges of tax and bank fraud. If Manafort is ultimately convicted, it will be in large part because of testimony provided to the jury by his own bagman, Rick Gates, who cut a deal to save himself just like James H. Ingersoll did a century and a half ago.
The alleged crimes of Paul Manafort are Byzantine in their complexity, but ultimately quite simple. For many years, Manafort performed lucrative “consulting” work for powerful Russian interests like billionaire aluminum magnate Oleg Deripaska and Viktor Yanukovych, the pro-Russian former president of Ukraine.