December 1, 2005
Ralph’s feet get a little closer to the fire:
AUSTIN - Three Texas watchdog groups asked a Texas county official Thursday to investigate former Christian Coalition founder Ralph Reed, who worked with lobbyist Jack Abramoff to press state officials to shut down two Texas tribal casinos.
Texans for Public Justice, Common Cause of Texas and Public Citizen filed their complaint with Travis County Attorney David Escamilla.
They said Reed, who is running for lieutenant governor in Georgia, failed to register as a Texas lobbyist in 2001 and 2002, when he received a reported $4.2 million from Abramoff and his partner Michael Scanlon to push for the closure of casinos operated by the Tigua tribe of El Paso and the Alabama-Coushatta tribe of Livingston in East Texas.
“If he was crossing the border and crossing the legal line, Texans need to know about it and hold him accountable,” said Craig McDonald, director of Texans for Public Justice. “It appears he was part of the scheme to bilk millions of dollars from Indian tribes. We’re asking the county attorney to help us sort out and get to the bottom of this.”
… The U.S. Senate Indian Affairs Committee has been investigating Abramoff and Scanlon. In e-mails released by the committee Reed, discussed his efforts against the casinos. Investigators have alleged that Abramoff and Scanlon defrauded their tribal clients of some $80 million.
Last week, Scanlon pleaded guilty to conspiring to bribe public officials to assist clients. As part of his plea agreement, he’ll pay $19 million to tribes he admitted to defrauding and is cooperating with investigators.
Abramoff and Scanlon were hired by the Louisiana Coushatta tribe in 2001 and worked to prevent the Alabama-Coushatta and another Louisiana tribe from opening competing casinos.
Reed rallied the religious community against the casinos, fed information he said he obtained from Sen. John Cornyn’s staff when he was Texas attorney general to Abramoff and Scanlon, and lobbied state lawmakers to kill a bill that would reopen the Tiguas casino, according to his e-mails.
What Reed’s religious-right supporters can’t seem to grasp is that Reed knew all along that his work was being funded by gambling dollars:
… Reed knew from the beginning of his professional association with Abramoff in 1999 that a Mississippi Indian tribe with casino interests was bankrolling much of his anti-gambling activity in Alabama against a state-sponsored lottery and video poker.
Even as religious conservatives denied an alliance with out-of-state gamblers, Reed — acting on behalf of gaming opponents — submitted campaign budgets through Abramoff to the Mississippi Band of Choctaws, according to the e-mails.
Some of Reed’s customers weren’t exactly satisfied either:
The ultimate source of Reed’s multimillion-dollar fees for this lobby work appears to be a casino operated by the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana, which wanted to eliminate competition from Speaking Rock and a small Alabama Coushatta casino in East Texas. The Louisiana tribe hired Abramoff and Scanlon in April 2001, ultimately paying them $32 million.
As soon as Cornyn shut down Speaking Rock in February 2002, team Abramoff pulled off an extraordinary double play. Playing on their close ties to indicted former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (who once had employed Scanlon as a press secretary), the same lobbyists who had worked behind the scenes to shutter Speaking Rock sold themselves to the Tigua tribe as the lobbyists who could press Congress to reopen that casino. The Tiguas—who hired Abramoff’s team for an initial fee of $4.2 million—have since accused Abramoff, Scanlon and Reed of fraud.
“Apart from abandoning every scintilla of ethical behavior, Mr. Reed’s Texas lobbying activity also appears to have broken Texas law,” said Craig McDonald, director of Texans for Public Justice. “If Mr. Reed crossed the legal line when he crossed the Texas border to lobby for gambling interests, he must be held fully accountable.”
Documents unearthed by the Abramoff/Scanlon investigation show that Reed received up to $4.2 million for his work in Texas in 2001 and 2002—work that involved nothing more than a little light lobbying. Yet his compensation ranks among the state’s largest ever lobbying contracts.
Corrupt, fraudulent and unethical: the perfect Republican candidate for Georgia’s lieutenant governor.
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