Bruised Reed

"Bruised Reed" Continued...

Issue: "Riots in France," Nov. 19, 2005

E-mails made public by the U.S. Senate's Indian Affairs Committee show that Mr. Reed told Mr. Abramoff how much money he needed to conduct anti-gambling efforts in Alabama. Mr. Abramoff wrote that he would instruct the Choctaws to send the money through an intermediary organization to the Christian Coalition of Alabama (CCA). CCA later commissioned an investigation of the matter and has commendably posted on its website copies of canceled checks it received and invoices from Mr. Reed's firm that CCA identifies as requests for payment.

CCA did not reply to WORLD's request for further comment, but it has released a statement saying Mr. Reed never revealed that the anti-gambling donations came from tribal sources. In a June 2005 letter to the coalition's chairman, Mr. Reed admitted: "On reflection . . . I should have further explained that the contributions came from the Choctaws." Lisa Baron, Mr. Reed's spokeswoman, maintains that Mr. Abramoff's firm told Mr. Reed that any funding from tribal sources would come from the tribe's "non-gambling funds."

Dan Ireland, executive director of the anti-gambling Alabama Citizens Action Program, criticizes such a distinction: "I think anyone who is against gambling wouldn't take money if they thought it had anything to do with gambling." Gary Palmer, president of the conservative Alabama Policy Institute, says he has discussed the recent reports with Mr. Reed: "My impression is that Ralph now believes he shouldn't have taken the money. . . . I think we both concluded that this is in the gray area when we should be walking in black and white."

Tom Grey, executive director of the National Coalition Against Legalized Gambling, argues that revelations about Ralph Reed will help anti-gambling efforts by showing that "gambling is corrosive at best and corrupting at worst. What it's done to Ralph Reed is an example of its corrupting power."

Ms. Baron, saying her boss's consulting work has been "legitimate, lawful, and effective," dismisses another apparent incident of nondisclosure: The Washington Post and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported last month that Mr. Reed in 2000 knowingly took money from eLottery, a small gambling services company, for his efforts to defeat the Internet Gambling Prohibition Act.

The legislation would have made it easier for authorities to crack down on online gambling sites. When the bill came to the House for consideration in 2000, Mr. Abramoff (hired by eLottery to oppose the bill) hired Mr. Reed's Century Strategies consulting firm. In his work for Mr. Abramoff's firm, Mr. Reed told his supporters that he opposed the Internet Gambling Prohibition Act because it contained exceptions that would have allowed for the expansion of certain types of gambling.

Mr. Reed wasn't alone in his opposition to the bill. A handful of conservative groups, and at least one prominent evangelical-Lou Sheldon, president of the Traditional Values Coalition-also opposed the legislation, citing the same reason. But e-mails published by The Washington Post suggest that Mr. Abramoff directed eLottery to send payments to Mr. Sheldon and Mr. Reed for their efforts, and that Mr. Reed may have attempted to obscure the source of the funds by arranging to have money sent through two intermediary organizations.

Mr. Sheldon's efforts in combating the bill included meeting with members of Congress and organizing direct mailings that accused GOP members who favored the bill of being soft on gambling. He later backed off the attacks on some House Republicans but continued to oppose the legislation. Mr. Sheldon did not return repeated calls from WORLD seeking an interview.

Mr. Abramoff is now the subject of a federal investigation into whether he defrauded Indian tribal clients of $82 million from 1999 to 2001, and whether he illegally lobbied members of Congress on behalf of tribal clients. (In a separate matter, Mr. Abramoff has been indicted on charges of multimillion-dollar bank fraud in a Florida business deal.) Mr. Reed has not been accused of any illegal activity and is cooperating with the U.S. Senate Indian Affairs Committee's investigation of Mr. Abramoff.

If Mr. Reed doesn't divulge his business interests to the evangelical Christians he lobbies on behalf of his clients, he also doesn't disclose any anxiety he might have about political fallout from his business activities. Mr. Reed doesn't publicly acknowledge the controversies, and he remains the front-runner in the Republican primary for lieutenant governor, though the primary election won't take place until next July.

Meanwhile, the National Coalition Against Legalized Gambling's Mr. Grey is one of many angered by Mr. Reed's conduct: "The money was given to Ralph to protect gambling interests, and Ralph Reed became an agent for gambling. . . . The real story here is that Ralph Reed used social conservatives for his own corporate ends. You don't get much more of a public betrayal than that."

Jamie Dean
Jamie Dean

Jamie lives and works in North Carolina, where she covers the political beat and other topics as national editor for WORLD Magazine. Follow Jamie on Twitter @deanworldmag.


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