February 06, 2006
Thin Reed

The Texas Observer advances the ball again in the Tigua Casino scandal, with evidence suggesting that Christian Coalition activist/bagman Ralph Reed broke the law by acting as an unregistered lobbyist. Here's a taste:

In 2001, legally questionable Texas casinos operated by the Tigua tribe in El Paso and the Alabama-Coushatta tribe in Livingston competed with tribal gambling operations in Louisiana. East Texas' Alabama Coushatta lacked the autonomy that comes with formal federal recognition, making them subject to a state law prohibiting casino gambling. The Tiguas did obtain federal recognition in 1987, but only after they mollified critics by pledging to obey Texas gaming laws. The Tiguas later argued that Texas cleared the way for a tribal casino in 1991, when voters approved racetracks and a state lottery. The courts ultimately shot down the tribe’s legal theory. Facing legal threats from then-Attorney General John Cornyn, who soon would persuade the courts to shut down these casinos (see "No Picnic at Speaking Rock," December 17, 2004), the Texas-based tribes backed state legislation to legalize their casinos. Killing this bill (House Bill 514) was a top objective of the rival Louisiana Coushatta tribe, which paid Abramoff’s lobby firm $1.8 million in 2001. Abramoff-Reed correspondence reveals that Abramoff paid Reed to work on this effort. As he previously did for Channel One in Alabama, Reed created a front group to run attack ads against this gambling legislation. Last year the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Reed secretly hired Houston lobbyist Andrew Biar to create this so-called Committee Against Gambling Expansion.

Abramoff-Reed e-mails also suggest that Reed and his shop may have engaged in the kind of paid contact with Texas officials that can trigger a legal obligation to register as a lobbyist. In a January 2002 e-mail exchange discussing then-Texas Attorney General John Cornyn's litigation to shut down the Tiguas’ casino, Reed assured Abramoff that, "we are discussing this with the head of the [attorney general’s] criminal division today."

Perhaps illustrating how toxic Abramoff’s name has become, the Observer could not find anyone who would admit to being deputy attorney general of criminal justice in January 2002. The preponderance of evidence points to Michael McCaul, who was elected in 2004 to represent one of Tom DeLay's newly minted congressional districts. Yet Rep. McCaul's spokesperson said that his boss had been replaced by that time by Shane Phelps, a one-time opponent of Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle. Now a Brazos County prosecutor, Phelps told the Observer that McCaul succeeded Phelps in that post, not vice versa. The Observer then found a December 2002 attorney general release announcing the replacement of "acting Deputy for Criminal Justice" Don Clemmer, who had served in that post "since Michael McCaul joined the U.S. Attorney's for the Western District of Texas." A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney said that McCaul joined that federal office in October 2002 - nine months after Reed’s team reportedly met with Cornyn's deputy attorney general. At press time, a spokesman for Rep. McCaul called and admitted that the congressman in fact had been the deputy attorney general at the time but had "never had any contact with" Ralph Reed, Century Strategies, or the Texas or national Christian Coalition.

In another January 2002 message Abramoff directed Reed to recruit cooperative Texas and Alabama lawmakers, dubbed "tigers," to introduce legislation that would exclude companies that do business with Indian casinos from state contracting. "Easy to get our tigers to introduce them [bills] in both places," Reed responds. What such correspondence fails to establish, however, is if Reed and Century Strategies directly lobbied Texas officials, as the e-mails suggest, or if Reed was bearing false witness to rationalize millions of dollars in gambling fees.

Read the whole thing. It's no wonder that Ralph's fellow Republicans in Georgia are urging him to drop out of the race for Lieutenant Governor there.

Meanwhile, in a largely-unnoticed section of the Abramoff Scandal-Go-Round, Mary Beth has been collecting and tying together a lot of threads between Abramoff, various Congressional Republicans such as Richard Pombo, and Interior Secretary Gale Norton, all of which has to do with the Cobell v. Norton lawsuit. Start here, read The Story So Far in this Kos diary, and refer back to this category page for the rest of the research.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on February 06, 2006 to Scandalized! | TrackBack

I have a sort-of connection to Ralph Reed. We are both alums of the Demosthenian Society, an extemporaneous debate society that is the oldest student organization at the University of Georgia. I've never met him though.

Posted by: hope on February 7, 2006 10:53 AM