McCain Refuses to Cancel Reed Fundraiser

Take a stroll around John McCain’s website and you’ll see that he is no fan of corrupt lobbyist Jack Abramoff.  In fact, he seems to view him as a symbol of what is wrong with Washington DC and himself as the one man who can fix it:

I led the Abramoff investigation. I can bring about the necessary changes. Are we going to hand off to the next generation these problems? Of course we shouldn’t. Have to regain the trust that dollars they send to Washington are being wisely and carefully spent. I know these people (in Congress) well and I know how to reach across the aisle to solve these problems.

McCain says he gets angry when “I uncover a guy like Abramoff ripping off Indian tribes” and when, just last week, his campaign unveiled its “Broken” ad, it cited McCain’s role in leading “the Congressional investigation into Jack Abramoff” as proof of the ad’s assertion that he “fought corruption in both parties.”

Yet, despite his pose as a crusading maverick, McCain has committed himself to attending a fundraiser with Ralph Reed, one of Abramoff’s closest friends and associates who was repeatedly and directly implicated in the very investigation that took down Abramoff:

Republican presidential candidate John McCain so far is ignoring calls from several watchdog groups to cancel an Atlanta fundraiser promoted by Ralph Reed, a longtime friend and business partner of imprisoned lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Reed lost his 2006 campaign for Georgia lieutenant governor in large part because of details about his relationship with Abramoff — much of the information uncovered by McCain’s Indian Affairs Committee investigation into the wide-ranging lobbying corruption scandal.

The Senate probe discovered $4 million in payments Reed accepted to run a bogus anti-casino campaign aimed at reducing gambling competition. An Indian tribe with a competing casino made payments to Reed, which according to the Senate investigation’s final report, were “passed through” Abramoff’s firm, Preston, Gates, Ellis & Rouvelas Meeds, and another organization, Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform.

In our report on Reed written back in 2006, we explained just how deeply involved he was in Abramoff’s shady dealings:     

In 1999, Abramoff subcontracted Reed’s firm to generate opposition to attempts to legalize a state-sponsored lottery and video poker in Alabama, an effort that was bankrolled by the Choctaw Tribe in order to eliminate competition to its own casino in neighboring Mississippi.   Reed promised that Century Strategies was “opening the bomb bays and holding nothing back” and his firm ultimately received $1.3 million from the Choctaws for this effort, which included engaging the Alabama chapter of the Christian Coalition, as well as influential right-wing figures such as James Dobson, to work to defeat the proposals. 

The strategy had one small problem: the Alabama Christian Coalition had an explicit policy that it “will not be the recipient of any funds direct or in-direct or any in-kind direct or indirect from gambling interests.” (Emphasis in original.) Knowing this, Reed and Abramoff worked to hide the source of the $850,000 paid to the Christian Coalition for its anti-gambling efforts by funneling money from the Choctaws through Americans for Tax Reform, a Washington, DC anti-tax organization headed by their old College Republican friend Grover Norquist.  When asked why the tribe’s money had to be funneled through conduits such as ATR, a Choctaw representative stated it was because Reed did not want it known that casino money was funding his operation: “It was our understanding that the structure was recommended by Jack Abramoff to accommodate Mr. Reed’s political concerns.”

Perhaps the most audacious of all of Abramoff’s efforts on which Reed worked was the successful attempt on behalf of the Coushatta Tribe to shut down a rival casino in Texas.  After doing so, Abramoff then sold his lobbying services for $4 million to the same Texas tribe – the Tiguas – vowing to reopen the very casino he had just managed to shut down.

Reed was instrumental in the initial effort, building public support for then-Texas Attorney General, now a US Senator, John Cornyn’s drive to close the casino.  Reed organized a group of Texas pastors to “provide cover” for Cornyn’s effort to shutter the casino, at one point pledging to send “50 pastors to give him moral support” when it appeared as if Cornyn was going to be confronted by protestors.

Reed also developed close ties with sources in Cornyn’s office who kept him informed on developments, which he shared with Abramoff.  When Reed found out from Cornyn’s office that a court decision shutting down the casino was expected soon, he emailed Abramoff.  Thinking ahead, Abramoff was already preparing to fly to Texas to meet with the tribe whose casino was about to be closed thanks, in large part, to his handiwork.  In an email he sent to Reed just before his trip, he wrote “I wish those moronic Tiguas were smarter in their political contributions. I’d love to get my hands on that moolah!! Oh well, stupid folks get wiped out.”

Just days after the Tigua’s casino was closed, Abramoff met with them and offered to work to reopen the casino at no charge, though Scanlon’s PR work was going to cost them more than $4 million.  Abramoff declared himself outraged by the “gross indignity perpetuated by the Texas state authorities” – an “indignity” that he had helped orchestrate and for which he had been well paid.

Of the four men identified in this photo, all were implicated in Abramoff’s corruption and three received prison sentences – McCain is attending a fundraiser with the fourth: