Yesterday in writing about Ralph Reed’s triumphant return with his Faith and Freedom Coalition, we noted that his reputation has been badly tarnished by his close ties to imprisoned lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
One other figure who played a key role in Ambramoff and Reed’s business dealings was Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform, who often served as a conduit through which Abramoff funneled the money gambling interests ponied up to fund Reed’s anti-gambling work among the Religious Right.
As such, it is rather hilarious to see Norquist gushing about Reed’s new endeavor:
One veteran conservative leader who’s got a pretty good track record himself thinks this is just what the conservative movement needed.
“This is going to be big,” said Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist.
It’s almost as if Norquist is salivating at the idea of being able to partner with Reed once again in hopes of cashing in, just as he did the last time around:
Reed, who left the Christian Coalition in 1997 to found a political consultancy, said he was counting on Abramoff “to help me with some contacts.”
As it turned out, Abramoff needed them too. In 2000 Alabama was considering establishing a state lottery, which would compete with the casino business of the Mississippi band of Choctaws, an Abramoff client. Norquist and Reed were well positioned to help.
“ATR was opposed to a government-run lottery for the same reason we’re opposed to government-run steel mills,” Norquist told TIME. Reed publicly opposed gambling. It wouldn’t do to have casino owners directly funding an antigambling campaign.
So Abramoff arranged for the Choctaws to give ATR $1.15 million in installments. Norquist agreed to pass the money on to the Alabama Christian Coalition and another Alabama antigambling group, both of which Reed was mobilizing for the fight against the lottery. Reed knew the real source of the money was the casino-rich Choctaws. The antigambling groups say they didn’t.
On February 7, 2000, Abramoff warned Reed that the initial payment for antilottery radio spots and mailings would be less than Reed thought. “I need to give Grover something for helping, so the first transfer will be a bit lighter,” Abramoff wrote.
The transfer was apparently lighter than even Abramoff expected. In a note to himself on February 22, Abramoff wrote, “Grover kept another $25K!”
Norquist says he had permission. He says a Choctaw representative — he can’t remember who — instructed him on two occasions to keep $25,000 of the money for his group.
If Reed is trying to re-establish himself as a trustworthy player on the Right, it probably doesn’t help to have Norquist gleefully rubbing his hands together in the background.