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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

New Details in Reed Gambling Scandal

In today’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Jim Galloway gives us a much clearer picture of the 1999-2000 Alabama gambling/anti-gambling scandal in which Ralph Reed, candidate for Lieutenant Governor of Georgia, played a central role.Turns out the 1.1 million that flowed from the Choctaws of Mississippi to Grover Norquist to anti-gambling forces in Alabama to Reed’s consulting firm occurred during two different campaigns. The first, involving a $300,000 payment, went to the successful effort to defeat a state lottery initiative backed by then-Gov. Don Siegelman. The rest of the money, $800,000, passed through the Alabama Christian Coalition the following year, and was aimed (successfully) at stirring up public opposition to a bill that would have authorized video poker at four ailing dog racing tracks.More importantly, Galloway clearly explains the motives of the Choctaws in shelling out this much dough to influence gaming laws in Alabama. They weren’t so much worried about a lottery or video poker in Alabama. Their real concern is that legalized public gaming in Alabama would open the way for a ‘Bama tribe, the Creeks, to upgrade an existing facility with bingo-based games into a full-scale casino, in direct competition with the Choctaws across the border.Today’s piece also reveals that Reed has a new story about the source of the money: it came from a special account set up by the Choctaws from their non-gambling revenues. This will apparently become his fallback defense if nobody believes his highly dubious argument that he had no idea his ol’ buddy Jack Abramoff was involving with Indian gaming.I doubt this defense will cut much more ice than the original Reed profession of innocence. The issue is not exactly which Choctaw bank account financed the anti-gambling effort in Alabama; it’s the motive that matters. And there’s not much doubt one tribe, on the advice of Abramoff and utlilizing his close friends Norquist and Reed, was spending freely to avoid competition from another.So far Reed seems to have controlled the immediate political damage to his campaign of his ever-more-intimate implication in the Abramoff scandal. But within the next week or two, the Alabama Christian Coalition is expected to release the results of an internal investigation of the mess. And at a time when Alabama Democrats are pushing a proposal to demand that groups like the Christian Coalition who are involved directly in campaigns disclose their funding sources, the organization might just decide to drop a heavy dime on Reed. Stay tuned.

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