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.
TDS Strategy Memos
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By Ed Kilgore
After a week of efforts to equate the controversial remarks of two particular members of Congress, I pushed back a bit at New York:
It looks like House Republicans are going to deal with outrage over their perennial problem child Marjorie Taylor Greene by finding a Democrat to punish. That would be Minnesota’s Ilhan Omar, according to Politico’s Huddle:
“’I think that Ilan should receive the same type of punishment as Marjorie because if it’s good for one, it is good for another,’ Rep. Maria Salazar (R-Fla.), who voted to remove Greene from her committees, told me. ‘Anti-semitism is the same thing as anti-semitism. It’s just that Nancy is afraid …'”
There are others who want to push for Omar’s removal as well as those looking to censure her over her war crimes remarks — and a few Dems may join them.
The idea of equating Omar’s complaints about unequal treatment of countries in investigating military misconduct with Greene’s comparisons of mask and vaccine requirements to the Holocaust is deeply satisfying to a lot of people. Republicans can continue their now-ancient habit of waving away extremism in their ranks by claiming it’s more prevalent on the other side of the aisle. Nervous centrist Democrats can document their nervous centrism by firing thunderbolts left and right. And most of all, accusing both parties of harboring those prone to “false equivalence” appeals to the false equivalence many Beltway media folks want to draw between Democrats and Republicans, who are engaged in the mutually assured destruction of partisan polarization.
There’s only one problem: Treating what MTG and Omar have said as equal expressions of false equivalence actually is false, as any honest evaluation of their words quickly shows. Greene bluntly compared COVID-19 precautions to the Holocaust, analogized vaccine documentation mandates to the Nazi practice of making Jews wear yellow stars, and, for good measure, said Democrats are like Nazis because they are “socialists.” Omar said this in the midst of a virtual exchange with Secretary of State Anthony Blinken over investigations of the brief but intense war between Israel and Hamas:
“’We must have the same level of accountability and justice for all victims of crimes against humanity,’ she wrote. “We have seen unthinkable atrocities committed by the U.S., Hamas, Israel, Afghanistan, and the Taliban.’”
Her point wasn’t to say the U.S., Hamas, Israel, Afghanistan, and the Taliban were equally culpable in their commission of atrocities, but that all should be equally subject to international investigation. I suppose there are superpatriots who would dispute the idea that America has ever committed “unthinkable atrocities,” though the victims of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear attacks, and of countless genocidal assaults on Native Americans, among many examples, suggest otherwise. But in any event, when challenged by Republicans and Democrats alike to make it clear she was not imputing equivalent culpability to these various nations and coalitions of fighters, Omar complied instantly:
“U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar said Thursday that she was ‘in no way equating terrorist organizations with democratic countries with well-established judicial systems … ‘
“’To be clear: the conversation was about accountability for specific incidents regarding [International Criminal Court] cases, not a moral comparison between Hamas and the Taliban and the U.S. and Israel.’”
MTG, meanwhile, kept doubling down on her comparisons of public-health measures with the slaughter of many millions by Nazi Germany, and finally, after more than three weeks and a tour of the Holocaust Museum, she issued an apology that betrayed little understanding of the full scope of the Holocaust, and then refused to apologize for the Democrat-Nazi analogy.
Looking more broadly at the two women and their records of controversial utterances, Ilhan made an unfortunate and erroneous reference to “the Benjamins,” in a gratuitous comment about support for Israel in the United States, for which she “unequivocally” apologized:
“Anti-semitism is real and I am grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on the painful history of anti-semitic tropes. My intention is never to offend my constituents or Jewish Americans as a whole. We have to always be able to step back and think through criticism, just as I expect people to hear me when others attack my identity. This is why I unequivocally apologize.”
Greene lost her committee assignments earlier this year after media focus on an almost incredible blizzard of incendiary statements she made on social media before coming to Congress (barely anyone even noticed her practice of brandishing an AR-15 when discussing her enemies in campaign ads). In February, she apologized for claiming that school shootings were fake and for promoting QAnon conspiracy theories. She never apologized for happily contemplating violence against congressional Democrats (including, very specifically, Ilhan Omar) and the Speaker of the House, or for her unusually aggressive support of Trump’s electoral big lie and the effort in January to overturn the presidential election results, or for her own subscription to very weird anti-Semitic claims.
If you cannot discern a qualitative difference between Omar’s “outrages” and Greene’s, and between the speed and coherence of their clarifications and apologies, it may be time for some remedial work in logic and rhetoric. These two members of Congress aren’t alike at all, and as much as I sometimes disagree with Ilhan Omar, treating her as a left-wing MTG is lazy and just plain wrong.