Former Christian Coalition Executive Director Ralph Reed has finally admitted that he accepted money from a lobbying firm to work on behalf of gambling interests - sort of.
The Nation magazine reported July 12 that Reed worked on behalf of a Native American tribe in Louisiana that owns a casino and wanted to keep out competition. Members of the Coushatta Tribe, who operate a huge casino near Lake Charles, La., were worried that members of another tribe were going to open their own casino and cut into the Coushatta's action.
Enter Reed. According to The Nation, lobbyists working for the Coushatta hired Reed to mobilize conservative Christians against the new casino. Anti-gambling Christians were never told, of course, that the group behind the effort was merely trying to protect its own gambling operation.
It remains unclear how much Reed, who is currently working for the Bush reelection effort, was paid for his efforts. The Washington Post put the figure at more than $1 million, but a report in today's Roll Call has a considerably higher figure -- $3.8 million.
At first, Reed tried to deny the whole thing, insisting that The Nation story was filled with errors. But today's Post reports that Reed has acknowledged the he accepted the money. (Reed's Atlanta-based firm, Century Strategies, took the funds to mobilize ministers to oppose the proposed new casino.)
But Reed continues to fudge the issue. In a statement released to The Post, he insisted that Century Strategies has never accepted money from a casino company.
That is true but disingenuous. Reed, who once called legalized gambling "a cancer on the American body politic," accepted money from a lobbying firm working on behalf of casino gambling. It seems unlikely that he was unaware of the source of those funds. Reed says he was not aware the lobbyists were representing Native American casino interests – yet two casino lobbyists say that in 2002 an official with the Coushatta Tribe specifically recommended that they hire Reed. The lobbyists did so – but under the table.
The entire mess came to light as part of an ongoing federal investigation into possible illegal campaign contributions, tax code violations and misuse of tribal funds. According to The Post, some of Century Strategies' records have been subpoenaed as part of the probe. Stay tuned. More interesting information may come to light.