Shining New Light on Abramoff and the Christian Coalition
Cross Posted at Legal Schnauzer
An Alabama lawsuit that was quickly settled about a month after it was filed in 2007 provides a road map of the Christian Coalition’s connections to the Jack Abramoff scandal.
Dr. Randy Brinson, the current chairman of the Christian Coalition of Alabama, filed the lawsuit against the group’s former director, John Giles, and Alabama Republican operative Dax Swatek. Brinson claims the defendants unlawfully seized the organization’s Web site and member lists and interfered with its business relations.
The lawsuit provides a vivid outline of the corruption that enveloped the Deep South, and much of the country, during the George W. Bush administration. And it describes the atmosphere that helped lead to the investigation and conviction of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman in perhaps the most notorious political prosecution in the nation’s history.
Giles was chairman of the Christian Coalition of Alabama for about eight years until he was forced to resign in August 2006. Brinson became the new chairman, and Giles went on to form a group called Christian Action Alabama. Giles has stated that the split came because of a dispute over distribution of voter guides. But Brinson, in the lawsuit, says that gambling and the Abramoff scandal really drove the acrimonious split.
Before Brinson took over, the Christian Coalition had opposed all forms of gambling on the grounds that they were immoral. The lawsuit, however, indicates something much darker was going on:
The coalition has attempted to destroy legalized gambling, which operates under statutory and legislative authority and has been approved by the voters of Alabama. The Coalition also openly supported any candidate who took an anti-gambling stance. However, the shameful irony behind the stance taken by the Coalition and certain legislators is that, based on information and belief, that very stance has often been the result of lobbying efforts by competing gambling interests and casino operators in Mississippi.
That’s where Abramoff and Ralph Reed, then chairman of the Christian Coalition of America, come in. Brinson states:
In 1999, the Mississippi Choctaw tribe hired Abramoff, who then enlisted Ralph Reed Jr. and the then Christian Coalition of Alabama to help defeat a bill in the Alabama Legislature (that) would allow certain kinds of skill-dependent games at dog racing tracks, as well as defeating a proposed state lottery, both of which would have resulted in competition for the Mississippi casinos.
The lottery, of course, was supported by Siegelman, then Alabama’s governor. The lawsuit continues:
Reed was fully cognizant that he had been hired to further the wishes of the Mississippi Choctaws. . . . Reed told Abramoff he could access "3,000 pastors and 90,000 religious conservative households in Alabama. . . . Because Reed was uncomfortable being paid directly by gambling interests to oppose gambling, Abramoff structured payments to Reed via the lobbying firm of Preston Gates. Later Abramoff suggested that the tribe use Americans for Tax Reform, an anti-tax nonprofit organization headed by conservative activist Grover Norquist, to launder the money to Reed, which the tribe did. By May 10, 1999, the Choctaw had paid Reed $1.3 million through the Preston Gates firm.
A report by the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs provided more specifics, Brinson states:
The Senate report indicates that by 2000 at least $575,000 was laundered from the Choctaw casinos through Americans for Tax Reform to the Alabama Christian Coalition.
Giles has denied connections to the Abramoff scandal. But the facts do not appear to support his story. States Brinson:
Giles has emphatically denied on the Coalition’s Web site that the Coalition accepted any money from Indian casinos to combat gambling and refers to the multitudinous suggestions of impropriety leveled at the Christian Coalition as mere "sloppy and undocumented journalism. . . . " Nevertheless, Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, told The Boston Globe newspaper in May of 2005 that his organization gave $850,000 to the Alabama Christian Coalition and that the money came from an Indian casino in Mississippi.
Brinson has taken the Christian Coalition of Alabama in a different direction on gambling issues. He states in the lawsuit that he supported a bill in the Alabama House of Representatives that would tax and regulate gambling and help fund Medicaid.
Siegelman would lose his bid for re-election in 2002 when votes for him mysteriously disappeared overnight due to a computer "glitch" in heavily Republican Baldwin County, Alabama. That gave the election to former Congressman Bob Riley, who will wrap up his two terms in January 2011.
Riley has been a staunch opponent of gambling, and the Brinson lawsuit provides considerable insight into the governor’s hypocrisy on the subject. As we reported earlier, Brinson has received threats from Riley associates because of his support for taxed and regulated gambling.
Below is the full text of the Randy Brinson lawsuit.
(To be continued)