Tuesday, January 10, 2006

GOD, MONEY AND THE ABRAMOFF CASE

I imagine many of you have been hearing about the Justice Department’s major case against Jack Abramoff and a number of powerful figures in the Republican lobbying and fundraising community. It’s a case that has already brought down Republican House Majority leader Tom Delay and may bring down over a dozen Republican congresspeople before all’s said and done. There’s been an awful lot of good investigative reporting on this case. I’m partial to the reporting Josh Marshall has been doing at Talking Points Memo

What Marshall argues convincingly is that, led by figures like Bush, Cheney, Delay and Roy Blunt, the Republican party has actually been functioning like an organized crime syndicate, laundering huge sums of money so as to avoid campaign finance laws and then using that money to bribe and/or bully public officials (often in their own party) to do their bidding. Jack Abramoff ran the enormous slush fund. It’s just another example of how this situation with the Bush Whitehouse and its tentacles has reached Nixonian proportions and is indeed now completely out of control.

I’m hoping to write a full synopsis of the Abramoff case for you, but in the meantime I thought I’d show you this. It’s an email exchange between Ralph Reed – he formerly of the Christian Coalition and the Michael J. Fox-like innocent looks – and Jack Abramoff. Reed's correspondence with Abramoff is contained in pages 52-53 of the Exhibits released to the public by the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs as part of the Oversight Hearing on Lobbying Practices on November 2, 2005.

The Reed/Ambramoff coversation took place on April 11, 2001, as Reed was mounting a campaign for the chairmanship of the Georgia Republican Party:

Reed writes:

"Jack, would you be willing to contribute personally to my state chair campaign? This race is costing me $50-100K, and I'm asking my friends to help."

Abramoff responds:

"Sure. Give me the name of the entity."

Reed deadpans:

"The actual committee is "The Reed Family Retirement and Educational Foundation." It is a 501(c)(3). The address is 200 Bay Drive, Grand Cayman, BCI, R59876."

Abramoff:

"Ha ha ha. Make sure you get me the proper committee name."

After Reed responded with the real name ("Reed for Chairman"), Abramoff wrote:

"Seriously, I'll get you the $10K this week or next from a source which owes me money."

The "source" was the Mississippi Choctaw Indian tribe. In early April, the Choctaw cut a $150K check to the American International Center, one of the fake foundation slush funds Abramoff had set up with Michael Scanlon. On 4/12/01, Abramoff wrote to his assistant instructing $10K of the $150K check to be sent on to Reed's campaign (see page 54).

Strangely, only $5500 of the Choctaw money seems to have gotten into the “Reed for Chairman” accounts. Perhaps the rest ended up in those Holy and Tax-Free Cayman Islands Reed mentioned.

Reed has been for almost two decades now one of the public faces of “conservative” American Christianity. And like many of his compatriots, he’s been working hard to give new meaning to that “In God We Trust” brand on the money in your wallet.

Could somebody remind me what slush funds in the tax-free Cayman Islands have to do with Jesus again?

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