Ralph Reed: The Crash of the Choir-Boy Wonder

Playing the eLottery – Faith, Family and Fraud

In 2000, Abramoff was hired by eLottery, an online gambling services company, to fight the Internet Gambling Prohibition Act.  The legislation was designed to make it easier to stop online gambling and appeared headed for easy passage, at least until Abramoff and Reed went to work.  Abramoff seized on language in the bill that exempted jai alai and horse racing and worked to portray the bill, because of these exemptions, as actually expanding legalized gambling.[78] 

Abramoff instructed eLottery, just as he had with the Choctaw Tribe, to send money to Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform; only this time, the money went from Norquist to a small right-wing group in Virginia called the Faith and Family Alliance before finally ending up at Century Strategies.[79]

The money went to the Faith and Family Alliance at Reed’s insistence.  The organization had been set up by two of Reed’s colleagues and was headed by a former Regent University Law student who is now serving a seven-year term in prison for soliciting sex with minors.  Prior to his incarceration, he acted as a “shell” for the eLottery money, telling the Washington Post that Century Strategies had called him and told him to expect a package from Americans for Tax Reform.  When the package arrived, it contained a check for $150,000, which he was instructed to deposit and then write a check for the same amount to Century Strategies.[80] 

Abramoff was also working closely with Tony Rudy, then a senior aide to Rep. Tom DeLay, and Rev. Lou Sheldon of the right-wing Traditional Values Coalition.  Thanks to the combination of Rudy’s inside access and Sheldon’s outside agitation, the bill failed to get the requisite number of votes on the House floor, much to the bafflement of its many anti-gambling supporters.[81] 

While Abramoff and his eLottery clients were ecstatic, many on the right, such as James Dobson and the Christian Coalition, were outraged and the bill’s supporters went to work to bring it up for another vote.  To fight this new effort, Abramoff instructed eLottery to send another $150,000 to American Marketing Inc. because “This is the company Ralph is using.”  A few weeks later, a mailer was issued by the Traditional Values Coalition attacking Rep. Robert Aderholt, a vocal opponent of gambling, for having initially cast his vote in favor of the Internet Gambling Prohibition Act or, in the twisted words of Abramoff’s scheme, “in support [of a bill] the gamblers want on horse and dog racing.”   The bulk rate stamp on the mailing stated that it had been paid for by American Marketing, and though Reed’s spokesperson insists that the American Marketing responsible for the mailing was “a different company,” the Washington Post reports that “records show that the company is run by … the president of Reed's direct-marketing subsidiary.” [82]  The anti-gambling bill never came up for another vote.

Reed claimed that he was unaware that his work for Abramoff was being done on behalf of eLottery and didn’t even learn of it until 2005, but emails obtained by The Atlanta Journal Constitution show that he was told of “the elot project” as early as 2000. In early 2001, after the eLottery project had succeeded, Reed even mentioned the company by name in an email to Abramoff about the White House’s choice for “technology czar,” teasing him to “Tell your elottery friends that the next czar will be an anti-gambling [Pentecostal] Christian whose main interest in life is banning smut from the Internet.”[83]

[78] Susan Schmidt and James Grimaldi, “How a Lobbyist Stacked the Deck,” The Washington Post, October 16, 2005

[79] Ibid.

[80] Ibid.

[81] Ibid.

[82] Ibid.

[83] Jim Galloway, “E-mails Undermine Reed Claim,” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, March 4, 2006

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