Ralph Reed: The Crash of the Choir-Boy Wonder

Taking the Tiguas to the Bank

Perhaps the most audacious of all of Abramoff’s efforts on which Reed worked was the successful attempt on behalf of the Coushatta Tribe to shut down a rival casino in Texas.  After doing so, Abramoff then sold his lobbying services for $4 million to the same Texas tribe – the Tiguas - vowing to reopen the very casino he had just managed to shut down.[92]      

Reed was instrumental in the initial effort, building public support for then-Texas Attorney General, now a US Senator, John Cornyn’s drive to close the casino.  Reed organized a group of Texas pastors to “provide cover” for Cornyn’s effort to shutter the casino, at one point pledging to send “50 pastors to give him moral support” when it appeared as if Cornyn was going to be confronted by protestors.[93]

Reed also developed close ties with sources in Cornyn’s office who kept him informed on developments, which he shared with Abramoff.  When Reed found out from Cornyn’s office that a court decision shutting down the casino was expected soon, he emailed Abramoff.  Thinking ahead, Abramoff was already preparing to fly to Texas to meet with the tribe whose casino was about to be closed thanks, in large part, to his handiwork.  In an email he sent to Reed just before his trip, he wrote “I wish those moronic Tiguas were smarter in their political contributions. I’d love to get my hands on that moolah!! Oh well, stupid folks get wiped out.”[94]

Just days after the Tigua’s casino was closed, Abramoff met with them and offered to work to reopen the casino at no charge, though Scanlon’s PR work was going to cost them more than $4 million.  Abramoff declared himself outraged by the “gross indignity perpetuated by the Texas state authorities” – an “indignity” that he had helped orchestrate and for which he had been well paid. [95] 

Abramoff sold the Tiguas a plan where he would get the law that had shut their casino amended by using his Capitol Hill connections to slip language into an entirely unrelated bill, the Help America Vote Act, then working its way through Congress.  Abramoff reportedly got Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH) to agree to insert the language, after which Abramoff instructed the Tiguas to make $300,000 worth of political donations to political action committees controlled by Republican Reps. Tom DeLay, Roy Blunt, and Ney.[96]  

The plan was doomed to failure as Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) refused to insert the language into the Senate version of the bill, but that did not stop Abramoff from attempting to get the Tiguas to fork over $50,000 to pay for a golfing trip to St. Andrews Scotland for himself, Scanlon, Ney, and Reed.  The tribe declined, but Abramoff managed to set up a meeting two months later between Ney and the tribe, which still held out hope of getting its casino reopened.  But it was not to be, as the language was never included in the bill. The Tiguas were out $4 million, their $60 million in annual revenue was gone, their casino remained closed and nearly every one of its 1000 employees had lost their medical insurance, retirement programs and jobs.[97]

Reed himself came under investigation for his Abramoff-related work in Texas for failing to register as a lobbyist with the Texas Ethics Commission as required by law, but the case was dropped because the two-year statute of limitations had expired.[99]

[92] Susan Schmidt, “Insiders Worked Both Sides of the Game,” The Washington Post, September 26, 2004

[93] Lou Dubose, “No Picnic at Speaking Rock,” The Texas Observer, December 17, 2004

[94] Ibid.

[95] Susan Schmidt, “Insiders Worked Both Sides of the Game,” The Washington Post, September 26, 2004

[96] Lou Dubose, “No Picnic at Speaking Rock,” The Texas Observer, December 17, 2004

[97] Josephine Hearn, “Rep. Ney says he was 'duped' by Abramoff,” The Hill, November 18, 2004, Fox Butterfield, “For a Tribe in Texas, an Era of Prosperity Undone by Politics,” The New York Times, June 13, 2005

[98] Associated Press, “Prosecutors Conclude Reed Investigation,” March 27, 2006

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