Cross Posted atLegal 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.