Wednesday, August 13, 2008

McCain ignores calls to cancel fundraiser promoted by Ralph Reed

On August 8, 2008, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Republican presidential candidate, Senator John McCain, will be attending an August 18th fundraiser, in Atlanta, promoted by Republican activist Ralph Reed. Reed has been linked in a scandal involving secretly accepting payments for lobbying against Indian casino gambling from Jack Abramoff.

YES! The Jack Abramoff Show is going on the McCain campaign trail!

This thing is a convoluted mess. First, we have Ralph Reed involved with the Jack Abramoff scandal. Steve Benen, at The Carpetbager Report, documents the relationship between Reed and Abramoff. Even more information on the relationship between Reed and Abramoff can be found here on

Investigators say the scheme worked like this: Abramoff earned the trust of tribal leaders and sometimes offered to work for free. He recommended hiring a consultant and pushed Scanlon, who in turn kicked back tens of millions of dollars to Abramoff. Abramoff did not reveal the potential conflict of interest to clients. Scanlon inflated his fees to cover both his and Abramoff's split. They spent about one-third of the money collected for purposes the clients intended and divided the rest between them.

When Abramoff and Scanlon did work for their clients' interests, they typically turned to Ralph Reed, Abramoff's longtime friend and a Republican strategist currently running for Georgia's lieutenant governor. Reed took money to mobilize grassroots Christian support against state proposals to expand legalized gambling, benefiting Abramoff's tribal clients, who feared losing business to increased competition.

Recognizing that Reed's conservative evangelical base would not approve of him taking money from gambling interests, Abramoff had tribal leaders filter Reed's money through various conduits, like Abramoff's lobbying firm and Americans for Tax Reform, an anti-tax, non-profit organization headed by conservative activist Grover Norquist.

According to the Senate [Committee on Indian Affairs] report, Reed reconnected with Abramoff in 1998, a few months before the lobbyist was discussing with the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians various legislative proposals in Mississippi and elsewhere that threatened their casino market share.

Through at the time with electoral politics, Reed promised "to build a strong grassroots network" to oppose a video-poker bill in Alabama, mobilizing groups including the Alabama Christian Coalition, the Alabama Family Alliance, the Alabama Eagle Forum, the Christian Family Alliance and enlisting Focus on the Family founder James Dobson to record a commercial.

Reed had no direct contact with the Choctaws, who worked through Abramoff as a liaison. Reed boasted that he had 3,000 conservative pastors and 90,000 households in the state that he could access for the effort. Reed proposed a $20,000 a month retainer and closed his letter with, "We look forward to bringing about the desired results for you."

Later Abramoff proposed that the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana also work with Reed. William Worfel, former vice chairman of the tribe, said he understood Reed would engage the Christian Coalition against bills expanding gambling in Louisiana.

That is the connection between Reed and Abramoff. The second aspect of this mess comes from the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. The chairman for the Senate Committee on Indian affairs was none other than John McCain. McCain headed up the investigation of the Abramoff scandal by the Indian affairs committee. What is more, McCain was responsible for withholding controversial Abramoff emails from the report in order to protect his Republican colleagues from the investigation. In the 2006 report, McCain left out information on how Abramoff was targeting Alabama Gov. Bob Riley in the influence peddling scheme. In a December 9, 2002 email, Abramoff wrote that the Mississippi Choctaws "definitely wants Riley to shut down the Poarch Creek operation," which included "his announcing that anyone caught gambling there can't qualify for a state contract or something like that." Riley was involved in a close 2002 gubernatorial election with Democrat Don Siegelman, in which Riley defeated Siegelman by around 3,000 votes. McCain had this email prior to the issuance of the report. Finally in February, 2008, McCain received more than $100,000 in campaign contributions from Greenberg Traurig--the law firm which employed Jack Abramoff.

Do you see the hypocrisy within John McCain? First McCain claims that he is angry with the corruption taking place in Washington, but then helps shield his Republican friends from the Abramoff scandal, and then receives campaign contributions from the law firm that once employed Abramoff. And now McCain is planning to attend a fundraiser promoted by a key Republican figure connected with the Abramoff scandal. And McCain is ignoring calls to cancel this fundraiser:

Republican presidential candidate John McCain so far is ignoring calls from several watchdog groups to cancel an Atlanta fundraiser promoted by Ralph Reed, a longtime friend and business partner of imprisoned lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Public Citizen, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), and Campaign Money Watch are urging the Arizona senator to cancel plans for the Aug. 18 fundraiser at the Marriott Marquis in downtown Atlanta and remove Reed from McCain’s Victory 2008 Team.


On the campaign trail, McCain often touts his work tackling Abramoff’s corrupt lobbying practices as evidence of his commitment to cleaning up Washington and a straight-shooting style that transcends politics.

The watchdog groups reacted to a “special invitation” Reed sent to friends and political contacts, inviting them to the fundraiser and asking them to contribute to the McCain campaign by sending checks to Reed’s address.

“Attached is a contribution form and a fact sheet that details the event,” Reed wrote. “Please complete the contribution form and return it to me at [address], Duluth, GA 30097. If you select (sic) to use your credit card, you may fax the form to me at [number].”

In the invitation, which was first reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Reed also said he had agreed to serve as a member of the McCain Victory 2008 team.

“John McCain also believes that tax cuts work best when tied to spending restraint,” Reed wrote in the e-mail solicitation. “He has a 26-year pro-life voting record and has pledged to appoint conservative judges who will interpret the law, not legislate from the bench.”

Watchdog groups are floored that McCain, who has worked with them for years to reform campaign finance law, has called on Reed to help bundle contributions.

“[Reed’s] hypocrisy is legion — now matched only by John McCain’s attending a fundraiser he’s helping host,” said Melanie Sloan, CREW’s executive director. “You just have to wonder who’s the bigger hypocrite.”

I use to believe that John McCain would do anything and say anything in order to gain control of the White House. That he has shed any sense of morals and ethics to be replaced by outright blind ambition. I still think that this is true. But there is more than just McCain's blind ambition. McCain has given control of his entire campaign to lobbyists, and these lobbyists will use every tool they have to see that their sock puppet will be elected for their own blind ambition and greed. And if such a tool as a disgraced figure, such as Ralph Reed, will help raise money for the McCain campaign, then the lobbyists controlling John McCain will use Reed. The GOP's "culture of corruption" has never ended--it has only shifted into John McCain's presidential campaign.

Update: I am going to post Ralph Reed's invitation for McCain's fundraising appearance from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. There is a little detail that I didn't catch, that Americablog and The Wall Journal noted. Ralph Reed was invited to be a part of McCain's Victory 2008 Team. From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

From: Linda Ingram

Sent: Thursday, August 07, 2008 3:21 PM

Subject: Special Invitation from Ralph Reed: Senator McCain Coming to Atlanta

A Message from Ralph Reed:

Senator John McCain will be coming to Atlanta on August 18 for a very special event at the Marriot Marquis downtown and I have agreed to serve as a member of the McCain Victory 2008 Team. [Emphasis mine]

Never in my career can I recall a starker contrast between two major-party nominees for President. Barack Obama is advocating higher taxes, more spending, a precipitous withdrawal from Iraq, and an energy plan that opposes drilling on the outer continental shelf. The nonpartisan publication National Journal concluded that he had the most liberal voting record in the U.S. Senate.

John McCain believes in a strong national defense, a smaller, more accountable government, steady economic growth and opportunity, the dignity of life and traditional values. He will make it a top priority to balance the budget and get federal spending under control so that our children aren’t burdened with a mountain of debt that will rob them of their future.

John McCain also believes that tax cuts work best when tied to spending restraint. He has a 26-year pro-life voting record and has pledged to appoint conservative judges who will interpret the law, not legislate from the bench.

Attached is a contribution form and a fact sheet that details the event. Please complete the contribution form and return it to me at XXXXX Duluth, GA 30097. If you select to use your credit card, you may fax the form to me at 770-XXX-XXXX.

I hope you will join me and Jo Anne at the August 18 event in support of Senator McCain in Atlanta. The outcome of this presidential election is going to determine the future direction of this country. Please join us as we work together to elect John McCain. Your participation is critical to success.

Thank you for all you have done for our country and our shared conservative values.

Look forward to hearing from you, best, Ralph

What this means is that the McCain campaign actively sought out Reed to bring him into the campaign. It is another political calculation by the lobbyists controlling the McCain campaign here. Reed was the first executive director of the Christian Coalition, providing the McCain campaign a means of solidifying its fractured relationship with the Christian conservatives. Reed has already provided campaign advice for McCain, saying that McCain should avoid seeking endorsements from evangelical leaders and instead appeal directly to their church members. I'm thinking that the lobbyists are fearing a low voter turnout for McCain among the Christian conservatives, so the lobbyists are turning to Reed's Rolodex to solicit Christian conservative voters, and their campaign contributions.

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