Ralph Reed, a top campaign adviser to President Bush in the South and a power broker among conservative Christians, received nearly $4 million from a GOP public relations expert under federal investigation over huge lobbying fees paid by American Indian tribes with gambling interests.
Reed was paid more than $3.8 million during a yearlong period in 2001 and 2002 by Michael Scanlon, a former aide to House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), according to documents obtained by Roll Call.
The Senate Indian Affairs Committee has scheduled a public hearing for Sept. 14 to begin reviewing the activities of Scanlon and Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who together were paid in excess of $45 million by four American Indian tribes for lobbying, public relations and grassroots organizing from 2001 to 2003. Congressional and federal investigators, as well as some members of the tribes themselves, are now asking what the two did to merit such exorbitant fees.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a senior member of the Indian Affairs Committee, has been the driving force behind the Congressional probe of Abramoff and Scanlon. Aides to McCain and the Indian Affairs Committee, which has brought on more staff solely to handle the Abramoff-Scanlon investigation, would not comment on Reed’s connections to the two principals in the probe or the work his firms provided for the duo’s efforts to beat back tribal competitors to their Indian gambling clients, although they are studying the relationship between the three men, according to Congressional sources.
Of the $45 million-plus paid to Abramoff and Scanlon by the tribes, $31 million went to the former DeLay aide. Scanlon then paid Abramoff at least $10 million in “referral fees” and lobbying charges. Abramoff’s former lobbying firm, Miami-based Greenberg Traurig, cut its ties with the controversial lobbyist after it became aware of the payments from Scanlon.
A federal grand jury is investigating Abramoff and Scanlon as well, and the FBI is looking into whether some tribal members were offered financial rewards in return for big lobbying and PR contracts. IRS officials are also exploring the transactions between Abramoff, Scanlon and a number of companies and nonprofit organizations.
The payments to Reed from Scanlon were made to two Georgia-based companies that Reed operates, Century Strategies and Capitol Media, and covered a mix of grassroots organizing and media buys. Reed kept his involvement in these efforts private and has never registered as a lobbyist for any of the four tribes or any other clients.
Reed, now a corporate consultant, was chairman of the Georgia Republican Party from May 2001 until February 2003 and served as executive director of the Christian Coalition from 1989 to 1997. Reed is currently the chairman of the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign for the Southeast region.
In the past, Reed, who has called gambling “a cancer on the American body politic,” has said he has done no work for casino clients.
In an interview last week, Reed reiterated that he has never been employed by any casino operator, including Indian tribes.