March 14, 2006
Norquist group faces challenge for Abramoff ties
By Andy Sullivan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - An ethics watchdog asked the U.S.
Internal Revenue Service on Tuesday to revoke the tax-exempt
status of a conservative group for helping disgraced lobbyist
Jack Abramoff secretly fund an anti-casino campaign that
benefited his clients.
Americans for Tax Reform also violated its nonprofit status
by taking a cut of the money it handled, said Citizens for
Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW.
"This thing that they did where they basically took in
money from tribes, laundered it and skimmed some off the top
had nothing to do with their purpose" as an anti-tax
organization, CREW executive director Melanie Sloan said.
A spokesman for Americans for Tax Reform declined to
comment but said he would have an official reaction later.
Americans for Tax Reform founder Grover Norquist has had a
close relationship with Abramoff since the early 1980s, when
they were active in the College Republicans.
Abramoff went on to a lucrative lobbying career before
pleading in January to fraud charges and admitting that he
showered gifts on lawmakers in return for official favors. He
is now cooperating in a corruption probe that has implicated
several top Republicans, including former House Majority Leader
Norquist built his nonprofit group into an influential
conservative organization that advocates tax cuts and limited
E-mail messages released by the Senate Indian Affairs
Committee last year show that Abramoff and anti-gambling
activist Ralph Reed discussed passing checks through Americans
for Tax Reform. Those documents indicate that Norquist's group
kept some of the money it handled.
Norquist told the Boston Globe last year that he passed
along $1.15 million from an Indian tribe that runs a casino in
Mississippi to anti-gambling groups trying to block a casino in
Because the contributions were routed through Norquist's
group, the anti-gambling activists would not know that they
were bankrolled by gambling money.
A Republican political group said it might file an IRS
complaint challenging CREW's nonprofit status on the grounds
that it behaves in a partisan manner.
"If you look at CREW you see nothing more than a shill for
the Democratic Party," said Dan Ronayne, spokesman for the
National Republican Senatorial Committee.
CREW has filed complaints against at least 15 Republicans
and one Democrat since 2003. The group's report on "The 13 Most
Corrupt Members of Congress" features 11 Republicans and two
That's because Republicans are in power, Sloan said.
"Nobody's going to pay off a Democrat, because they can't
deliver anything," she said.
An IRS spokesman was not available for comment.