July 12, 2006

Tribe sues Abramoff, Reed over casino closure

By Andy Sullivan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A Texas Indian tribe on Wednesday
sued former lobbyist Jack Abramoff and Republican activist
Ralph Reed, charging that their lobbying efforts unfairly
prevented the tribe from operating a casino.

The lawsuit by the Alabama-Coushatta tribe could spell
trouble for Reed, who has sought to distance himself from the
Abramoff lobbying scandal as he campaigns for lieutenant
governor in Georgia.

Reed, a longtime Republican activist known for his
influence among Christian conservatives, worked with Abramoff
to block casinos in Texas that would have competed with those
run by an Abramoff client in nearby Louisiana, according to
documents made public by the Senate Indian Affairs Committee.

The lawsuit, filed in Texas state court, charges that their
lobbying effort led to the closure of the Alabama-Coushattas'
casino nine months after it opened in November 2001, and
blocked legislative fixes that would have allowed the casino to

The lawsuit says that Reed mobilized religious groups to
oppose the casino, but hid the fact that most of the money for
the campaign -- which included phone calls, mailings, and radio
ads -- came from Abramoff's client, the Louisiana-Coushattas.

"Had the Alabama-Coushatta tribe or the public been aware
that the Louisiana-Coushatta Tribe was behind the efforts, the
Christians would have been less mobilized and the opposition
efforts less effective," the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages resulting from the
loss of the casino.

A Reed spokeswoman said the lawsuit was without merit.

"As a longtime opponent of casino gambling, Ralph was happy
to work with Texas pro-family citizens to close it," said Lisa
Baron, communications director for Reed's lieutenant-governor

Abramoff has pleaded guilty to criminal charges relating to
his lobbying efforts and is currently cooperating with U.S.
investigators in a corruption probe. An Abramoff spokesman
declined to comment.

Also named in the suit were several former Abramoff
associates, including two, Michael Scanlon and Neil Volz, who
also have pleaded guilty to criminal charges.