Tribe sues Abramoff, Reed

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 operate.

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 campaign.

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.

© 2006 Reuters