The Washington Post reported Oct. 16 that the Rev. Louis P. Sheldon, head of the Traditional Values Coalition, accepted at least $25,000 in direct funds, and perhaps thousands more in indirect support, from an online gambling company and indicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff in a 2000 campaign to block federal legislation that would have banned online gambling.
Furthermore, former Christian Coalition leader Ralph Reed reportedly acted as a financial, political and marketing go-between, channeling (laundering) funds in a $2 million pro-gambling campaign involving former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay’s office, the gambling industry, and Christian rightists allied with Reed and Sheldon who were willing to accept money without knowing its source; shoot down antigambling legislation without concern for the facts; and battle fellow Christian rightists.
When the campaign briefly went sour, and Sheldon’s lying was exposed, Sheldon diverted attention with an attack on homosexuals.
As XGW noted last week, Sheldon continues to exploit homosexuals to divert attention from his own unethical behavior.
According to the Post,
[Reed and Sheldon] kept in close contact with Abramoff about the arrangement, e-mails show. Abramoff also turned to prominent anti-tax conservative Grover Norquist, arranging to route some of eLottery’s money for Reed through Norquist’s group, Americans for Tax Reform.
At one point, eLottery’s backers even circulated a forged letter of support from Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R).[DeLay aide Tony C.] Rudy declined to comment for this report. A spokesman for Reed — now a candidate for lieutenant governor of Georgia — said that he and his associates are unaware that any money they received came from gambling activities. Sheldon said that he could not remember receiving eLottery money and that he was unaware that Abramoff was involved in the campaign to defeat the bill. Norquist’s group would say only that it had opposed the gambling ban on libertarian grounds.
This apparently was not Sheldon’s first effort to make money from unethical activities:
To reach the House conservatives, Abramoff turned to Sheldon, leader of the Orange County, Calif. – based Traditional Values Coalition, a politically potent group that publicly opposed gambling and said it represented 43,000 churches. Abramoff had teamed up with Sheldon before on issues affecting his clients. Because of their previous success, Abramoff called Sheldon “Lucky Louie,” former associates said.
In June 2000, according to checks and e-mails obtained by the Post, gambling company eLottery paid Sheldon $25,000 directly, and $80,000 to Reed that was laundered through Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) and Virginia Beach, Va.-based Faith and Family Alliance. (Robin Vanderwall, head of the FFA, was a former Regent University Law School student and Republican operative later convicted of soliciting sex with minors.) Reed’s company then collected a stake for itself and further laundered funds to Christian conservative and marketing outfits, according to the Post.
Vanderwall admits laundering money under instruction from Reed: “I was operating as a shell,” Vanderwall said, adding that he was never told how the money was spent. He said: “I regret having had anything to do with it.”
The Post notes that Reed’s companies had a history of accepting money to misinform Christian rightists and rally opposition to competitive threats to Abramoff’s gambling clients. While a spokesman for Reed denies ties to eLottery and claims the work for Abramoff opposed gambling, there is no indication that Reed or the companies ever performed what should have been routine fact-checking and verification — and no explanation for the blatant laundering of funds.
With his own payment from eLottery, Sheldon held news conferences, pressured House conservatives to argue against the ban, and reported back to Abramoff about lawmakers who still favored the ban.
Under pressure from Sheldon, DeLay — who seemed unaware of his own aide’s lobbying — caved in to pressure from Sheldon, and opposed the ban.
When the campaign succeeded in blocking the ban, Sheldon celebrated. “There was lucky Louie out front hi-fiving with some lobbyists,” said [Abramoff lobbyist Patrick] Pizzella.
When other Christian conservatives including James Dobson vowed to resurrect the ban, Abramoff recruited Sheldon to pressure about 10 social-conservative lawmakers in their home districts, accusing them of being soft on gambling for supporting the ban. Abramoff rounded up $150,000 from eLottery to be paid to Reed for a direct mailing of misinformation penned by Sheldon.
In some cases, outraged lawmakers fought back against Sheldon’s lies, and Sheldon backed off — changing the topic to homosexuality.
In [Alabama Rep. Robert] Aderholt’s district, [Sheldon] issued a letter praising the congressman and claiming that his previous mailer had been mistakenly distributed. In [California Rep. James E.] Rogan’s district, he stopped pressuring the incumbent and, instead, attacked his challenger as “a champion of the homosexual agenda.”
Sheldon now professes total ignorance.
Sheldon said in an interview this week that he recalled little about his efforts against the bill in 2000. He said he did not remember receiving a $25,000 check from eLottery, but added that it is possible that his organization did receive it. He said he remembered some money coming in to pay for fliers he had printed and mailed to congressional districts to persuade members to oppose the bill.
“I wasn’t aware the money was coming from them [eLottery],” Sheldon said. “I don’t think I ever saw the check. It came in, and we paid the bill for some of the printing.”
Sheldon also said he had no idea that Abramoff was lobbying against the bill or that he was working for eLottery.
“This is all tied to Jack?” Sheldon said. “I’m shocked out of my socks.”
What others say:
Greymatters: “I’d guess that the lesson gay rights leaders should learn is that if one wants to stop conservative anti-gay bigots from speechifyin’, one just needs to pay them enough to STFU. That’s moral values for you.”