On March 8, the Campaign to Defend the Constitution launched an ad campaign including a full-page ad (PDF ad) in the New York Times. The campaign spotlights alleged hypocrisy over gambling by three religious right leaders: Ralph Reed, former executive director of the Christian Coalition; Rev. Lou Sheldon, chairman of the Traditional Values Coalition; and Dr. James Dobson, founder and head of Focus on the Family. (Hat tip: From Jonathan Hutson at Talk to Action.)
Max Blumenthal at Talk To Action observes:
As the Jack Abramoff scandal unfolds, it is becoming increasingly clear how extensively he collaborated with the Christian right to advance his casino schemes. Ralph Reed was paid no less than $4 million by Abramoff and his Indian casino clients to serve as a liaison to the Christian right. Reed managed to lasso Focus on the Family’s James Dobson into a series of campaigns to stamp out competition to Abramoff’s [gambling-industry] clients. Though Senate subpeonaed emails seem to confirm that Dobson was manipulated by Reed and Abramoff, he and his employees have repeatedly claimed that his activism against rivals to Abramoff’s clients was a complete coincidence.
According to one message from Abramoff that was sent via government e-mail, Reed talked Dobson into a campaign on behalf of the gambling industry, targeted at Focus on the Family supporters in Louisiana via mail and radio. Talk To Action has links to the documents that implicate Dobson.
Focus on the Family has responded not by explicitly acknowledging that it allowed itself to be tricked, nor that it failed to do any fact-checking before signing onto a culture-war campaign. Instead, Focus accuses everyone — the media, liberals, Abramoff, almost everyone except “Dr.” Dobson — of lying.
Buried amid the organization’s dance around the actual allegations, however, Focus admits the following in its Abramoff FAQ:
In fact, Focus on the Family did publicly urge listeners, in special broadcasts aired only in Louisiana, to contact Norton and ask her to reject gambling expansion in Louisiana.
“Reject gambling expansion“: In other words, Focus lobbied not to reduce gambling, but to protect Louisiana’s entrenched gambling interests — represented by Abramoff, Reed, and Sheldon — from competition. That is precisely what investigators and Dobson’s critics have alleged. How can Dobson’s critics be lying when Focus acknowledges the campaign to protect the Louisiana gambling industry?
For some unknown reason, Exodus lobbyist Randy Thomas sees merit in reprinting Dobson’s buck-passing on his own blog — and he overlooks Focus’ admission of involvement, even as he joins Focus in blasting “left-wing lies.”
Family Research Council president Tony Perkins was a Louisiana lawmaker at the time of the campaign, and Dobson was influential (as an FRC board member) in the subsequent selection of Perkins to lead FRC. Perkins’ potential role in the Louisiana gambling-industry campaign requires thorough investigation.