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Abramoff's Evangelical Soldiers | The Nation

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Abramoff's Evangelical Soldiers

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Miracle accomplished, Abramoff tapped Reed's services again in January 2002, when his clients learned that then-Louisiana Governor Mike Foster had secretly approved a casino site for the Jena Choctaws. Following a battle plan devised by Scanlon (who inexplicably signed a memo outlining the plan, Mike "The Sausage King" Scanlon), Reed re-enlisted his evangelical allies to rev up grassroots pressure on Bush Interior Secretary Gail Norton, who had the final say on the Jena deal.

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Max Blumenthal
Max Blumenthal is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in The New York Times, the Los Angeles...

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Reform legislation has stalled, and the private-prison industry is making obscene profits from a captive population.

In a bloody career that spanned decades, he destroyed entire cities and presided over the killing of countless civilians.

Reed first prompted Dobson to attack the Jenas' lobbyist, Washington super-lawyer, former RNC chair and current Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, during a Focus on the Family broadcast. (In his 2002 campaign for governor, Barbour described himself as "a five-point Calvinist" on American Family Radio.)

"Let me know when Dobson hits him," Abramoff wrote to Reed on February 6, 2002. "I want to savor it." That same day, he e-mailed Scanlon, "He [Dobson] is going to hit Haley by name! He is going to encourage people to call Norton and the WH [White House]. This is going to get fun."

Abramoff transferred more cash to Reed to blast Dobson's tirade against the Jena casino across Louisiana airwaves. Abramoff was confident his Bush Administration contacts would make sure all the right people heard Dobson's hit. "Dobson goes up on the radio next week!" he told Scanlon on February 20. "We'll play it in WH [the White House] and Interior." Abramoff's gamble paid off when word of the ad filtered through the tension-filled halls of the Interior Department. "[White House liaison] Doug [Domenech] came to me and said, 'Dobson's going to shut down our phone system,'" an unnamed former Interior official recounted to the Washington Post. " 'He's going to go on the air and tell everyone who listens to Focus on the Family to call Interior to oppose the Jena compact.' "

But Abramoff's fun didn't stop there. Reed urged a Who's Who of the Christian right to lobby Norton against the Jena compact with a stream of breathless letters. On February 19 Perkins warned Norton that gambling leads to "crime, divorce, child abuse." American Family Association chair Don Wildmon sent a lengthy missive to Norton filled with statistics on gambling's adverse social impact. The Eagle Forum's Phyllis Schlafly sent another. American Values president Gary Bauer declared in a letter to Norton that the compact ran "contrary to President Bush's pro-family vision." Focus on the Family vice president Tom Minnery wrote Norton and White House Chief of Staff Andy Card to demand they stop the deal. Dobson capped the mail blitz with his own missive against gambling expansion.

Despite the best efforts of Abramoff and the Christian soldiers Reed recruited, in December Norton approved the Jena compact. Soon after, Louisiana's new governor, Kathleen Blanco, reversed the deal on the basis of her opposition to casino growth. Abramoff's goal was achieved, but all his work was for naught. And his skulduggery was beginning to catch up with him. "I hate all the shit I'm into," he moaned to Scanlon in a February 2003 e-mail. "I need to be on the Caribbean with you!"

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