Abramoff's Evangelical Soldiers
However, Abramoff's campaign against the Jena compact was a blessing for most of its Christian-right players. Perkins got to prove his mettle in a national campaign, prompting his appointment the following year by Dobson to president of the Family Research Council, the Washington-based lobbying powerhouse. Dobson, for his part, got to demonstrate his grassroots muscle to the Bush White House, raising his visibility to Karl Rove & Co. and helping him increase his influence over its social agenda as the presidential election approached.
Among Abramoff's evangelical surrogates, only Reed emerged from their relationship with visible baggage. But this was not apparent at the time. Now, as a result of extensive media coverage of his involvement with Abramoff, his campaign for lieutenant governor of Georgia, intended as a stepping stone to higher office, is lagging. He has gone from denying early in his campaign that he accepted gambling money to claiming most recently that Abramoff lied to him about the source of his fees. To generate a strong turnout for his January 21 appearance at a Georgia Christian Coalition meeting, Reed was reduced to enticing his dwindling band of "supporters" with cash and free hotel rooms.
It is still unknown whether Dobson and his allies knew that Reed was working for Abramoff during the anti-Jena campaign. Abramoff claimed in a February 2002 e-mail to his employee Todd Boulanger that he was "working FOR and WITH them [emphasis in original]," referring to Christian-right activists. Dobson, Perkins, Robertson and Falwell have remained silent. Whether or not evidence surfaces to support the claim Abramoff made in his e-mail, it is undeniable he was deeply embedded in the Christian right's infrastructure.
In July 2002, at the height of the anti-Jena campaign, Bauer and Rabbi Daniel Lapin, a fixture at Christian-right events, founded the American Alliance of Christians and Jews. On the group's board were Dobson, Robertson, Falwell and one Jack Abramoff. Lapin's organization, Toward Tradition, which administered the AACJ, received $25,000 from one of Abramoff's gambling industry clients in 2000; took $75,000 from Abramoff and his clients; and then, upon Abramoff's written instructions, hired the wife of Tony Rudy to the tune of $5,000 a month. Rudy, who was Tom DeLay's deputy chief of staff at the time, later a lobbyist, has been named in Abramoff's guilty plea.
While Abramoff cooperates with federal prosecutors, his former Christian-right surrogates have abstained from coming clean about their relationship with him. Acknowledging willing collusion with a disgraced casino lobbyist would be suicidal among their followers. But there are also risks in casting themselves as useful idiots in Abramoff's game. Such a tactic would reveal the "pro-family" movement as just another gear in a sordid Republican political operation. What did Dobson know and when did he know it? As the wheels of justice grind on, those who claim to speak with the authority of Scripture may soon find themselves under oath.