Ralph Reed's Faith and Felony Alliance
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Mon Feb 13, 2006 at 10:47:31 PM EST
Ralph Reed received plenty of payments from his 23-year friend, business associate, and political ally Jack Abramoff -- reportedly enough checks to total more than five million dollars in gambling industry money. But the grim grubbiness and greed of Reed can be seen in the way he salivated for one particular check, which carried the fingerprints of two men since convicted of a variety of felonies. One man, Jack Abramoff, represented Internet gambling interests and has been convicted of public corruption charges. The other man, whose story is less well known, is now serving a seven-year sentence for using the Internet to solicit sex with boys and girls. Turns out while he was praying for America's families, he was preying on our children. And both men were caught and convicted because of the muddy footprints and fingerprints they left in cyberspace. Reed has not been accused of any crime in his dealing with these men; but neither has he come clean, as might be expected of a candidate for Lieutenant Governor of Georgia.

Consider the way Reed yearned for this particular payment, the way he checked up on this check like a hen checks her chicks. Yet see how he denied himself direct, immediate gratification and demanded that it be conveyed to him through a tantalizingly circuitous route. This one check, for a mere $150,000 -- why, an online gambling concern could scarcely buy six weeks' worth of lobbying for that -- was shepherded by Reed through a labyrinth of cut-outs and decoys. Reed employed many twists and turns, partly because the sleight-of-hand makes him feel powerful. But most of all, he wished that people like you not read articles such as this -- pieces that spotlight his sources of funding, and reveal the rank hypocrisy of his secretive business associates. If Reed were above-board, then he would not insist that his funding remain covert; he would be transparent and forthcoming, and hold a press conference to answer all questions.

Reed's secretiveness notwithstanding, the truth is being revealed. The facts are making their way into the public domain just as langorously as Reed's check made it into his mitts. The check was relayed to Reed in stages, beginning with the Connecticut-based Internet gambling firm eLottery Inc. -- which wanted to sell lottery tickets online -- to the firm's lobbyist Jack Abramoff, through Grover Norquist, who took a little taste of the action as a sort of handler's fee. But the anchorman -- the last man in the relay, who would ultimately transfer the check right to Reed -- was a talented and secretive man, who led a double life. By day, he was a Citadel graduate and third-year law student at Pat Robertson's Regent University. And by day, he headed the Family Values Alliance -- founded by one of Reed's business associates. But by night, he trolled Internet chatrooms, seeking to make friends with boys and girls. By night, he sought to lure children to experience phone sex with him and then meet him to experience their first "real sex."

But before we get to the anchorman in Reed's relay, let's start with the origin of this check. After Reed quit his post as Executive Director of the Christian Coalition in 1997, he set up a lobbying firm, Century Strategies. In 1998, he e-mailed Abramoff: "Hey, now that I'm done with the electoral politics, I need to start humping in corporate accounts! I'm counting on you to help me with some contacts."

The Washington Post reported on October 16, 2005:

"Abramoff quietly arranged for eLottery to pay conservative, anti-gambling activists to help in the firm's $2 million pro-gambling campaign, including Ralph Reed, former head of the Christian Coalition, and the Rev. Louis P. Sheldon of the Traditional Values Coalition. Both 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."

Abramoff's client eLottery Inc. paid Abramoff $720,000 to defeat a bill in Congress that would have outlawed online gambling. In 2000, Abramoff sent Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform two checks totalling $160,000. Norquist pocketed $10,000, and wrote a check for $150,000 to a shell organization called Faith and Family Alliance. The Alliance was a Section 527 group established in February 1999 by a political consultant and business associate of Reed named Tim Phillips. The Faith and Family Alliance was headed by Robin Vanderwall, a man who led a double life.

Vanderwall recalls that for days on end, several times a day, Reed's secretary would phone him, asking if he had received a package from Norquist. "You're going to be getting a package in a few days from Americans for Tax Reform, and I need you to call me as soon as you get this package." But the secretary would not reveal the contents of the package. Finally, the package arrived; it was an envelope which contained the check. Vanderwall followed Reed's instructions to deposit the check immediately, and in turn write a check for the full amount to Reed's firm, Century Strategies.

Reed went to work generating publicity campaigns aimed at Christian conservatives. And there's nothing necessarily illegal in the above transaction. But if everything's cool and clean, then why the double super-secrecy?

Reporter Bill Sizemore interviewed Vanderwall about this particular check for the Virginian-Pilot on February 12, 2006:

“For six or seven days, nonstop every day, he was calling, asking, 'Has the package arrived? Has the package arrived?’ ” The package turned out to be an envelope with a $150,000 check, signed by Norquist. Vanderwall said he was instructed to put it in the bank, write a Faith and Family Alliance check in the same amount, and send it to Reed’s firm. “I didn’t have any idea what the check was for,” Vanderwall said. “There was never any explanation.” Weeks more went by. The presidential election came and went, but Faith and Family Alliance had no role in it. When Vanderwall pressed for answers, he said, he got none. In the end, it seems, Faith and Family Alliance had no reason for being – other than to act as the pass-through to Reed’s firm and a smaller, earlier transfer to a Richmond-area congressional campaign. The group’s incorporation papers lapsed and “it just went away,” Vanderwall said. “It died an inglorious death.” Reed has not disputed Vanderwall’s account. It wasn’t until last fall that Vanderwall got any answers – from a reporter at The Washington Post. The Post and the [Atlanta] Journal-Constitution reported that the money Vanderwall passed to Reed originated with eLottery Inc., a Connecticut-based online gambling services company that had hired Abramoff to fight a pending bill in Congress to outlaw Internet gambling. Abramoff, in turn, enlisted the help of Reed, who worked against the bill on grounds that it contained loopholes that would have allowed some forms of online gambling to remain legal. The legislation was defeated. Since then, online gambling revenues have soared. “I’m a Christian,” Vanderwall said. “I’m very strong about my faith. … It’s time for Republicans to stop duping real, decent Christian people.”
If Reed were not up to no good, then why run his money through an obscure obstacle course? (First, the balance beam, then the tunnel crawl, then the steeplechase, finished off with a trampoline bounce through the hoop of flaming fire.)

Two of the men whose fingerprints graced that check have since been convicted of felonies. Abramoff pleaded guilty to conspiracy, fraud, and tax evasion. Vanderwall was convicted of soliciting sex with minors -- boys and girls, actually.

The Secret Life of Robin Vanderwall

It turns out that while Vanderwall thought he was chatting online with children, he was actually communicating with Virginia Beach police officers from a special unit dedicated to catching Internet criminals. Officers posed as 13-year-olds in the chat rooms that Vanderwall trolled in the fall and winter of 2002-2003. Two officers played the roles of 13-year-old girls named "Lil'SaraXOXOX" and "SweetSammie4U2." Another pretended to be a 13-year-old boy named "KennyJ13."

According to the Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, Va.), from November 2002 through January 2003, all three "teens" had contact with Vanderwall, who identified himself as "Saliare," a 5-foot-8-inch, 155-pound, 19-year-old white male, with short hair, hazel eyes, and a goatee. That's an apt physical description of Vanderwall, except for the age; he's now 37.

Saliare is a curious code name for a Christian; it may refer to ancient Roman priests called Salii -- devotees of Mars and Quirinus -- who leaped through the streets chanting a chorus called Carmen Saliare. Ironically, saliare is also the French word for salary or wages, as in the Biblical admonition in Romans 6:3 that "the wages of sin is death" ("le saliare du péché c'est la mort").

The salacious Saliare would turn the conversation toward sex. He talked about his genitals. He offered to engage in phone sex, and to meet children and initiate them in their first carnal encounters. He gave out two phone numbers that traced back to himself. And he arranged to meet a little boy in a park for sex. The police followed him from his home to the park. Did he proceed slowly, taking a circuitous route, one that he thought no one else could follow? The newspaper doesn't say.

Vanderwall drove from his apartment to the park, trailed by an unmarked police vehicle. However, the person waiting in the park on January 10, 2003, wasn't a little boy. When Vanderwall went to meet KennyJ13 at Northgate Park off Burnt Mill Road, he found instead Officer L.M. Kinch, who had disguised herself as a boy and waited in the park for Vanderwall. Police found dozens of incriminating conversations on Vanderwall's computer. (Likewise, the other felon in this tale, Abramoff, was betrayed by his own copious and incriminating computer communications.)

You can dodge and weave, and use cute cut-outs, false fronts and pseudonyms, but then, if you're on the level, why would you have to do so? And even so, the thing about e-mail is, it leaves a trail. Even now, there's a hellhound sniffing through cyberspace, scenting a trail.

This reminds me of a joke. If you're ever being chased by a police dog, try not to go into the tunnel, around a gate, over the water jump, and into the ring of fire: they're trained to do that. That joke's maybe only funny if you're walking a straight and narrow line.

Ralph Reed has not stood before the media to answer questions personally about money he received from the gambling industry. He has told a Christian youth group that he had been aware that Jack Abramoff's tribal clients "had their own reasons for opposing new casinos." Reed added, "I was assured by the law firm... that the funds contributed to our efforts would not derive from gambling activity."

Did Reed lie about his knowledge of the source of this particular $150,000 check? If Reed believed that the check had no taint to it, and if he was so anxious to receive it that his office called Robin Vanderwall every day for days on end to see if it had arrived in the mail, then why did he route this check through a money maze? Why did he not just have his close personal friend, business associate, and political ally Jack Abramoff simply cut him a check and hand it to him? Why did Grover Norquist take $10,000 to handle this check? Why was it passed through a front group, Faith and Family Alliance, that played no role in lobbying?

by jhutson on Tue Feb 14, 2006 at 10:37:41 AM EST

Daniel....what's his name ?....was caught up in this too. I think he's on lots of boards.

by Bruce Wilson on Tue Feb 14, 2006 at 11:50:40 AM EST
Right you are! Two Talk to Action regulars -- Frederick Clarkson and dogemperor -- have posted on Rabbi Daniel Lapin's connections to convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff, including payments that Lapin's organization Toward Tradition (TT) received from eLottery Inc.

For example, TT received $25,000 from Abramoff and another $50,000 from two Abramoff clients, including eLottery. TT then acted on Abramoff's written instructions (received along with eLottery's check) to hire the wife of Tony Rudy -- who at the time served as deputy chief of staff for then-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. TT put Mrs. Rudy on the payroll for a monthly salary of $5,000.

by jhutson on Tue Feb 14, 2006 at 02:28:08 PM EST

I'm wracking my brains.... gambling..... tradition..... gambling..... tradition.....

 "Toward tradition" must mean something like "towards Biblical tradition......"

But gambling as "Biblical" value ?.... hmmm..... There are lots of very odd things in the Old Testament, to be sure, incest, murder, human sacrifice and so on.... but gambling.... That doesn't sound like it shows up in the "to do" column in the Bible, as in "do love your fellow man", "do care for and aid the poor", and so on. "Do gamble" ? Nope, it just doesn't seem to fit. Something seems amiss there in Rabbi Lapin's otherwise seamless moral universe.

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