E-mails show link between Cornyn, lobbyist under investigation

Submitted by Sarah Gonzales on November 21, 2005 - 2:10pm. ::

Associated Press Writer
Austin American Stateman


WASHINGTON — Former Christian Coalition director Ralph Reed claimed in a 2001 e-mail to a lobbyist that he choreographed John Cornyn's efforts as Texas attorney general to shut down an East Texas Indian tribe's casino.

The lobbyist was Jack Abramoff, who is under federal investigation, along with his partner Michael Scanlon, on allegations of defrauding six Indian tribes of about $80 million between 2001 and 2004. The e-mail, along with about a dozen others, were released last week as part of the investigation.

In 2001, Abramoff was working as a lobbyist for the Louisiana Coushatta tribe to prevent rival gaming casinos from siphoning off its Texas customers. He paid Reed as a consultant, and Reed lobbied to get the Alabama-Coushatta and Tigua casinos closed in Texas.

In the Nov. 30, 2001, e-mail, Reed told Abramoff that 50 pastors led by Ed Young, of Second Baptist Church in Houston, would meet with Cornyn to urge him to shut down the Alabama-Coushatta tribe's casino near Livingston, Texas. He said Young would back up the request in writing.

"We have also choreographed Cornyn's response. The AG will state that the law is clear, talk about how much he wants to avoid repetition of El Paso and pledge to take swift action to enforce the law," Reed wrote. "He will also personally hand Ed Young a letter that commits him to take action in Livingston."

Cornyn, now a Republican U.S. senator, had filed a lawsuit in 1999 to shut down a casino operated by the Tigua tribe in El Paso, saying it violated the state's limited gambling laws. In 2002, federal courts shuttered the Tiguas' casino and Cornyn used that ruling to shut down the Alabama-Coushuttas' casino.

Cornyn, who has not been accused of any wrongdoing, has denied knowing Abramoff. He also has said he was unaware of Reed's work with Abramoff. He said he did not remember receiving a letter from Young or Reed, or providing a letter to Young, although he acknowledged meeting with the minister.

"Their efforts were irrelevant to what I was doing," said Cornyn, who was elected to the Senate in 2002. "It's kind of eye-opening to me that apparently people make money claiming credit for something I decided to do under the law."

The Senate Indian Affairs Committee, led by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., blocked out references to Cornyn in the e-mails it released last week. But, in previous Reed e-mails released by the committee, Cornyn's name was not removed.

The previously released e-mails that showed in 2002 Abramoff and Scanlon secretly funneled millions to Reed to help fund the campaign to get the Tigua casino shut down. The lobbyists then persuaded the Tiguas to hire them to reopoen it.

A Reed spokeswoman refused to respond directly to questions about whether Reed had copies of or had seen Young's letter, or details about how he "choreographed" a response from Cornyn.

"No one should take credit for state Attorney General John Cornyn's actions and the faith community's support," Reed's spokeswoman Lisa Baron said. "Ralph Reed never has and never will."

She said Reed did not learn the Louisiana Coushattas were Abramoff's clients until 2002, and he was not aware that the tribe contributed to "our efforts" until 2004.

But Reed's e-mails suggest Cornyn's work was instrumental to Abramoff in fending off competition for his client.

Members of the Louisiana Coushatta tribal leadership testified last week that Abramoff used the threat of the Alabama-Coushatta casino in Texas to get more lobbying business from the tribe.

Young said he met Cornyn for the first time at the pastors' meeting in late November 2001 and Cornyn spoke to about 15 to 20 pastors. He also said he did not remember any exchange of letters occurring at the meeting as Reed said in the e-mail.

Cornyn "told us the situation. He was filing affidavits. We said we support you" because of the pastors' concern about gambling, Young said.

Young dismissed Reed's suggestion that Cornyn needed him for support in the 2002 Senate race. He said he stays neutral politically because his church attracts Democrats and Republicans, including Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas.

DeLay, the former House Majority leader, has been charged with money laundering and conspiracy in a campaign finance scheme related to the 2002 elections. Investigators are looking into donations and an all-expense paid golf trip to Scotland that DeLay received after his office helped Abramoff get a high-level Bush administration meeting for Indian clients.

When the Alabama-Coushatta casino finally closed, Reed summed up the political rewards in an e-mail to Abramoff.

"This is total victory and should lead friends in TX to now want to launch the grassroots effort to insure that those elected officials who stood up for families and against the casino gambling have support this fall," Reed said.

Senate Indian Affairs Committee documents: http://indian.senate.gov