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Insiders Worked Both Sides of Gaming Issue

John Batoon, a lawyer for the Tigua tribe, said tribal officials would not comment for this report but are cooperating in federal investigations of Abramoff and Scanlon's activities.

The tribe's governing council voted on Feb. 19 to hire one of Scanlon's companies for a plan devised by Scanlon dubbed "Operation Open Doors," according to government sources and documents provided to The Post. Those documents include copies of three March 2002 checks for payment to Scanlon's firm totaling $4.2 million. A second Scanlon company wrote a check for $2.1 million the following month to Kay Gold LLC, a company formed by Abramoff, according to records obtained by government investigators. The check does not indicate what the payment was for.


An unnamed customer plays a slot machine at the Speaking Rock Casino, which was operated by the Tigua Indian tribe in El Paso and garnered $60 million a year in revenue before it was closed. (Victor Calzada -- Elpaso Times Via AP)

Abramoff told the tribe in e-mail that Greenberg Traurig would work on getting legislation passed "on a pro bono basis," and thereafter expected to be retained as lobbyists for between "$125,000 and $175,000 per month."

Greenberg Traurig was not registered as lobbyists for the Tiguas. The firm said in a written statement that it is conducting an internal investigation of Abramoff's activities and would have no comment for this article.

Greenberg Traurig asked Abramoff to resign last March, after a Post article disclosed that he urged tribes to hire Scanlon for millions of dollars in public relations fees that do not have to be publicly reported under federal lobbying rules. The firm said after the article was published that "Mr. Abramoff disclosed to the firm for the first time personal transactions and related conduct which are unacceptable to the firm." The disclosure sparked law enforcement and congressional investigations.

Abramoff encouraged tribes he lobbied for to hire Scanlon's companies to do grass-roots public relations work. Scanlon paid Abramoff at least $10 million, Senate investigators discovered in March. Neither the tribes nor Greenberg Traurig was aware of the payments, they have said.

The e-mails reveal how closely Abramoff and Scanlon worked in tandem with Reed, whose longtime opposition to casino gambling and his connections to churches made him a powerful ally in Texas's effort to shut down the Tigua casino that Cornyn said was operating illegally. Reed was paid $4.2 million by Abramoff and Scanlon for his work opposing several tribal casinos in southern states from 2001 to 2003, government sources said.

The National Journal reported last week that $2.4 million of that money went through the American International Center, a foundation set up by Scanlon in Rehoboth Beach, Del. The sources confirmed that account.

Reed said late last month that he and his consulting company, Century Strategies, had been paid as much as $4 million by Abramoff and Scanlon to organize a coalition in opposition to several Indian tribe casinos. Abramoff and Scanlon represented tribes in Mississippi and Louisiana that sought to block other tribes from operating rival casinos in Texas, Louisiana and Alabama that could draw away gamblers. Some of the coalition work for which Reed was paid involved the effort in Texas, according to government sources who have seen checks to him from Scanlon's operation.

"We knew that Greenberg Traurig was recruiting coalition members and raising funds as well, but we had no direct knowledge of their clients or interests," Reed's office said in a written statement. "At no time were we retained by nor did we represent any casino or casino company."

Reed declined to be interviewed for this article but said through a spokeswoman that he did not know that Abramoff and Scanlon had been hired by the Tigua tribe after its casino was closed.

In an e-mail to Reed on Feb. 11, 2002, Abramoff did not mention he had been in contact with the Tiguas. He wrote: "I wish those moronic Tiguas were smarter in their political contributions. I'd love us to get our mitts on that moolah!! Oh well, stupid folks get wiped out."

The e-mails show the three men hustled to provide a show of public support for Cornyn's efforts to shut down the casino, which he contended had operated illegally under Texas law for eight years. The coalition made phone calls, rallied pastors and religious activists, and conducted a media campaign in support of closing the casino.

A spokesman for Cornyn, who was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2002, said that Cornyn does not recall any contact with Reed, Abramoff or Scanlon on the Tigua issue.

In November 2001, the Tiguas took out full-page newspaper ads in Washington and across Texas, saying Cornyn was using a "legal technicality" to kill jobs and decent housing for tribe members and return them to poverty.

"Wow. These guys are really playing hard ball," Reed e-mailed Abramoff on Nov. 12. "Do you know who their consultant(s) are?"

Abramoff responded: "Some stupid lobbyists up here who do Indian issues. We'll find out and make sure all our friends crush them like bugs."

At Reed's suggestion, Abramoff urged Scanlon to mobilize calls from the public to Cornyn's office supporting his efforts. A couple of months later, Reed reported to Abramoff that "we did get our pastors riled up last week, calling his office. Maybe that helped but who knows."

Abramoff replied: "Great. thanks Ralph. we should continue to pile on until the place is shuttered." He suggested getting "one of our guys in the legislature" to introduce a bill that would bar vendors who do business with casinos from state contracts so that "Cornyn can sit back and not be scared. Let one of our tigers go get em. Do we have someone like this and can we get it introduced as soon as possible?"

"We have tigers," Reed assured him.

Researchers Lucy Shackelford and Meg Smith contributed to this report.


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