Texas Tribe Names Abramoff, Reed in Suit
Wednesday, July 12, 2006; 7:40 PM
WASHINGTON -- A Texas Indian tribe filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday alleging that ex-lobbyist Jack Abramoff, former Christian Coalition leader Ralph Reed and their associates engaged in fraud and racketeering to shut down the tribe's casino.
The Alabama-Coushatta tribe of Livingston, Texas, alleged the defendants defrauded the tribe, the people of Texas and the Legislature to benefit another of Abramoff's clients _ the Louisiana Coushatta tribe _ and "line their pockets with money."
"Ultimately, the defendants' greed and corruption led to the Alabama-Coushatta tribe permanently shutting its casino. The funding for economic programs evaporated, over 300 jobs were lost in Polk County and the Alabama-Coushatta tribe has spent years struggling to recover and revitalize its economy through other means," the tribe said in its lawsuit, obtained by The Associated Press.
The lawsuit also names Abramoff's ex-business partner Michael Scanlon, a former aide to former Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas; Neil Volz, a former aide to Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio; and Jon Van Horne, Abramoff's former colleague at his law and lobbying firm, Greenberg Traurig.
Although the tribe alleges Greenberg Traurig was part of the scheme, it did not name the firm as a defendant. Attorney Fred Petti said the tribe is in settlement discussions with the firm.
The tribe did not specify how much money it is seeking in the lawsuit. Petti said it is asking for the amount of revenue it lost since it was forced to close down its casino. The casino operated for only nine months and shut down in 2002.
"It'll be in the tens if not the hundreds of millions of dollars," he said.
Without its casino, the Alabama-Coushatta tribe has lost opportunities to improve housing, roads and education programs for its members, said tribal chairwoman Jo Ann Battise.
"What we're looking for through this lawsuit is the right to make our own decisions, the right to run our own gaming operations, the right to have the same opportunity as other tribes across the nation," Battise said in Austin, Texas, where the lawsuit was filed.
Abramoff, Scanlon and Volz have pleaded guilty in a public corruption probe involving Abramoff's former tribal clients and possibly members of Congress. The Alabama-Coushatta never hired Abramoff.
The Alabama-Coushatta's casino, on its reservation north of Houston, was closed in 2002 by a federal court ruling in a 1999 lawsuit filed by the state's then attorney general, John Cornyn, now a U.S. senator.
The Alabama-Coushatta said Abramoff and others conspired to defeat a bill in the 2001 Legislature that would have allowed it to operate gaming on its reservation. Reed helped to rally Christians against the bill with a group he formed, Committee Against Gambling, the tribe alleged.