Oh, Ralph, what can we say? Best laid plans and all that.
Today's story on Ralph Reed in the Atlanta Journal Constitution reveals that he knew that he was working for an online gambling company named eLottery, Inc. when he helped kill the Internet Gambling Prohibition Act.
He's said, of course, that he did not know.
But really, that just makes him sound sloppy. Let's give the man his due: he very carefully and skillfully obscured his relationship with Jack Abramoff's gaming clients. He knew that it would have been bad for his reputation, and thus for business. So he took a number of key steps to leave no paper trail:
First, the true client's name did not appear on the contract. Nominally, Reed was working for Abramoff's law firm.
Second, he did not register as a lobbyist for the client. The eLottery contract specifically said that none of his activities would "require registration as a lobbyist in any state or with the federal government."
Third, the fees were routed through at least two intermediaries before they reached Reed. In the case of the eLottery work, the money went first to Americans for Tax Reform, then on to a shell organization called the Faith and Family Alliance, and then on to Reed's firm.
Fourth, and here's where you have to admire his restraint, he almost never referred to the client in writing. Hundreds of pages of Abramoff's emails have been released, and he's only gotten burned a few times.
It's a shame that the fifth step, lying to the press, has received so much attention. Reed was the architect of a much larger, more sophisticated effort than that.