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Probe Links Norquist, Abramoff

THE NATION

The anti-tax activist helped funnel tribe money for the lobbyist, a Senate panel says.

June 25, 2006|From the Associated Press

WASHINGTON — In Jack Abramoff's world, prominent Washington tax-cut advocate Grover Norquist was a welcome conduit.

Moving money from a casino-operating Indian tribe to Ralph Reed, the Christian Coalition founder and a gambling opponent, was a problem. So lobbyist Abramoff apparently turned to longtime friend Norquist to provide a buffer for Reed.

The result, according to evidence gathered by the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, was that Norquist's nonprofit group Americans for Tax Reform helped to channel more than $1 million from the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians to Reed's operation, and Norquist, a close White House ally, took a cut of the transaction.

The Senate panel found numerous instances of nonprofit organizations' apparent involvement in activities unrelated to their missions as described to the Internal Revenue Service.

The panel's 373-page report on Abramoff's influence-peddling, released Thursday, said some nonprofits transferred money from one entity to another in an effort to obscure the source and eventual use of funds, and to evade tax liability.

The report said some tax-exempt organizations were used as extensions of for-profit lobbying operations.

In February, the committee forwarded to the Senate Finance Committee 108 documents about the nonprofits, of which 28 documents dealt with Norquist's group.

Norquist's office says its tax-cut mission is the same as that of the Choctaws, who were funding a grass-roots campaign by Reed's organization to block potential casino competitors.

Nell Rogers, a planner for the Choctaws, told the Senate that the arrangement was never intended as a contribution to support the general anti-tax work of Norquist's group. Rogers said she understood from Abramoff that the group was willing to serve as a conduit, provided it received a fee.

In an e-mail obtained by the Indian Affairs Committee, Abramoff told Reed: "I need to give Grover something for helping, so the first transfer will be a bit lighter."

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