Abramoff's offer to Sudan

The lobbyist Jack Abramoff once offered to talk up Sudan, a governement with a terrible human-rights record, to his friends on the right.


Farhad Manjoo
April 5, 2006 12:18AM (UTC)

Let's turn away from Tom DeLay for a brief moment to focus on a man who had absolutely nothing at all to do with the former majority leader, no way nohow, never: Yes, I'm referring to Jack Abramoff, the corrupt lobbyist whose cohort of guilty associates just happened to include a few members of DeLay's inner circle, but whom DeLay now only just barely recalls. The Los Angeles Times reports on another piece of the Abramoff scandal today -- according to two witnesses, the paper says, Jack Abramoff once offered to help the brutal government of Sudan improve its image among conservative evangelicals in the United States in return for about $16 million to $18 million. The government did not take up his services.

Abramoff made the proposal in 2001, the witnesses -- one is the Sudanese ambassador to the United States, and the other is an unnamed former Abramoff associate -- told the Times. "The former associate said the ex-lobbyist discussed the possible contract while sitting with the ambassador in Abramoff's skybox at Washington's Fed-Ex field during a Redskin football game," the Times says. According to the associate, Abramoff reminded the ambassador of his close ties to many influential evangelicals, including Ralph Reed, who used to head the Christian Coalition and is now a candidate for lieutenant governor in Georgia. Evangelical Christians have long been critical of the Sudanese government's war with Christian rebels; that war ended in a peace agreement signed in 2005.

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Abramoff noticed how lucrative a contract with Sudan might be after watching a video called "Sudan: The Hidden Holocaust," which was produced by a Christian human rights group and purported to reveal "the unknown struggle of the African Christian tribes of central and southern Sudan who are presently engaged in a life-and-death battle against radical Moslem invaders from the north." The former associate told the Times that Abramoff "said that the tapes showed the need for Sudan to have Washington representation that could relieve this kind of pressure."

Ralph Reed's spokeswoman told the paper that her boss wasn't involved. "Under no circumstances would he have worked on behalf of the Sudan and he has never done so."

That may be so, but if Abramoff did really tell the Sudanese ambassador that he could get Ralph Reed onboard, he wasn't lying about his influence. After all, in 2002, Abramoff paid Reed to work on a campaign for the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana, whose only source of income comes from casino gambling, which Reed says he's morally opposed to. The Coushatta tribe was interested in blocking rival gambling operations from opening up on its turf; Abramoff paid Reed to launch an effort to get evangelicals to fight casino expansion in Louisiana and Texas. Abramoff also used Reed's services in his work for another gambling firm, eLottery. Reed claims he didn't know he was being paid through gambling funds.


Farhad Manjoo

Farhad Manjoo is a Salon staff writer and the author of True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society.

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