Another Conservative Group Gets Entangled in an Indian Casino Money-Laundering Scandal

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Baccarat dealer Ramiro Nepomuceno, right, shuffles cards while preparing a table for play at the MGM Hotel and Casino, in Las Vegas.  (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson, File)

In this Jan. 25, 2012 file photo, Baccarat dealer Ramiro Nepomuceno, right, shuffles cards while preparing a table for play at the MGM Hotel and Casino, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson, File)

Politico came up with a big scoop this week when it uncovered internal documents from the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC) showing that the Alabama Republican Party had “essentially launder[ed] ‘toxic’ money from the gaming industry by routing it out of state and then back into Alabama” via the prominent conservative group.

The September 2011 report was prepared for then-RSLC head Gillespie, the former Bush adviser who later chaired the Republican National Committee and is now running for a Senate seat in Virginia. It “detailed an investigation into alleged misconduct by multiple RSLC officials during the crucial 2010 election cycle.” The authors of the report warned that if the scheme became public, it could trigger “possible criminal penalties” and “ultimately threaten the organization’s continued existence.”  They added, “the resulting media frenzy” would be “a political disaster for Alabama Republicans, a disaster with which RSLC will forever be associated.”

The RSLC took campaign funds from the Poarch Creek Band of Indians, which operates several tribal casinos in Alabama. It then directed that money to a handful of conservative state PACs, most of which were controlled by Mike Hubbard, who is currently the speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives. Some of the money was sent to an anti-lottery group with ties to Jack Abramoff, the former “super-lobbyist” who was convicted on multiple felony counts for a similar scheme to launder Native American casino dollars to conservative lawmakers. That scandal would eventually spread to include a Who’s Who of influential Republican lobbyists and lawmakers.

The RSLC was formed in 2002 and according to ProPublica, for most of the group’s existence, “it was primarily a vehicle for donors like health care and tobacco companies to influence state legislatures.” But when Gillespie took the reins in 2010, he shifted the group’s focus to redistricting, and the organization started pouring money into state legislative races. It soon became the top conservative funder for state-level politics. According to OpenSecrets.org, the RSLC spent $40 million during the 2012 cycle, and has raised around $20 million so far in 2014.

You can read the entire report on the RSLC disclosures at Politico.

And check out “Capitol Crimes,” Bill Moyer’s 2006 exposé of the Jack Abramoff scandal, below.

Joshua Holland was a senior digital producer for BillMoyers.com and now writes for The Nation. He’s the author of The Fifteen Biggest Lies About the Economy (and Everything Else the Right Doesn’t Want You to Know about Taxes, Jobs and Corporate America) (Wiley: 2010), and host of Politics and Reality Radio. Follow him on Twitter: @JoshuaHol.

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