Frederick Clarkson has a post at Talk2Action about a new Senate report that shows all sorts of funny goings on between Jack Abramoff and Toward Tradition, a group headed by the religious right's favorite wingnut whacko Rabbi, Daniel Lapin. I had no idea that Abramoff had served as chairman of that organization and on its board for years. Also implicated in the report are several other ostensibly non-profit groups. The Washington Post reports:
The report includes previously unreleased e-mails between the now-disgraced lobbyist and officers of the nonprofit groups, showing that Abramoff routed money from his clients to the groups. In exchange the groups, among other things, produced ostensibly independent newspaper op-ed columns or press releases that favored the clients' positions...
The report states that the groups probably violated their tax-exempt status "by laundering payments and then disbursing funds at Mr. Abramoff's direction; taking payments in exchange or writing newspaper columns or press releases that put Mr. Abramoff's clients in a favorable light; introducing Mr. Abramoff's clients to government officials in exchange for payment; and agreeing to act as a front organization for congressional trips paid for by Mr. Abramoff's clients."
The groups are Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform; the Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy, which was co-founded by Norquist and Gale Norton before she became Secretary of the Interior; Citizens Against Government Waste; the National Center for Public Policy Research, which was a spinoff of the Heritage Foundation; and Toward Tradition, a religious group founded by Abramoff friend Rabbi Daniel Lapin.
Lapin, whose group was at the center of some of the most infamous lobbying schemes with Abramoff, told the committee that he was shutting down the Seattle-based nonprofit because of negative news coverage related to Abramoff.
And don't forget that Abramoff was also paying Ralph Reed to lobby on behalf of corporations in the Marianas Islands, trying to scuttle legislation that would extend worker safety laws in the US over that US protectorate. Why is that important? Because a Department of the Interior report found that companies there were importing Chinese slave labor and forcing them to have abortions and work as prostitutes, in addition to their work in sweatshop factories:
A year earlier, the Department of the Interior -- which oversees federal policy toward the U.S. territory -- presented a very different picture of life for Chinese workers on the islands. An Interior report found that Chinese women were subject to forced abortions and that women and children were subject to forced prostitution in the local sex-tourism industry.
It also alleged that the garment industry and other businesses set up facilities on the Northern Marianas to produce products labeled "Made in the USA," while importing workers from China and other Asian countries and paying them less than U.S. minimum wage under conditions not subject to federal safety standards.
Forced abortions and forced prostitution, all being defended by the chairman of Toward Tradition and the former head of the Christian Coalition. Now that's "family values" for you. Reed, of course, was paid to do this lobbying work because of his connections in the religious right and his ability to get the message out to those famous "values voters" we hear so much about. So how did he sell this kind of mistreatment to the folks in the pews? By talkin' bout' Jesus, of course:
"The radical left, the Big Labor Union Bosses, and Bill Clinton want to pass a law preventing Chinese from coming to work on the Marianas Islands," the mailer from Reed's firm said. The Chinese workers, it added, "are exposed to the teachings of Jesus Christ" while on the islands, and many "are converted to the Christian faith and return to China with Bibles in hand."
Well yes, who could dispute that? Apparently, either while these Chinese slave laborers were being forced to have sex with their co-workers, or with high-powered visitors to the Islands - or while they were forced to undergo an abortion that resulted from that forced prostitution - the good folks that ran the sweatshops would read to them from the Bible, thereby exposing them to Jesus. And that makes it all worthwhile, doesn't it? Okay, so you were raped over and over again and forced to undergo multiple abortions....but you met Jesus, too! Think of it as the silver lining in this cloud of barbarism. Besides, they paid Reed millions of dollars to bring you the Truth about this, and you wouldn't distrust Ralph Reed, would you? He has such a babyface. Praise the lord and pass the check.
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I think I remember Jesus calling some of the religious leaders of his day white-washed tombs (sepulchres) because of their attitudes toward the poor, the widow, the orphan and the stranger. I wonder what would be said if the one they claim to follow met Ralph Reed and his fellows who call themselves followers of Jesus.
And yes, I did use the masculine gender with all due deliberation and consciousness as I find this to be more of a problem with men than women.