World Magazine has been doing some great reporting on evangelical leaders tied into the Tom Delay-Jack Abramoff money-for-influence story. My reading of the story as reported by World is that Abramoff was representing Indian tribes that operate casinos in Louisiana and Mississippe. When other tribes tried to advance legislation that would permit to open their own casinos in Alabama and Louisiana, Abramoff gave money from the casino interests to Ralph Reed and others to fight such legislation.
Reed took that money and spread it around, trying to gin up evangelical opposition. Reed was "fighting gambling," but he was doint so on behalf of gambling interests, and he never told anyone that he was being paid by a them. Reed also worked to persuade James Dobson to rally his radio audience and mailing list for the cause. The basic characters in the story are Abramoff as the puppet-master, Reed as the pawn, Dobson as the dupe (which he denies), and evangelical footsoldiers as the brainless drones, easily manipulated by evangelical personalities.
Here are links to World's major articles: 11/19, 1/14, 2/4, 3/4, 3/11, 3/25.
Also worth reading are the ridiculously weak and narrow response from Ralph Reed (who has repeatedly denied interview requests and completely ignores the central issues in this letter) and Marvin Olasky's explanation for why this story needs to be reported. The fact that he would have to explain is appalling to me, but it should not be surprising given how the sole unifying feature of evangelicalism seems to be a desire to squelch anything that would serve as an obstacle to blind unity among churches. That World would lose subscribers over reporting this story (as Olasky implies in his sidebar to the 3/4 article) is almost beyond comprehension.
Part 2 will review some perspectives on the backgrounds of the strange bedfellowship made by fundamentalist-evangelicals and politicians.