Minnesota congressmen get high marks from Abramoff-linked nonprofit

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The Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), headed by longtime Republican stalwart Grover Norquist, has released its ratings for the 2006 Congress, giving high marks to four Minnesota congressmen. They are Gil Gutknecht (100% rating), Mark Kennedy (95%), John Kline (95%) and Jim Ramstad (86%). All are Republicans. Gutknecht also received a “Taxpayer Hero Award”.

The ATR, a 501(c)4 nonprofit organization, has recently been named along with four other groups as having conspired with lobbyist Jack Abramoff to trade favors for donatons, according to a Senate Finance Committee report. In the Washington Post, James V. Grimaldi and Susan Schmidt write,

The report includes previously unreleased e-mails between the now-disgraced lobbyist and officers of the nonprofit groups, showing that Abramoff funneled money from his clients to the groups. In exchange, the groups, among other things, produced ostensibly independent newspaper op-ed columns or news releases that favored the clients’ positions.

According to an article in USA Today:
The report said Norquist’s group accepted $1.5 million from the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, one of Abramoff’s clients. More than two-thirds of that money was then passed to Christian Coalition founder Ralph Reed as part of Abramoff’s lobbying efforts to block a rival tribe’s proposed casino in Alabama.

Minnesota Republican Sen. Norm Coleman received a 75% rating from the group, far outdistancing his Democratic counterpart, Mark Dayton, who earned a 10% mark.

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