Political Animal


May 09, 2011 12:30 PM Palling around with scandal-plagued Ralph Reed

By Steve Benen

Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition will host a massive Faith and Freedom Conference and Strategy Briefing in D.C. next month, and has invited a veritable who’s who of Republican heavy-hitters to attend. Of course, given Reed’s ignominious and scandalous background, GOP officials are keeping their distance.

No, I’m just kidding. They’re actually tripping over each other to attend. Mitt Romney, who doesn’t show up for much, has agreed to participate, and he joins House Speaker John Boehner, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, former Sen. Rick Santorum, Rep. Michelle Bachmann, Rep. Ron Paul, Sen. Rand Paul, Rep. Allen West, and Donald Trump (yes, seriously) on the guest list.

It is, in other words, poised to be one of the biggest religious right gatherings of the year. And given the host, that’s ridiculous.

Indeed, let’s take a stroll down memory lane. Remember this one, from June 2006?

Yet another delightful characterization of Ralph Reed, courtesy of today’s McCain report on the Abramoff scandal. This one comes courtesy of Jack Abramoff himself, via his discussion with Marc Schwartz, a public relations representative for the Tigua tribe in Texas.

Let’s pick up the report on page 148. Schwartz was evaluating whether the tribe should hire Abramoff as its lobbyist: To Schwartz, Abramoff appeared to have the right credentials. Abramoff claimed to be a close friend of Congressman Tom DeLay. He also discussed his friendship with Reed, recounting some of their history together at College Republicans. When Schwartz observed that Reed was an ideologue, Schwartz recalled that Abramoff laughingly replied “as far as the cash goes.”

Or, how about this one?

Ralph Reed, email to lobbyist Jack Abramoff, 1998: “Hey, now that I’m done with the electoral politics, I need to start humping in corporate accounts! I’m counting on you to help me with some contacts.”

Or this?

E-mails and testimony before McCain’s panel showed that Reed, who once branded gambling a “cancer” on society, reaped millions of dollars in tribal casino proceeds that Abramoff secretly routed to him through various non-profit front groups. Abramoff, a lobbyist for the tribes, paid Reed to whip up “grassroots” Christian opposition to prevent rival tribes from opening casinos.

By any reasonable measure, Republicans should avoid taking this guy’s phone calls. As Dave Weigel noted last fall, “Reed was supposed to be dead, dead, dead. His 2006 defeat was covered as the effective end of a 45-year-old political strategist who was forever tainted by scandal.”

And now Republican leaders are lining up to kiss his ring and pander to his minions. It’s a reminder that there is literally nothing a conservative can do to be permanently excluded from polite company.

But it’s also an opportunity for reporters looking for an interesting-and-underreported angle. How about someone ask Boehner, Romney, and Cantor why they’re comfortable hanging around with a disgraced former lobbyist who appears to have been at the heart of a money laundering scandal? Do they feel at all concerned palling around with a corrupt figure like this one?

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


Post a comment
  • MattF on May 09, 2011 12:32 PM:

    The serious answer? Republicans regard corruption and hypocrisy as normal politics. Politics is about power, period.

  • SYSPROG on May 09, 2011 12:33 PM:

    Yep and they'll wrap it in cross and flag. And if any DEM dares to criticize they'll ask in outrage 'What? You don't believe in redemption?' ala Rush and his drug problem. RR is a sanctimonious little putz that would sell out his own mother if he had to. I'll bet he's pals with Franklin Graham too.

  • candideinnc on May 09, 2011 12:38 PM:

    How apt that this should be the poster boy of Republican morality.

  • c u n d gulag on May 09, 2011 12:39 PM:

    And don't forget, that boy's a stone racist!

  • majun on May 09, 2011 12:46 PM:

    You just don't understand. There are two different standards at play here. If you are a Democrat, just the accusation, no matter how malicious, is sufficient reason to demand that the individual not only resign, but immediately turn himself over to the jailor to save the state money in prosecuting him. If you are a Republican it would be unfair to ostracize on anything less than an affirmation of a conviction by the Supreme Court - it't not over till the fab five sing.

    Just a sort of corollary to IOKIYAR

  • j on May 09, 2011 12:56 PM:

    Republicans always have the answer, like Gingrich who seems to be running for president - he had a chat with God who said he was forgiven!

  • Andy Olsen on May 09, 2011 12:58 PM:

    And how long before Ralph Reed is on Meet the Press intoning on the need for America to find her values once again?

  • DannyGail on May 09, 2011 1:07 PM:

    Why, they will tell you they believe in forgiveness and redemption and second chances. LOL.

  • ManOutOfTime on May 09, 2011 1:36 PM:

    there is literally nothing a conservative can do to be permanently excluded from polite company

    Sure there is: stop providing cash flow. If the bucks were not flowing out of Reed's teats there would be no piggies suckling thereon.

    And "polite company" ... ? We're talking about Repugs ... ain't no "polite" up in that joint ... !

  • Alex on May 09, 2011 3:46 PM:

    I had never heard of Reed...
    this relationship/emails with Abramoff sounds like the Sissy Spacek storyline from Big Love...

  • SYSPROG on May 09, 2011 4:49 PM:

    Oh lordy ALEX, I love you...I'm stealing your post!!!

  • Seek on July 14, 2011 4:47 PM:

    I have no problem with race realism. I wish Ralph Reed were a "racist." The real problem is that he's a theocrat, albeit more guileful in his language and tactics than others working the same circuit. Here's hoping he stumbles permanently this time.