Eat The Press

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In the upcoming GQ, Sean Flynn takes on — and takes down — Christian Coalition and Republican stalwart Ralph Reed, just days before the Georgia primary this Tuesday, July 18th in which Reed will seek the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor. Flynn pulls absolutely no punches here, charting Reed's rise through the Christian Coalition through his dubious dealings with Jack Abramoff , sketchy history as a campaign consultant and sketchier history touting moneymaking schemes pegged to life insurance payouts from elderly Indians and African-Americans ("mortgaging black people"). The article is long - almost 8,000 words - and packed chock-full of example after damning example of Reed's religious hypocrisy (gambling) and unsavory dealings (Abramoff said of him that he was "a bad version of us"; Reed called his frequent business partner "arguably the most influential and effective GOP lobbyist in [sic] congress." He is also the person credited - though everyone denies it - with delivering the South Carolina to George Bush in 2000 by fanning the suggestion that John McCain's adopted Bangladeshi daughter was his illegitimate black baby.

Reed's Abramoff connection is coming back to bite him as the primary — what should have been a cakewalk for a Golden Boy like him against a state Senator, Casey Cagle — approaches and he is dogged by the Abramoff rumors and others just as shady. Some choice excerpts:

Abramoff is also one of Reed's oldest friends and closest business associates. They go way back, to their days with the College Republican National Committee in the early 1980s. When Reed opened his own consulting firm fifteen years later, he turned to Abramoff for help. Hey, now that I'm done with the electoral politics, he wrote in a November 12, 1998, e-mail, I need to start humping in corporate accounts! I'm counting on you to help me with some contacts.

From Maurice Atkinson, Southern GOP and former Reed adherent:

When Reed announced his candidacy, Atkinson signed up for his steering committee. Of course he would support Reed, the man who'd shepherded conservative Christians into the political process.
Then the stories started trickling out. Abramoff, sure. But also Enron. And Channel One, another company the Christian Right generally despises but for which Reed lobbied. And the South Carolina primary in 2000. The stories kept coming until Atkinson thought: Man, this guy's got no core.
"I call them political pimps," he says. "They want to develop their market base and manipulate the system. You got Al Sharpton. You got Jesse Jackson. You got Ralph Reed. And the cause isn't for the cause. It's for themselves."
Atkinson is stumping for Senator Cagle now.

More charming anecdotes about Reed after the jump.

From pollster Matt Towrey, who led Newt Gingrich's campaign in 1994:

"The problem now," says Matt Towery, the pollster, "is that he's got to prove to everyone that he wasn't quite bright enough to know [the Abramoff stuff] was wrong but that he's bright enough to govern their state as lieutenant governor."

Detailing Reed's publicly condemnation of China while privately he was being paid to lobby for supporting its trade status:

Reed made a pile of money in the private sector. He now lives in a $2.2 million house, and he has another $2.2 million tucked away for his retirement and his kids' college. Some part of those millions came from Boeing and the Business Roundtable, which paid him to persuade Congress in 1998 to keep China on the most-favored-nations list of trading partners. Typically, that's anathema to evangelical Christians, considering China's dismal record on religious freedom and forced abortions... In one interview, he said, "This can't just be about profits and losses and dollars and cents. It has to be about matters of the heart and matters of the soul and America being a moral leader in the world."

Talking out of both sides of his mouth on gambling:

Among the tribes Abramoff represented were the Choctaw Indians, proprietors of the Silver Star and Golden Moon casinos outside Philadelphia, Mississippi. The Choctaws make a good chunk of change from southern gamblers, about $300 million a year--profits they naturally preferred not be siphoned off to, say, neighboring Alabama, which in 1999 was considering both instituting a lottery and legalizing video poker at racetracks... Reed took more than a million dollars from the Choctaws, which was funneled through the Christian Coalition of Alabama and a brand-new (and now long gone) group, Citizens Against Legalized Lottery, to pay for an organized, and partly successful, campaign against gambling in Alabama. A few years later, in 2002, Reed did essentially the same thing, helping to close one Texas casino and kill plans for another that threatened the market share of the Louisiana Coushattas, who paid roughly $4 million for his services.

Dogged by that Abramoff association:


The Abramoff-related trials are just getting started, and already Reed is being haunted by the ghosts of junkets past... federal prosecutors in May showed a jury a photograph of Abramoff, Ohio congressman Bob Ney, and seven other people standing in front of a chartered Gulf Stream jet immediately before they all climbed aboard for a flight to St. Andrews in Scotland. Reed's the second one from the left, in the light blue shirt, smiling with his hands on his hips.
More from Atkinson on the wayward path of a Christian golden boy:
Reed could have worked for anyone he wanted to, could have lent his considerable talents to any number of Christian organizations, real ones, too, the kind that existed before Reed needed some preachers to front for his corporate clients. But Enron? Indian casinos? "He's either an awfully cheap whore," Atkinson says, "or he's diabolical."

Abramoff's scheme to extract money from the Tigua Indian tribe, who had gone broke after an Abramoff-and-Reed-assisted bill had knocked out their casino:

So Abramoff came up with a way for his marks to continue paying him: the Tigua Elder Legacy Project. Abramoff would arrange, at no cost to the tribe, a life-insurance policy for every Tigua 75 or older. When those elders died, the death benefits would be paid to Eshkol Academy, a private school Abramoff had founded near Washington. Eshkol, in turn, would then pay Abramoff's fee to continue lobbying on behalf of the surviving Tiguas. Morbid opportunism disguised as charity: Each dead Tigua would be cash in the lobbyist's pocket.

And, that idea on a grander scale, the "Black Churches Program" tageting African American elders:

The Tigua-death-fund offer had been made in March 2003. Four months later, Abramoff was pitching Reed--his connection to Christians--the Black Churches Insurance Program. There was only one difference: It would be huge, to use Abramoff's word.
"Yeah," a former associate of Reed's says, "it sounds like Jack approached Reed about mortgaging old black people."

This article hits newsstands on July 25th — by then Tuesday's primary will have come and gone, and Ralph Reed may — or may not — be lieutenant governor of Georgia. We'll see how far the ripples from this piece go — who knows, it may yet alter these plans:

Why, in just a few weeks, Rudy Giuliani, America's Mayor, will fly to Atlanta to raise money for Reed.

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