Ralph Eugene Reed, Jr., (born June 24, 1961) is a conservative American political activist, best known as the first executive director of the Christian Coalition during the early 1990s. He sought the Republican nomination for the office of Lieutenant Governor of Georgia, but lost the primary election on July 18, 2006 to State Senator Casey Cagle. Reed is also a part of, and implicated in, the ongoing Jack Abramoff Indian lobbying scandal. Reed and his wife, the former JoAnne Young, were married in 1987 and have four children. __FORCETOC__
At the CRNC, Abramoff, Norquist and Reed formed what was known as the "Abramoff-Norquist-Reed triumvirate." Upon Abramoff's election, the trio purged "dissidents" and re-wrote the CRNC's bylaws to consolidate their control over the organization. Abramoff promoted Reed in 1983, appointing him to succeed Norquist as Executive Director of the CRNC.
Reed roomed with Abramoff in Washington, D.C., and later introduced Abramoff to the woman who would become his wife. Reed participated in the weddings of both Abramoff and Norquist. Norquist would later serve as President of Americans for Tax Reform, an anti-tax nonprofit lobbying firm in Washington, D.C.
SFA became largely dominated by members of Maranatha Campus Ministries, and this brought Reed into contact with Ed Buckham and Jim Backlin, the current Legislative Director of the Christian Coalition. This forged Ralph Reed's links to Tom DeLay through Buckham and Backlin.
Students for America established chapters on college campuses up and down the East Coast and held conferences. Among other issues, SFA supported Helms' bid for re-election and organized abortion clinic protests. After Ralph Reed left SFA for a bigger job at the Christian Coalition, SFA faded out of existence by the early 1990s.
Reed led the organization from 1989 to 1997, achieving national prominence which included an appearance on the cover of TIME. He resigned and moved to Georgia after federal prosecutors began investigating allegations by the Christian Coalition's chief financial officer, Judy Liebert. At this point, the group's finances were collapsing, and the IRS and Federal Election Commission were investigating it.
Building on the remnants of Robertson's Presidential campaign, the Coalition organized former Robertson supporters and other conservative people of faith to oppose political liberalism. Eschewing the confrontational tactics of street protest learned as a College Republican, Reed projected a "softer" public face for Christian conservatism. Reed repeatedly described himself as a "guerrilla fighter" who "traveled at night" and put "enemies" in "body bags" before they even realized he had struck.
Both Reed and the Christian Coalition rose to national prominence in the early 1990s, protesting against the Clinton administration's policies. Reed and the Coalition were widely credited with helping mobilize Christian conservatives in support of Republican candidates in the 1994 Congressional elections.
The influence of the Coalition had waned by the 1996 Presidential election, when Reed helped Senator Bob Dole win the Republican nomination for President. Dole lost the general election to President Bill Clinton. Reed's "Contract with the American Family," an imitation of Speaker Newt Gingrich's 1994 Contract with America, failed to ignite activists.
In 1996, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) brought an enforcement alleging that the Christian Coalition "violated federal campaign finance laws during congressional elections in 1990, 1992 and 1994, and the presidential election in 1992." Reed called the action "baseless." In part because of the allegations, the Internal Revenue Service denied tax exempt status for the Coalition.
Liebert alleged that Hart, "a close friend with whom Reed regularly golfed and vacationed," was "regularly marking up the Coalition's bills." "Liebert also charged that Reed had turned over, free of charge, the Coalition's entire mailing list to Hart's firm." The Coalition subsequently offered Liebert a severance package that included a "letter of recommendation, a year's salary of $80,000, and another $25,000 to cover legal expenses, provided that she agree not to publicly disparage the Coalition.
Reed himself resigned in April 1997 while the investigation was pending. Reed denied that his resignation was related to the "Judy Liebert thing." He was never charged with any crimes. In December 1997, after Reed's resignation, the Christian Coalition sued Hart's firm, Hart Conover, for using its mailing list to entice donors away to other organizations. The Coalition blamed its own subsequent decline on Hart's misuse of the list. In March 1998, the Coalition and Hart reached an out-of-court settlement.
Skandalakis was a moderate Republican who had openly courted gay voters in earlier campaigns. He was opposed in the Republican primary by the staunchly conservative State Senator Clint Day, a devout Christian whose parents had founded the Days Inn motel chain.
In the primary, Skandalakis placed first among the five Republican candidates, but did not receive a majority of the vote and was forced into a run-off with second place finisher Day. The other three candidates endorsed Day, but Reed orchestrated a series of negative attacks on Day that included charges that Day had "desecrated Indian graves" on a plot of land owned by a Day family foundation. He even staged a news conference at which tribal leaders, wearing headdress and other ceremonial clothing, attacked Day as a "vandal" and "grave robber." Day chose not to respond in kind.
Reed's strategy initially met with success, as Skandalakis narrowly defeated Day in the Republican primary run-off. However, Skandalakis went on to lose the general election in a landslide and was widely blamed for the defeat that year of heavily favored Republican candidates for Governor and Attorney General. Skandalakis ran television advertisements calling the black Mayor of Atlanta a "buffoon" and promising to "kick Atlanta's ass," helping to stir an anti-Republican backlash among black and urban white voters. Another Skandalakis advertisement accused the Democratic candidate, Senator Mark Taylor, of drug abuse. Taylor sued for libel, and Skandalakis paid a $50,000 settlement after the election.
Skandalakis subsequently pleaded guilty to a felony charge of lying to federal investigators in a public corruption investigation and was sentenced to a six month prison term. Reed distanced himself from Skandalakis after the campaign, saying that he had not been responsible for the television advertising and that all his activities had been "legal."
Its clients have included now-bankrupt energy trader Enron, software giant Microsoft, educational programmer Channel One News, the Puerto Rican statehood movement, business interests advocating normal trade relations with the People's Republic of China, the eLottery Internet gambling firm, and at least two Indian gaming tribes introduced to Reed by Abramoff. Century Strategies was most recently hired by the cable industry to fight newly proposed federal decency standards.
Reed's initial foray into campaign consulting met with failure; virtually all of his general election candidates were defeated. In addition to his involvement in the Skandalakis campaign, Reed helped Alabama Governor Fob James win renomination in a bitterly contested Republican primary, only to become the first Republican in over a decade to lose the Alabama governor's election. Reed's two challenger clients for Congress, Gex Williams of Kentucky and Cary Hofmeister of Indiana, were also defeated. Reed was accused of running "some of the most vicious and racist campaigns of the election season." Reed blamed the failed impeachment attempt against Clinton for Republican setbacks. (Nina J. Easton, Gang of Five, pages 398, 400)
Immediately after the 1998 election, Reed shifted gears to corporate work, writing an e-mail to Abramoff asking for help "humping" corporate clients.
Reed's $30,000 per month contract with Enron was arranged in 1999 by Karl Rove, principal campaign advisor to Texas Governor and future President George W. Bush. Rove did not want Reed to work against Bush, but he also did not want Reed to be publicly associated with Bush in the early stages of the campaign. The existence of Reed's contract was revealed in 2002, when a federal investigation was launched into Enron's bankruptcy.
Reed is credited with orchestrating attacks on Senator John McCain in the 2000 South Carolina presidential primary, together with Roberta Combs, then head of the South Carolina Christian Coalition, who later took over the national Christian Coalition. Bush's defeat of McCain in that primary came at a key moment and ended McCain's early momentum from an upset victory in the New Hampshire primary.
Reed's $20,000 per month contract with Microsoft proved a minor embarrassment to the Bush campaign in the summer of 2000 when it was revealed that the software giant, which was being prosecuted for antitrust violations, had hired a number of Bush aides as consultants and lobbyists. Reed apologized for the "appearance of conflict" but continued to accept the money until early 2005, when Microsoft terminated Reed in the midst of the Indian gaming scandal.
The greatest controversy about Reed's business dealings has come from his fellow conservatives, who have criticized Reed's choice of clients and suggested that he has inappropriately profited from his credentials as a conservative Christian leader. A conservative Alabama group called Obligation, Inc. is a fierce critic of Reed's client Channel One News, arguing that the company pumps classrooms full of "commercials for junk food and sleazy movies."
Century Strategies received over $4.2 million via Abramoff for work in Texas and Alabama opposing the opening of new Indian casinos. The work was commissioned and paid for by tribes with competing casinos, represented by Abramoff. Reed later claimed he did not know that the funds came from gambling proceeds.
Reed's company was also paid by another Abramoff client, eLottery, to oppose the Internet Gambling Prohibition Act, although Reed subsequently denied knowledge of this.
Yet another controversy revolves around activity in August 1999, when Reed's firm "sent out a mailer to Alabama conservative Christians asking them to call then-Rep. Bob Riley (R-Ala.) and tell him to vote against legislation that would have made the U.S. commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands subject to federal wage and worker safety laws." This proved controversial as the United States Department of the Interior reported that workers were exploited, including being "subject to forced abortions and ... forced prostitution. 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. Abramoff represented the commonwealth as a partner of Greenberg Traurig and received $4.04 million from 1998 to 2002. Greenberg Traurig, in turn, hired Reed's firm to print the mailing.
Reed's principal opponent was David Shafer, a former executive director of the Georgia Republican Party recruited to the race by Congressman John Linder. Shafer campaigned on Republican gains made when he served as state executive director in the early 1990s, but was hampered by his subsequent association with the failed campaigns of Mack Mattingly, Guy Millner and Clint Day in the later half of the decade.
The state convention, held at the Cobb Galleria in May 2001, was the most heavily attended and longest running in the history of the party. Reed won on the first ballot, capturing almost 60 percent of the delegate vote against Shafer, who won 40 percent, and a third candidate, lobbyist Maria Rose Strollo, who won one percent.
Reed was endorsed by the "Confederate Republican Caucus," a block of almost 500 heritage activists who had participated in the state convention as a protest against the removal of the Confederate battle emblem from the State Flag. Associated with the Sons of Confederate Veterans, the Confederate Republican Caucus claimed credit for both Reed's victory and the large margin. They would later claimed that they were "double-crossed" by Reed.
Documents released by federal investigators in June 2005 show that Reed's 2001 campaign for State Chairman was secretly financed with contributions from the Choctaws, an Indian gaming tribe represented by Abramoff.
The party experienced success in the 2002 elections under Reed's leadership. Saxby Chambliss was elected as U.S. Senator, and Sonny Perdue was elected as Governor. Reed, however, was asked to relinquish his job as State Chairman by Perdue, whose long-shot candidacy was largely ignored by Reed in favor of Chambliss.
Reed was also criticized by some Republican activists because of the alleged business activities of his firm, Century Strategies. Critics claim that if Reed had sought to run for reelection as State Chairman, members of the State Executive Committee were ready to publicize the details of these allegations.
Reed claimed support of the White House, access to the Bush fundraising apparatus and command of a large grass roots organization. His official declaration of candidacy on February 17, 2005 largely cleared the field of opposition; Keen, Stephens and Oxendine all left the race. Keen, a former state chairman of the Christian Coalition, was the first to drop, followed quickly by Stephens. Although insisting at the time of Reed's entry into the race that he would "never" withdraw, Oxendine ended his candidacy two weeks later. Only Cagle, a relatively unknown lawmaker, remained in the race to challenge Reed.
In a widely publicized act, 21 state senators signed a letter in February 2006 calling on Reed to withdraw from the race, "declaring that his ties to Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff could jeopardize the re-election of Gov. Sonny Perdue and the rest of the GOP ticket.... Reed rejected the petition as a useless stunt, and expressed confidence that his record and ideas would prevail."
Aides to Speaker of the House Glenn Richardson, ostensibly neutral in the race, released a poll that showed Reed's mounting negatives could hurt Perdue and the Republican ticket. On March 21, 2006, political consultant Matt Towery of Insider Advantage released a poll showing Reed represented an eight point drag on the Perdue ticket.
Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine, whose own ambitions had been upended by Reed's candidacy, endorsed Cagle in June 2006, saying that Reed's nomination threatened the success of the Republican ticket.
Two dozen members of the Reed steering committee, including a Reed State Co-Chairman, resigned their affiliation with the Reed campaign and endorsed Cagle, but Reed continued his pursuit of the nomination.
After Reed attacked Cagle for accepting contributions from the real estate development industry, Senator Chip Pearson, a developer and former Reed backer, sent Reed a letter demanding the return of over $6,000 in campaign contributions.
Reed responded to his difficulties by criticizing Cagle for "negative campaigning." Cagle's staff includes several former employees and associates of Reed, whom the Reed campaign has labeled "disgruntled."
Reed incurred the wrath of the Southern Heritage Movement by failing to keep any of the campaign promises he had made to them, and when he began his campaign for Lieutenant Governor four years later, they struck back with a vengeance.
The Georgia Heritage Council, Southern Heritage Political Action Committee, and Southern Party of Georgia, three leading organizations comprising the Southern Heritage Movement, all declared "guerrilla" war on his candidacy. Reed's campaign appearances were the repeated subject of protests and demonstrations called "flaggings" because of the use of the Confederate Battle Flag as a protest symbol.
The Georgia Heritage Council published a series of cartoons lampooning Reed. These cartoons compared him to Judas and denounced his role in the Abramoff gambling scandal.
Reed attempted to revive his campaign with high powered endorsements. Hoping to make himself more acceptable to Christian conservatives in the 2008 Presidential race, New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani traveled to Georgia to campaign for Reed. A Democrat, conservative former United States Senator Zell Miller, also endorsed Reed.
On July 18, 2006, Reed was decisively defeated in the Republican primary, losing the nomination to State Senator Casey Cagle. Final returns show Reed losing by twelve percentage points, collecting 44 percent of the vote to Cagle's 56 percent. According to Politics1.com, Reed indicated he would not likely seek elective office ever again.
Reed was named in the scandal arising from lobbying work performed by Jack Abramoff on behalf of Indian gambling tribes. The scandal arose from the discovery that Abramoff and his junior partner Michael Scanlon had fabricated an artificial threat to Native American tribal gambling casinos in order to then bill those same tribes for lobbying efforts to 'save' them. Abramoff may have received as much as $82 million from the tribes to defend their casinos from a non-existent threat.
E-mails released by federal investigators in June 2005 revealed that Reed secretly accepted payments from Abramoff to lobby against Indian casino gambling and oppose an Alabama education lottery. However, just as damaging were revelations that Abramoff and Scanlon, and to a lesser extent Reed, celebrated the billing of massive amounts of money to the tribes. Additional e-mails released in November 2005 show that Reed also worked for another Abramoff client seeking to block a congressional ban on Internet gambling. These cases are being investigated by multiple federal and state grand juries and by the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. Abramoff pled guilty to three felony counts in federal court, raising the prospects of Abramoff testifying against others.
Those e-mails and other evidence revealed the participation of the Christian Coalition in the alleged fraud, particularly the Alabama chapter of the Christian Coalition, which received large amounts of donations from the casino money. It is alleged that Abramoff engaged Ralph Reed to set up an anti-gambling campaign to include the U.S. Family Network, the Christian Coalition, and Focus on the Family in order to frighten the tribes into spending as much as $82 million for Abramoff to lobby on their behalf.
To represent him in connection with the scandal, Reed has retained white collar criminal defense attorney W. Neil Eggleston of Debevoise & Plimpton LLP. Eggleston served as White House associate counsel during the administration of President Bill Clinton, a one time Reed nemesis. Reed's campaign spokespeople insist that his conduct in the scandal was legal.
In December 2005, three Texas public interest groups filed a complaint with Travis County Attorney David Escamilla on December 1,2005, alleging that Reed failed to register as a lobbyist in 2001 or 2002 when he was working for Abramoff. The groups cite e-mail messages from Reed to Abramoff released by the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs in which Reed claimed to have made contact with the Texas Lieutenant Governor and Attorney General. Escamilla said on March 27,2006 "his office had concluded its investigation -- but that a two-year statute of limitations on misdemeanors from 2001 and 2002 had expired."
The report states that under the guidance of the Mississippi Choctaw tribe's planner, Nell Rogers, the tribe agreed to launder money because "Ralph Reed did not want to be paid directly by a tribe with gaming interests." It also states that Reed used non-profits, like Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform, as pass-throughs to disguise the origin of the funds, and that "the structure was recommended by Jack Abramoff to accommodate Mr. Reed’s political concerns."
On July 7, 2006, The National Journal ran a lengthy article, entitled "Reed In The Rough," detailing the extensive relationship between Abramoff and Reed. The article noted, for example, how Reed helped Abramoff land his influential slot on George W. Bush's Interior Department transition team. The article further detailed how Abramoff prodded Reed for help at the Interior Department even before Bush won the election in 2000. An e-mail to Reed on October 24, 2000, had Abramoff openly asking Reed to help him get on the transition team. "This would be really key for future clients for both of us," he wrote to Reed. "Let's discuss.