Do you want a great summary of Ralph Reed story to date in his race for Lt. Gov. by one of the best? - And some insight in the last two paragraphs.
By Dick Pettys
The Associated Press
June 11, 2005
For two decades, Ralph Reed made his mark as a political operator by helping other candidates win election. Now, he will learn if he can win one for himself.
While dodging fallout from a Washington lobbying scandal, the former organizer for the Christian Coalition and adviser to presidential campaigns is seeking to become Georgia's first Republican lieutenant governor since Reconstruction, a largely powerless post that could serve as a stepping stone to higher office.
The election is more than a year away, but already Reed is scooping up campaign dollars and working to build a grass roots team -- tasks at which he excels.
To some, the big question is whether Reed can put to rest questions of whether there is a conflict between the antigambling beliefs he espoused as executive director of the Christian Coalition, when he called gambling "a cancer on the American body politic," and his subsequent work as a political consultant where he received money allegedly tied to gambling interests.
The Georgia-based firm Reed started after leaving the Christian Coalition was hired between 1999 and 2002 to build public support for closing an Indian casino in Texas and to fight a proposed state lottery in Alabama. The casino was shuttered; the lottery was defeated.
Now there are reports that Reed's work -- arranged by a longtime lobbyist friend and a public relations specialist under investigation in Washington for defrauding Indian clients -- was secretly funded by gambling interests seeking to stifle competition.
Reed says he was assured the money did not come from gambling and he is cooperating with the Senate Indian Affairs Committee.
The consensus so far among Republican leaders and political analysts is that nothing yet has caused Reed any lasting harm. However, the investigation continues, and many are watching for further developments, including those at a national level.
"He's going to have a hard time explaining how he got mixed up in all that Indian gambling money," Democratic Party chairman Howard Dean told The Associated Press.
The Republican Party chairman, Ken Mehlman, countered that Democrats would rather raise ethics charges against Republicans than debate them on issues "because they don't want to discuss how to save Social Security or make America stronger in the world."
Kay Godwin, a Republican activist in the southeast Georgia town of Blackshear, said: "One thing the media doesn't understand is, we have worked with him for many, many years and we trust him. He's the one who has taught us how to be effective on a statewide level. We're standing behind him."
Reed, who has never held public office, faces a lone opponent for the Republican nomination -- state Sen. Casey Cagle of Gainesville, a state lawmaker since 1994. The winner of the Republican primary in July 2006 will be favored to win in November because of the state's tilt toward the GOP.
Cagle's campaign has said it's a stretch for people to believe Reed didn't know gambling money was helping fund his antigambling work in Texas and Alabama. "Only an Enron accountant would believe Ralph's claim that he accepted millions in fees without bothering to learn where they came from," the campaign argued in a recent e-mail.
In the Texas case, where Reed helped rally support for closing a casino operated by the Tigua tribe, investigators in Washington have been told the effort was secretly funded with money from rival Indian casinos. Reed's fight against the lottery in Alabama was funded in part with money from a Choctaw band in Mississippi, which has casino interests.
Reed says he was a subcontractor in the Texas effort and "did not know who the client of the firm was and did not find out until some years later."
In Alabama, he says he's been assured the Choctaw money came from the tribe's other business interests, not from gambling.
Whether or not the gambling question dogs Reed during the Republican primary, Democrats are ready to take the fight in a new direction for the general election. They are already they are arguing that Reed's effort to block the Alabama lottery -- patterned after Georgia's highly popular lottery that funds education initiatives, including full-ride scholarships to state colleges for all above-average students -- would make him an unworthy steward if elected lieutenant governor.
"He opposed the Alabama lottery and campaigned against the Alabama lottery, which was patterned after Georgia's. I don't see how we can trust him not to go after this one," said Georgia Democratic Party chairman Bobby Kahn.
Reed said he supports the Georgia lottery. "It's a settled issue and I'm a strong supporter of the HOPE scholarship," he said, referring to Georgia's lottery-funded scholarship program.
Reed said his opposition to the Alabama plan was keyed to a lack of what he considered sufficient legislative oversight and the prospect of no-bid contracts for vendors.
Meanwhile, some still are puzzled that Reed, who turns 44 this month, would want a job that pays $85,000 a year, considerably less than what he has made as a consultant, and far from the national stage on which he likes to play.
Without a trace of coyness, he says when asked why he is running, "I want to restore the office to effectiveness, and I believe I can make it a platform for bold, conservative reform."
Others believe there is another reason.
Marshall Wittmann, who worked with Reed at the Christian Coalition but now works for the Democratic Leadership Council, said Reed wants to be president of the United States.
"Ralph's going through a process in which he is laundering his resume. He knew he couldn't go from the Christian Coalition, so he became a political consultant, then Georgia GOP chairman, then coordinator for the Bush campaign. The next logical step is to win a political office. This is what's available, but it's clearly a stepping stone to higher office."
Dick Pettys has covered Georgia government and politics since 1970.