By most measures, Republicans shouldn’t even want to be in the same room as Ralph Reed. As Dave Weigel noted a while back, “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.”
Now, Reed is a major player at the Conservative Political Action Conference, and articles about him don’t even include Jack Abramoff’s name.
Ralph Reed, the powerful head of the socially conservative Faith and Freedom Coalition, said that Mitt Romney had made some inroads with evangelical Christians and other social conservatives since the start of the GOP campaign, but that the race was “wide open.”
“I think it’s a highly competitive race, very fluid, very topsy-turvy, and I don’t think we’ve seen our last roller coaster ride yet,” he said.
How, exactly, did Reed transform from the disgraced lobbyist caught up in the Abramoff scandal to right-wing GOP powerhouse? Well, it’s a funny story.
Reed waited. That’s it. He simply allowed time to elapse, confident that Republican officials, conservative activists, and the media would simply forget about his scandals and remember his organizing successes.
This worked remarkably well, but there’s still value in remembering his sleazy misdeeds.
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.”
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.
All of this, apparently, is now considered little more than water under the bridge.