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Austin Cline

Ralph Reed's Gamble

By July 7, 2004

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Ralph Reed has long been an important figure for the Christian Right, a driving force in their moralizing drive to remake America in their own Christian image. Apparently, though, he was playing both sides against the middle: while preaching against sins like gambling, he was quietly making a bundle of money on the side from the purveyors of sin. Ironic, isn’t it?

Jack Newfield writes in The Nation:

[A] broad federal investigation into lobbying abuses connected to gambling on Indian reservations has unearthed evidence that Reed has been surreptitiously working for an Indian tribe with a large casino it sought to protect--and that Reed was paid with funds laundered through two firms to try to keep his lucrative involvement secret.

Here’s the story: one tribe wanted to build a new casino, but that would have ended a rival tribe’s casino monopoly in southwestern Louisiana. The tribe that wanted to build a new casino hired former GOP national chairman Haley Barbour to lobby for them. In response, the monopolizing tribe hired Ralph Reed:

William Worfel, vice chair of the Coushatta tribe [said in early in 2002 that] he was hiring Reed to lobby for the tribe with the [Bureau of Indian Affairs] to neutralize the influence Barbour had with the Bush Administration. ... Worfel... "said he was putting Reed on his payroll. He said, 'If they have Barbour, we need Reed.'" A third casino lobbyist at the meeting, who requested anonymity, says Reed helped "mobilize Christian radio and ministers against the casino." But, he says, "He wanted to be able to deny it. Or if it came out, he wanted to be able to claim he was against the Jena casino, without anybody knowing he was getting paid by a bigger tribe with a bigger gambling operation."

This didn’t occur while Reed was director of the Christian Coalition — it was after he left in order to make bigger money as a professional lobbyist and “campaign hatchet man.“ Still, it’s interesting to learn that he may have been inciting moral opposition to a casino while being paid to do so by a rival casino that simply didn’t want the competition. So much for moral high ground, eh?

Ralph Reed is also, according to reports, responsible for the smearing of John McCain during the 2000 primaries and now it’s a subcommittee headed by McCain that is investigating all of this. Karma? Reed is still running Bush's 2004 election campaign in the Southeast, so one must conclude that President Bush doesn’t object to any of Reed’s shenanigans. I think that tells us something about Bush’s character.

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