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Wednesday, November 02, 2005
I wouldn't be ordering those Lt. Gov. business cards just yet
Ready for your close-up, Mr. Reed?
Ralph Reed, the boyishly corrupt class-c powerbroker who is running for Lt. Governor of Georgia (and let's remember that Georgia voters put Saxby Chambliss in the Senate, proving that they're not too discriminating) may be seeing his campaign go down in flames:
The hearing, the latest in a year-old inquiry by the panel into accusations that Mr. Abramoff had defrauded tribes out of tens of millions of dollars, also brought new attention to Ralph Reed, the influential Republican political consultant who once led the Christian Coalition and is now a candidate for lieutenant governor of Georgia.
Mr. Abramoff's previously released internal records show that Mr. Reed's lobbying company was paid millions of dollars to help block gambling that might compete against casinos owned by Mr. Abramoff's tribal clients. Mr. Reed, among Mr. Abramoff's closest friends, has insisted that he had no knowledge that the anti-gambling effort might have been underwritten by the proceeds of Indian casinos.
Another witness , a former lawyer for the Coushatta tribe of Louisiana and its gambling operations, said Mr. Abramoff had asked her to try to find a way to hide the source of more than $150,000 that the tribe was offering to support Mr. Reed's effort. The tribe was among Mr. Abramoff's most lucrative clients, paying him and his partners more than $32 million.
"Mr. Abramoff asked if the tribe had another entity through which the payment could be made," said the lawyer, Kathryn van Hoof, adding that the money was eventually funneled through a businessman with a long association with the tribe.
Senator Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, the ranking Democrat on the panel, said the evidence showed that Mr. Reed had asked to be paid by the tribe through "a variety of entities" because of "his concern about being publicly associated with gambling money," an issue that has emerged in Mr. Reed's campaign in Georgia.
An e-mail message released on Wednesday shows that on Feb. 11, 2002, Mr. Abramoff contacted Mr. Reed to provide him with a newspaper article about the Coushatta, adding, "That's our client."
A spokeswoman for Mr. Reed had no comment, saying he had not seen the latest documents.
The papers included e-mail exchanges between Mr. Reed and Mr. Abramoff, as well as checks for hundreds of thousands of dollars paid to Mr. Reed's consulting firm, Century Strategies of Duluth, Ga., by the American International Center, a group controlled by Mr. Abramoff's former business partner, Michael Scanlon. Mr. Scanlon, the former House press secretary to Representative Tom DeLay, has refused to testify before the Indian Affairs Committee.
...and the Georgia Republican party is looking for a elevator shaft where they can give him a little nudge:
Continued revelations of Ralph Reed's lobbying activities have sparked a high-level debate in Georgia GOP ranks over whether his campaign for lieutenant governor would harm other Republican candidates on next year's ballot, including Gov. Sonny Perdue.
Much of the concern is expressed in private. But some indicate a growing nervousness over Reed, a specialist in grass-roots campaigning whose first attempt at public office was once widely viewed as unstoppable.
"Certainly Republicans are talking about the impact — pro or con — that Reed would have on the governor's race. Anybody who says otherwise is a liar or a fool," said former state Sen. Chuck Clay of Marietta, who, like Reed, is a former state GOP chairman.
Reed hasn't been accused of any wrongdoing. But with U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay under indictment, accused of violating campaign finance laws, many top Georgia Republicans say they are worried that Reed could be used by Democrats to connect other GOP candidates — including Perdue — to the growing air of scandal in Washington.
Last week, three state senators circulated a memo, directed at "Georgia's Republican leadership," suggesting Reed's candidacy in 2006 could jeopardize not just Perdue, but also the GOP's recently won majorities in the Legislature.
All three senators are allies of Reed's primary rival, state Sen. Casey Cagle of Gainesville.
"This has nothing to do with Casey Cagle. This has everything to do with the survival of our party," Sen. Jeff Mullis of Chickamauga, one of the authors of the memo, said in an interview. "Republicans have struggled many years to get to the place where we are. Ralph Reed has helped. But some people who work behind the scenes should stay there."
The memo questioned Reed's "electability" in a general election, citing an independent poll that showed Reed's unfavorable rating outpacing his favorable rating — though a majority was still undecided.
Later we learn that people in Georgia live in a vacuum:
Buzz Brockway, a Reed supporter and former chairman of the Gwinnett County GOP, said worries of Reed's impact on the governor's race are unfounded. He said Perdue will win or lose his race on his own, because his name will come first on the ballot.
As for Democrats using Reed as a poster child for Washington corruption, Brockway said, "I'm sure that's what they'll try. But I don't see it sticking. People in Georgia don't know who Tom DeLay is."
Second base for the Braves, right? That guy marrying Katie Holmes? Gimme a minute....