Ralph Reed: The Crash of the Choir-Boy Wonder

Dirty Ticks Once Again – For Profit

After leaving the Christian Coalition, Reed founded Century Strategies, a “public relations and public affairs firm with offices in Atlanta and Washington,”[51] but his political consulting business got off to an inauspicious start.  In 1998, only 50 percent of Reed’s clients had won their election races, and that figure was only derived by counting a number of clients that Reed would not identify.[52] In fact, “just about every one of his publicly known clients who faced an even remotely competitive opponent went down to defeat.” Reed’s candidates were often reduced to relying on outrageous, last-minute attacks, such as running an ad featuring an actor resembling one candidate’s opponent shuffling down a hallway in a psychiatric hospital clad in a tattered bathrobe.[53] 

Ralph ReedDespite these political setbacks, Reed served as an advisor to the Bush campaign in 2000[54] and stepped up to play a key role during the Republican primary in South Carolina.  After then-Governor George W. Bush lost the New Hampshire primary to Sen. John McCain by nearly twenty points, Reed went to work targeting evangelical voters in South Carolina, just as he had done for Bob Dole four years earlier. Relying on a network of grassroots activists and radio ads, Reed orchestrated a campaign that launched some 400,000 phone calls and mailings attacking McCain on everything from abortion to campaign finance reform.[55]  Bush won the state handily. [56] 

Reed went on to become chairman of the Georgia Republican Party in 2002 and served as the Southeast director for the Bush-Cheney campaign in 2004. But in between his high-profile election work, Reed was busy building his consulting business. Shortly after starting Century Strategies, Reed wrote to his long-time friend, Jack Abramoff, of his “need to start humping in corporate accounts” saying “I'm counting on you to help me with some contacts." [57]

Reed eventually landed contracts, thanks to Karl Rove, with the likes of Enron, which paid Reed in excess of $300,000 for work on energy deregulation before it went bankrupt.[58] But it was through his personal ties to Abramoff that Reed eventually earned millions of dollars and found himself implicated in one of the largest corruption scandals in recent history.


[51] Century Strategies, “Our Team – Ralph E. Reed, Jr.” http://www.censtrat.com/index.cfm?FuseAction=Team.View&Biography_id=1

[52] Joshua Micah Marshall, “The Firewall Next Time,” The American Prospect, January 31, 2000

[53] Ibid.

[54] Joe Stephens, “Bush 2000 Adviser Offered To Use Clout to Help Enron,” The Washington Post, February 17, 2002

[55] Paul West, “Bush Battles to Key Victory in S.C. Vote,” The Baltimore Sun, February 20, 2000; “Second Coming,” The Atlantic Monthly, April 2004

[56] The hardball tactics followed the campaign to Michigan, where Pat Robertson delivered an automated phone message to Republican voters attacking McCain for having on his staff “a vicious bigot who wrote that conservative Christians in politics are anti-abortion zealots, homophobes and would-be censors” and urged voters to “protect unborn babies and restore religious freedom once again in America.” Reed denied any involvement -- David Espo, “In Message to Voters, Robertson Attacks McCain Official,” Associated Press, February 22, 2000, Keith Bradsher & Gustav Niebuhr, “After Loss in New Hampshire, Bush Gets Push From the Right,” The New York Times, February 22, 2000

[57] Thomas B. Edsall, “In Ga., Abramoff Scandal Threatens a Political Ascendancy,” The Washington Post, January 16, 2006

[58] Jack Newfield, “Ralph Reed’s Gamble,” The Nation, July 12, 2004

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