Ralph Reed: The Crash of the Choir-Boy Wonder

The College Republicans Re-Created as Right-Wing Revolutionaries

Upon graduating, Reed moved to Washington, DC to join hard-core right-wing activists Grover Norquist and Jack Abramoff, where he even slept upon the latter’s couch, as he joined their quest to both purge the national College Republicans of “in-house dissenters” and “destroy the enemy Left.”[11]  Some twenty years later, both Reed and Norquist have been closely linked to the corruption scandal surrounding Abramoff. 

Working closely with Norquist, Reed helped turn the College Republicans, which had been, since its inception, little more than a party-building organ and farm system for the Republican National Committee, into “a place for hard-core ideologues” which Norquist dominated with Stalin-like control.[12] Whereas Norquist was a nose-to-the-grindstone, right-wing revolutionary, Abramoff preferred to use his personal connections and wealth to build relationships with established Republican players, which he then parlayed into his campaign for national chairman of the College Republicans.  Abramoff’s election to the post was assured when his campaign convinced the only challenger, Amy Ridenour (nee Moritz), to drop out in exchange for a promise to make her executive director under Abramoff. But after Abramoff’s election, Norquist decided that she was not loyal enough and her desk went instead to Reed.[13] Years later, Ridenour went on to become president of the right-wing National Center for Public Policy Research, which has also been connected to the Abramoff scandal.[14] 

Working at the College Republicans “for the Ambramoff-Norquist-Reed triumvirate,” wrote Easton, “required slavish devotion.”  With Reed serving as Norquist’s acolyte, new recruits were tested for ideological loyalty by being peppered with questions about whether they supported the death penalty for adultery and were required to memorize passages from the movie “Patton” with the word “Democrats” replacing references to “Nazis”:  “The Democrats are the enemy.  Wade into them!  Spill their blood! Shoot them in the belly!”[15] To Reed and the others, politics was war; a view he seems to have held onto throughout his career. 

The College Republicans cultivated close relationships with like-minded up-and-coming House members such as Jack Kemp and Newt Gingrich; so much so that their ultimate mission became to get Kemp elected President of the United States and Gingrich Speaker of the House.  Blinded by their ambitious goals and ideological zeal, the College Republicans under Norquist, Reed, and Abramoff had no time for trivial tasks such as bill paying and operating within budget, leading a one-time Republican National Committee deputy director to accuse them of hypocrisy for “spouting the conservative message [when] they don’t even pay their own bills. They were totally, totally irresponsible fiscally.”[16]

[11] Gang of Five, p.135

[12] Gang of Five, p.138

[13] Gang of Five, p.140

[14] R. Jeffrey Smith, “DeLay Airfare Was Charged To Lobbyist's Credit Card,” The Washington Post,  April 24, 2005

[15] Gang of Five, p.143

[16] Gang of Five, p.145

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