This is from Tom Bevan, Executive Editor of Real Clear Politics, in today’s WSJ Political Diary …
Last Thursday, the Senate Indian Affairs Committee issued its final report on the infamous Jack Abramoff lobbying-related scam that bilked six Indian tribes of an astonishing $66 million. One of the casualties was Ralph Reed, the former Christian Coalition director who now is seeking election in his own right as a candidate for lieutenant governor of Georgia.
The committee’s report includes unflattering details of Mr. Reed’s financial dealings with Abramoff, who has pleaded guilty to various felonies. Abramoff appears to have funneled $4 million in fees from the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians to Mr. Reed’s consulting firm, Century Strategies. This money flowed through a number of conduits, one of them being Americans For Tax Reform, the group run by influential conservative political organizer Grover Norquist.
Nell Rogers, a planner for the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, testified before the Committee that Abramoff indicated the use of financial conduits was necessary “to accommodate Mr. Reed’s political concerns.” Apparently that’s because Mr. Reed was promoting a moral stand against gambling while Mr. Abramoff’s clients were providing the money only because they wanted to nix any potential competition to their own casinos.
Mr. Reed has reiterated his claim that he was misled by Abramoff into believing the money paid to Century Strategies had not come from gaming interests. Mr. Reed also strained to play up the bright side of the Committee’s findings: “The report confirms that I have not been accused of any wrongdoing.”
Will this be enough to persuade Georgia Republicans, who go to the polls in just over three weeks to decide Mr. Reed’s fate? A new poll taken over the weekend (after news broke of the Committee’s report) showed Mr. Reed’s lead over his primary opponent, Casey Cagle, shrinking to a mere three points, 44-41, down from a six-point lead in May. Also of concern: Nearly half (47%) of Republicans surveyed in the poll have an unfavorable opinion of Mr. Reed (Bevan, Wall Street Journal Political Diary, June 29, 2006).
Let the debate continue …