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In Ga., Abramoff Scandal Threatens a Political Ascendancy

Ralph Reed's ties to former lobbyist Jack Abramoff have hurt what has been a promising political career for the former head of the Christian Coalition.
Ralph Reed's ties to former lobbyist Jack Abramoff have hurt what has been a promising political career for the former head of the Christian Coalition. (By Bill Haber -- Associated Press)

When it came to himself, however, Reed hardly worked at staying invisible. He was a familiar figure and a ready quote for political journalists. Republicans running for offices high and low sought his blessing. He made the cover of Time on May 15, 1995, in a stark black-and-white photo with the headline "The Right Hand Of God."

These days, Reed rarely grants interviews, and he declined a request to speak for this article. And Georgia Republicans are openly wondering whether Reed is a blessing or a curse. On Friday, the Journal-Constitution prominently displayed a story headlined: "Supporters ask, is Reed worth the gamble? Lobbying, casino stories take a toll."

Over time, as new disclosures about his dealings with Abramoff have emerged, Reed has subtly moderated his response to inquiries. At the Dawson County GOP meeting, he told activists, "I was building my small business in 1999 when I was approached by a friend of almost 20 years from one of the most respected and prestigious law firms in the nation," without naming Abramoff.

Of the work he did for Abramoff's firm, Reed said, "I agreed to do so having been assured that none of the funds used to pay my firm were derived from gambling activities."

Reed said he helped close an illegal casino in Texas and prevented casinos from coming to Alabama. "Many marriages and lives were saved" and "many children were spared the consequences of gambling because of the work I did."

But, he added, "if I had known then what I know now, I would not have done that work."

Researcher Zachary Goldfarb contributed to this report.


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