Another Stumble for Ralph Reed's Beleaguered Campaign

By Thomas B. Edsall
Monday, May 29, 2006

In August 1999, political organizer Ralph Reed's firm sent out a mailer to Alabama conservative Christians asking them to call then-Rep. Bob Riley (R-Ala.) and tell him to vote against legislation that would have made the U.S. commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands subject to federal wage and worker safety laws.

Now those seven-year-old words are coming back to haunt Reed, the former executive director of the Christian Coalition and a candidate for the Republican nomination to be Georgia's lieutenant governor.

"The radical left, the Big Labor Union Bosses, and Bill Clinton want to pass a law preventing Chinese from coming to work on the Marianas Islands," the mailer from Reed's firm said. The Chinese workers, it added, "are exposed to the teachings of Jesus Christ" while on the islands, and many "are converted to the Christian faith and return to China with Bibles in hand."

A year earlier, the Department of the Interior -- which oversees federal policy toward the U.S. territory -- presented a very different picture of life for Chinese workers on the islands. An Interior report found that Chinese women were subject to forced abortions and that women and children were subject to forced prostitution in the local sex-tourism industry.

It also alleged that the garment industry and other businesses set up facilities on the Northern Marianas to produce products labeled "Made in the USA," while importing workers from China and other Asian countries and paying them less than U.S. minimum wage under conditions not subject to federal safety standards.

Lisa Baron, a spokeswoman for Reed's campaign, said Millennium Marketing "was hired as a direct-mail subcontractor to assist in encouraging grass-roots citizens to promote the propagation of the gospel."

"As a defender of the unborn, Ralph was unaware of any allegations regarding inhumane or illegal treatment of workers, and he would strongly object to such practices, if true," she added.

Reed's close friend and political ally, disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, represented the commonwealth as a partner of Greenberg Traurig. The islands' government paid Abramoff $4.04 million from 1998 to 2002. Greenberg Traurig hired Millennium Marketing to print the mailing.

Reed is running for the GOP nomination against state Sen. Casey Cagle. The old mailing was brought to a reporter's attention by former employees of Reed, who said the support on behalf of Northern Marinas leaves their former boss exposed as a hypocrite.

The Mariana mailing adds another hurdle to Reed's campaign, which already has been plagued by the disclosures that Abramoff paid Reed more than $4 million to conduct grass-roots lobbying on behalf of Indian casinos seeking to prevent potential competitors from getting approval to open new facilities.

In N.Y., a Race for Runner-Up

New York Republicans, who have held the governorship of a distinctly Democratic-leaning state for 12 years, already had a poor chance of keeping control of the statehouse in Albany this year. State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, a Democratic gubernatorial candidate, has a huge lead in the polls.

Now it turns out whoever loses the GOP primary will stay in the race -- in a position likely to siphon votes from the Republican nominee.

Former state Assembly leader John Faso won the Conservative Party nomination for governor last week. Last month, former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld took the libertarian nomination.

Spokesmen for the two potential GOP nominees said they would run on the third-party line regardless of what happens in the GOP primary.

Political researcher Zachary A. Goldfarb contributed to this report.

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