RALPH REED: Register the unregistered. Educate. The bible says my people perished for lack of knowledge. Let's give them the knowledge they need. Thirdly vote. And fourthly pray for the next 72 days.
BILL MOYERS: Ralph Reed was in his glory in Tampa, his reincarnation in full swing. But there are some other things you need to know about Ralph Reed. First when he bailed out of the Christian Coalition in 1997, only two years after his big TIME magazine cover story, he had driven the organization into the ground. It was nearly bankrupt, under investigation by the Federal Election Commission, and facing charges from its own financial officer that Reed's cronies had ripped off almost a million dollars.
BILL MOYERS: Despite that record, Reed went on to flourish in the early years of George W. Bush. Until it was disclosed that the "Right Hand of God" had his other hand out to his old friend, the super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff, and was raking in the cash. Reed's allies today say they're not bothered by all that: "Ralph has a great track record," said one. Reed's ties to Abramoff are quote, "largely in the rear-view mirror." Perhaps. But the view from the rear-view mirror can be quite revealing. Let's take a look.
JACK ABRAMOFF: Senator I respectively invoke the privilege as previously stated.
SENATOR KENT CONRAD: And I'd say to you Mr. Abramoff, shame on you.
BILL MOYERS: It was 2006. Abramoff's empire of greed and fraud was collapsing. My colleague Sherry Jones and I produced the documentary "Capitol Crimes," piecing together what was happening. She and I had been tracking money in politics for 30 years, but corruption on this scale took our breath away. The story began in 1984 when a young Jack Abramoff was introduced at another Republican National Convention:
SPEAKER: One of the ever-growing lists of young people who have joined in the Republican cause, the chairman of the College Republican National Committee, Jack Abramoff.
BILL MOYERS: A self-described "rabid right winger," Abramoff headed the organization that launched the careers of many Republican power brokers, including Karl Rove and the crusader against taxes, Grover Norquist.
JACK ABRAMOFF: Fellow Republicans, I come before you today representing American students, the future of our Republican Party.
BILL MOYERS: It was as college students organizing campuses for Ronald Reagan that Jack Abramoff, Grover Norquist and Ralph Reed first met.
RALPH REED: Good morning. My name is Ralph Reed. I'm the executive director of Students for America...
BILL MOYERS: Reed was a junior from the University of Georgia and a $200 a month intern with the College Republicans. He and the other young pols embraced the spirit of the Cold War against Communism and applied it to domestic politics. In war, their aim was to destroy the enemy.
SAM HARBEN: It was very simple, very black and white. We used army metaphors. We talked about being "hard core."
BILL MOYERS: They dreamed up headline-grabbing stunts in the shadow of the Capitol, and sent volunteers out to organize the grass roots. The young recruits were ordered to memorize the famous opening speech from the movie PATTON, but to substitute the word "Democrats" for the word "Nazis." "Spill their blood," they were instructed.
JACK ABRAMOFF: If we're the party of composure, and not the party that ducks disclosure, then we're riding our wave. If we equivocate, capitulate, accommodate, negotiate...
BILL MOYERS: Abramoff chose the young Grover Norquist as his right-hand man. They intended, said Abramoff, to remove their opponents from power, "permanently."