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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 9/1/12

Ralph Reed: From Purgatory to Power

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MARVIN OLASKY: There was a lot of fooling going on -- Abramoff, in a way, was manipulating Ralph Reed, Ralph Reed was manipulating others, but perhaps Ralph Reed was manipulating Abramoff and saying, "I'm accomplishing these things," whereas he wasn't. So, you know, there were millions of dollars changing hands, there were actually hundreds of millions of dollars at stake in this whole thing.

LOU DUBOSE: You know, there's something ironic and amusing in all that, is that while Abramoff was shaking down these Indians, it's quite possible that Ralph Reed was shaking down Jack Abramoff.

BILL MOYERS: They were now turning on each other. When Mike Scanlon quizzed his partner,

Email of JACK ABRAMOFF: "...did Ralph spend all the money he was given to fight this -- or does he have some left?"

BILL MOYERS: Abramoff replied:

Email of JACK ABRAMOFF: "That's a silly question! He would NEVER admit he has money left over. Would we?"

Email of MICHAEL SCANLON: "No -- but..."

Email of JACK ABRAMOFF: "He is a bad version of us! No more money for him."

SUZII PAYNTER: You know, I think when I read that phrase about Ralph Reed, that he's a "bad version of us," I've got to tell you my heart hurt. That you could really just disregard the values and the rules that you've played by. And for what? We all come to the edge of that shore at some point in our lives and have to ask ourselves, "Am I going to step over that? And for what? For money? For you know, raking off money for my own political gains or whatever. That's what it -- that's what it said to me, that Ralph Reed had stepped across some kind of moral line -- even Jack Abramoff would say he's a bad version of ourselves.

BILL MOYERS: By 2004, the jig was up. Senate hearings exposed the story of front groups, secret kickbacks and political payoffs at the heart of Abramoff's empire. Twenty-two people received criminal penalties -- lawmakers, lobbyists, Bush administration officials and congressional staffers. Abramoff and his partner Scanlon pleaded guilty to charges they had bilked their Native American clients out of nearly $40 million dollars. They both landed in prison -- Abramoff served almost four years before being released in 2010. Claiming redemption, he has written a memoir, he blogs as an advocate for cleaning up corruption in politics, and has a talk show on satellite radio.

Grover Norquist escaped scrutiny and is still riding high, threatening Republican politicians with defeat at the polls if they dare vote to increase taxes. Most Republicans in Congress have signed Norquist's pledge just as Joe Kaufmann, running for Congress from Florida, is doing here, at a conference sponsored -- surprise -- by Ralph Reed's Faith and Freedom Coalition.

GROVER NORQUIST This is a commitment to the people of Florida that Joe will not raise their taxes, tax reform is a good idea, tax changes that are a Trojan horse for tax increases are not a good idea. So this is a pledge tax reform yes, tax increases no.

BILL MOYERS: Ralph Reed was a central figure in the Jack Abramoff scandal, according to the bipartisan senate committee that investigated and detailed more than $5.3 million dollars Abramoff had paid Reed. But Reed was never charged. He had double-crossed his trusted followers and made them pawns in a power game. But it isn't necessarily a criminal offense to be a phony. A false prophet out to make a profit.

The scandal did derail Reed's hopes for public office in 2006. It broke while he was running in the Republican primary for Lieutenant Governor of Georgia. His Republican opponent made political hay with the Abramoff mess.

ADVERTISEMENT: Ralph Reed took millions from convicted felon, Jack Abramoff, to help casinos. And Reed worked with Abramoff to deny women and children legal protection from sweatshops in the Marianna Islands, a U.S. Territory. Even though our government warned that women on the islands were subjected to forced abortions and children were coerced into prostitution. Ralph Reed, his values are for sale.

BILL MOYERS: Reed remains unapologetic. He was confronted by a blogger last year who posted this footage on YouTube.

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Bill Moyers is President of the Schumann Center for Media and Democracy.

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