The Daily Sandwich

"We have to learn the lesson that intellectual honesty is fundamental for everything we cherish." -Sir Karl Popper

Location: Boston, Massachusetts, United States


Saturday, July 08, 2006

What will the fundamentalists do about Ralph Reed?

Vigil-Auntie led me to an op-ed by Garrison Keillor that sums up the case against Ralph Reed, currently running for lieutenant governor in Georgia.

If a preacher secretly accepts a bucket of money from a saloonkeeper to organize a temperance rally at a rival saloon and maybe send in a gang of church ladies to chop up the bar with their little hatchets, this would strike you and me as sleazy, but others are willing to make allowances, and so Ralph Reed's political career is still alive and breathing in Georgia. He has bathed himself in tomato juice and hopes to smile his way through the storm.

The facts are fairly simple.

Mr. Reed left the Christian Coalition in 1997 as it was sinking, and he was paid by Jack Abramoff to organize opposition to a gambling bill in the Texas legislature, which would have opened the door to competition for Mr. Abramoff's client casinos in Louisiana.

So Mr. Reed got the good Christians of Texas to bombard the legislature with phone calls and letters denouncing gambling, for which Mr. Reed was paid millions of dollars in gambling money, by way of Mr. Abramoff's bagman, Grover Norquist.

Mr. Reed also helped defeat a state lottery and video poker in Alabama, in behalf of casinos in Mississippi. In Alabama, he told Mr. Abramoff, he had "over 3,000 pastors and 90,000 religious conservative households." He enlisted these Baptists in a fight against one saloon while he was on the payroll of another.

As with Bill Bennett, we have another man who built his career on fundamentalist moralizing and right-wing politics. And the fundamentalists show no sign of throwing either man overboard in favor of, say, honest men.

A recent poll shows Reed leading his primary opponent by five points with a whole lot of people undecided. It remains to be seen if Reed's betrayal of the fundamentalists who unwittingly earned him millions of dollars will have an impact on them when the election comes.