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Why Ralph Reed matters
Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) (L) exchanges contact information with conservative leader Ralph Reed during the Conservative Political Action Conference in February.
June 3rd, 2011
07:09 AM ET

Why Ralph Reed matters

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Washington (CNN) - On Friday and Saturday, just about every Republican hoping for a shot at the GOP nomination for president will metaphorically kiss the ring of Ralph Reed and schmooze his conference crowd.

The political powerhouse is throwing the event of the moment in Washington, DC - the Faith and Freedom Coalition conference.

Among those pondering or having acknowledged presidential aspirations: Mitt Romney, Jon Huntsman, Michele Bachmann, Tim Pawlenty, Herman Cain, Ron Paul, and Rick Santorum are all scheduled to take the stage and address the 1,000 conference attendees and 250 credentialed members of the media. Newt Gingrich, who spoke last year, is sending in a video.

They will be joined by Donald Trump, Glenn Beck and Marco Rubio on the speakers schedule. It is a veritable who's who of Republican presidential contenders and conservative political power players.

They are all coming because Reed is known as an evangelical whisperer.

Despite a Washington beltway money scandal that could have derailed his career, Reed is once again riding high - and potential candidates know it. "(They) understand that we provide a unique forum to reach out to social conservatives and newly energized Tea Party Activists," Gary Marx the Faith and Freedom Coalition's new executive director said on the eve of the conference.

It's a group that's been called "Teavangelicals" and shows that Reed is trying to widen his reach. "It's a broader appeal. It's faith-based activists and Tea Party supporters. It's really the Christian Coalition on steroids, as Ralph calls it," Marx said.

Reed was tapped by Pat Robertson to head the Christian Coalition when he was age 29. He was the right man for the job and quickly became the smiling face of the grass roots Christian right, and was known for getting voters to the polls.

"Ralph invented the game and how to play the game. He's got a PhD in political science," said Dr Richard Land the head of the public policy arm of the Southern Baptist Church, the nation's largest Protestant denomination with 16 million members.

"He's one of them. He's an evangelical. He understands the evangelical and the conservative Catholic positions. He understand what rings their chimes and what doesn't."

"Any time Ralph Reed is involved in something it's going to make a difference. If I were running for office the very first thing i would do is hire Ralph as a consultant," Land said. "Ralph knows how to do this."

Land points to the group flexing their political muscle in the Virginia gubernatorial race in November 2009. "When (Reed) started the Faith and Freedom Coalition, they contacted 700,000 evangelical households in Virginia and McDonnell (the Republican candidate) ended up winning. That's households not individuals, so you're talking more than one vote a household in many cases."

Land will also be speaking at the conference. He sees the importance of speaking to Reed's core constituency. "For me the take away is I get a chance to inform activists and people who are going to be making a difference, envelope stuffing and ringing doorbells. That's an important thing."

"The people I spoke to were extremely activist oriented and had the ability to open their checkbooks," Erick Erickson a CNN contributor and editor of Redstate.com said of last year's conference where he was a featured speaker "It's no CPAC. It is not the Values Voters Summit. But it's still influential."

"I think Ralph Reed remains so influential because of habit," Erickson said. "He's always been the guy politicians go to to reach out to grass roots. He still has a lot of street cred with evangelicals."

And Erickson said the potential candidates are hoping to capture some of the same credibility.

"In my mind, I hate to be so cynical, I think the one word is 'Iowa.' The other three words are 'also South Carolina,' " he said.

"If you don't have evangelical street cred, you're not going to win Iowa."

In 2005, Reed could have lost all his street creed. He tried to move from the smoke-filled back rooms to the front of the podium when he ran for lieutenant governor in Georgia, where he had been running the state GOP party after leaving the Christian Coalition. At the time, he was connected through a trail of e-mails to Jack Abramoff.

It was revealed Reed had taken millions of dollars from Indian casinos to help lobby against a state lottery in Alabama. The move was viewed as hypocritical for Reed, who was openly anti-gambling. Abramoff ended up going to prison for his transgressions, but Reed faced no criminal charges.

"Most grass roots voters haven't paid attention to that," Erickson said. "The bulk of it is they don't pay attention and they haven't paid attention. The Jack Abramoff story was a big story in a lot of newspapers, but the Ralph Reed connection wasn't."

"Most evangelicals who know about it, view Ralph as a victim and that he was victimized by Abramoff like so many others," Land said adding, "Conservatives don't have any problem with people making money."

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • DC • Politics • United States

soundoff (493 Responses)
  1. Ahab

    Ralph Reed and Jack Abramoff were partners in a sleazy deal where they accepted millions from Native Americans in Texas to push a vote that would have allowed a casino in Texas and they accepted millions from Native Americans in Louisiana to oppose the same vote.

    Conservatism: They don't call it 'The Big Con' for nothing.

    June 3, 2011 at 10:16 am |
    • Insecure in Bel-Air

      Ralphy has always, since college, been all about Ralphy. Keeping himself in the spotlight. Keeping himself employed by the religious right. I see he continues to be successful at that. He obviously has no personal ethics. It's about the $.

      June 3, 2011 at 10:28 am |
  2. Andy

    What a magician. He's managed to make Jesus disapper into his wallet. Cool trick Ralph. I'm still trying to figure out how the Teavangelicals reconcile eliminating a social safety net that protects other people and requires a little investment from those who have so much with “I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink…” and “As you did to one of the least of these my brothers, you did to me.”

    June 3, 2011 at 10:01 am |
    • Ahab

      I think most Christians ignore all that stuff. They don't want to help the poor. They think the poor are welfare loafers. Jesus wouldn't fit in to the Christian Church if he was alive today.

      June 3, 2011 at 10:12 am |
    • Actually...

      Just wondering if you know anything more about Reed than what the media has reported. Generally, we only hear the bad about Christians rather than the good. Have you heard of: Voice of the Martyrs, Samaritans Purse, Compassion International, Prison Fellowship...
      While I agree that many Christians are not fulfilling their calling, there are many more who are, but bad news sells.

      June 3, 2011 at 10:19 am |
    • Henry

      It is perhaps high time for the moderate (and real) Christians to step up and to take on the bullies and haters who profess to be Christians. You cannot allow yourselves to be painted with the same brush as the "Christian" haters and then complain. You all do this in the name of Jesus. Take ownership of your "movement".

      June 3, 2011 at 10:25 am |
    • Actually...

      Ahab, maybe the Christians you know ( or hear about) do ignore the poor but I know many who help them. Jesus is alive and working through them. It is true that too many Christians are off track and need to hear from Jesus. Hopefully, there will be a great awakening in the church before He returns again.

      June 3, 2011 at 10:27 am |
    • Actually...

      You Are right, Henry; but don't give up on us. We want to follow Christ but we still have this human nature we contend with. Don't think Christians don't have their own inner struggles, also. It's only by the grace and power of God that we can do what we should do, and yes, we do fall short....but He will prevail.

      June 3, 2011 at 10:36 am |
    • heerobya

      My diety, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, would call this Reed guy a troll.

      Just as believable as naked rib-women in a magical fairyland talking to reptiles and zombie saviors and combusting bushes!

      Oh, I'm sorry, your crazy baked-brain religious nonsense makes more sense then the other guys' crazy baked-brained religious nonsense?

      June 3, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
    • rigel54

      Hey, Actually, maybe the "good" Christians need to get out there, start speaking up against the greed, corruption, blindness, and lies of the Republican Party, the church(es), and the business elite. That might change their reputation.

      June 4, 2011 at 1:20 pm |
  3. Rosslaw

    What a stunner. Toxic, vindictive right-wing evangelicals who have as much to do with the teachings of Chriist as Saddam Hussein did do not have a problem with a con man like Ralph Reed who used his religious "credentials" to work with a slug like Abramoff. And they actually invived Ronald McDonald Trump to spew his particularly cartoonish venom for this christian crowd's entertainment. I"ll say a Hail Mary for them.

    June 3, 2011 at 9:59 am |
  4. ConcernedPerson

    ralph reed = jc can be bought, just kiss his a_s_s and good things will happen, jc said so! LOL

    ralph is a criminal hiding behind the fact that most of america, especially christians, are absolutely stupid and willing to do anything justified with "because jc said so in the bable". Do christians ever wonder that perhaps Satan lives right amongst their religious spokespersons? If I were Satan, that is where I would live! LOL

    June 3, 2011 at 9:41 am |
  5. American Citizen

    He matters not to me. Mr. Reed has done nothing to enhance the status of my family EVER in the United States. Time for this old group of indecent men that have ruined this nation to move on and out of influencing politics in the United States.

    They have gained on the sweat and backs of women, youth, and minorities and are going to utterly destroy this nation while each of them sits fat like kings at the nation's capitol.

    Move them out!

    June 3, 2011 at 9:40 am |
  6. Ahab

    Most of the con-artists in America are carrying a Bible.

    June 3, 2011 at 9:39 am |
  7. Actually...

    regardless of what one thinks of Reed he is far better for this country than Soros and his comrades. I'll take an imperfect Chris tian over a perfect de mon any day.

    June 3, 2011 at 9:38 am |
    • Ahab

      Nonsense. Reed is an evil human being. "Soros and his comrades" are no threat to anyone. "Comrades?" How quaint. It's so Cold War.

      June 3, 2011 at 9:43 am |
    • JohnR

      I rather like Soros. Not 100% in his corner, but he's done some real good with his billions.

      June 3, 2011 at 9:53 am |
    • Jeff

      Invoking Jesus to take advantage of people, advance one's political aspirations, and make money is somehow NOT AS BAD? You're what's wrong with America, pal.

      June 3, 2011 at 10:15 am |
    • Cedar Rapids

      And using the phrase comrades ignores the fact that Soros has used his influence to help overthrow a couple of communist governments.

      June 3, 2011 at 1:37 pm |
    • MM

      Keep drinking the Kool Aid. At least Soros earns his money through hard work.

      June 3, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
    • rigel54

      I think Soros is great! He does great good for his money, and highlights the difference between today's right and left. He is generous and giving with what his luck and efforts have earned (as are Bill Gates and others on the left), whereas righties can never have enough, they want to keep bending current and fabricating new laws to help them cheat others. Just look at the recent fight over credit card legislation.

      June 4, 2011 at 1:25 pm |
  8. Diane

    In a nutshell–what is wrong with the GOP: Pandering, pandering, pandering. Party before country at all costs.

    June 3, 2011 at 9:37 am |
  9. Rev. Rick

    Hillary Clinton is appointing a new "ambassador for religious freedom" at the same time that Ralph Reed and the evangelicals are gearing up to influence and mobilize conservative Christian voters. Oh the irony of a democracy. God save us from these narrow-minded nimrods.

    June 3, 2011 at 9:36 am |
    • Actually...

      Democracy, as our Founding Fathers intended for this country, will only be successful in a nation whose people are guided by principles that are basic to Christianity. The "church" needs to repent before it can offer the "light" it speaks of.

      June 3, 2011 at 9:51 am |
    • Rev. Rick

      Any democracy as long as it's a Christian democracy?

      June 3, 2011 at 9:59 am |
    • Fordham Jock

      actually, Actually ...
      It's NOT a democracy. It's a democratic republic. (You can check your 5th grade civics text for the definition of the difference). And THAT fundamental error, and misapprehension of our system of government, that pervades the thinking of you people, is one of THE major errors of our time. "Actually" the Founding Fathers knew that we all needed to be protected from your type of misguided opinions, and to do so they enshrined certain rights, in the Declatation of Independence, the Const'itution, and the Bill of Rights. If the Founding Fathers really thought what you say, why didn't they just establish Christianity as the State Religion. No, they knew that the "tyranny of the majority" was, as it remains today, a very real threat to your and my rights, and that's why they did things the way they did. Otherwise we would be voting to outlaw any opinion we don't especially like. Let's vote to make church mandatory, on Sunday, and all will be hunky dory. Oh wait...

      June 3, 2011 at 10:45 am |
    • MM

      Actually – ever heard of the seperation of church and state? Religion has no place in politics. Politics and democracy require compromise, there is no compromise in religion. It's alright though, we understand you are simple minded.

      June 3, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
    • rigel54

      That is true, Actually, but only because the principles central to Christianity are central to all human behavior systems, philosophies, and world religions. All have their eccentricities, as systems based on ancient confusions, misconceptions, and incorrect understanding of the physical world must (excepting of course, FSM, may he be praised), but at their base are the same principles.

      June 4, 2011 at 1:29 pm |
  10. kookoo larue

    Maybe we can get Bernie Madoff and Jack Abramoff to run faith-based organizations too!

    June 3, 2011 at 9:33 am |
    • Rev. Rick

      They already tried that and it didn't work out too well. Especially for the investors who put their "faith" in them.

      June 3, 2011 at 9:38 am |
  11. aclu and proud

    Wait didn't all these people disappear May 21? Oh that's right they keep believing their stories and dragging everyone else down.

    June 3, 2011 at 9:31 am |
    • Rev. Rick

      HAHAHA! Good one!

      June 3, 2011 at 9:40 am |
    • MM

      Hilarious! Didn't you hear that God did not make judgment yet, that will occur in October, which gives that wingnut another 5 months to be relevant. How sad.

      June 3, 2011 at 3:23 pm |
    • steven harnack

      I heard that god checked them out and he was so ashamed of what they were doing in his name that he cancelled the whole thing and resigned.

      June 4, 2011 at 1:16 pm |
    • rigel54

      The thing that puzzles me is that most of these religions began in historical times, and have changed dramatically during their time on earth. Much of "Christianity" was made up hundreds of years after Christ. Mormonism was made up in the last couple of centuries. How can people believe this stuff! In a hundred years Mary may be a demigod like Jesus. What is the "Holy Ghost?"

      June 4, 2011 at 1:33 pm |
  12. Paul Falduto

    I want to join a Freedom From Faith coalition myself. This country was founded with a secular government, which is the key to our freedom. These folks are clueless about that, it appears; either that, or they don't care. Religion is a private matter, keep it out of our government!

    June 3, 2011 at 9:23 am |
  13. JH1978

    Ugh, disgusting. How many more years have to go by before all the Christians die off and we can have an educated, adult debate in this country? Ten? Fifteen? Back in 2008 I thought that we were done with all these hillbillies. I've come to learn that we weren't, quite yet. I remember when I was a military intelligence analyst the older guys used to talked about the "wounded Bear," regarding the USSR. And this is many years after the USSR was dead and gone. That being said, it was the dumber, older guys who talked about the USSR. The guys who were more with it thought that was all garbage. Anyways, their job was intelligence. Right now we're facing a "Wounded Eagle" here in America. The Christians and hillbillies are going to drag us down. It's disgusting. Our only hope is that the internet, and readily available college loans will bring the country up step by step, month by month. If not we're doomed. I'm not sure if I should be optimistic or pessimistic.

    June 3, 2011 at 9:19 am |
    • duckhuntking

      Wow Christians are not necessarily hillbillies. that is a dumb and narrow minded statement .,But because we live in this great nation you can say stuff like that . And I can say its dumb . Also I am neither of those people

      June 3, 2011 at 10:21 am |
    • Henry

      Perhaps Christians would not be called dumb and hillbillies if they started acting responsibly and with the love that Jesus teaches. Unless they clean up their perverted faith this is what will happen. You own the group you belong to. If moderate Christians don't like the extremists then throw them out and improve the perception others have of Christianity.

      June 3, 2011 at 10:31 am |
    • kypsych

      I'm a very well-educated hillbilly atheist, and rather resent your association of mountain-dwellers and this snake-oil-toting piece of fascist garbage.

      June 4, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
  14. Henry Miller

    Ralph Reed is the Ayatollah Khomeini of the West, a self-righteous, hateful, religious bigot more to be reviled than respected.

    June 3, 2011 at 9:14 am |
  15. EddyL

    Yup... Republicans sure know what they can kiss!

    June 3, 2011 at 9:00 am |
  16. Reality

    More wasted speeches!! Why?

    Once again, all the conservative votes in the country "ain't" going to help a "pro-life" presidential candidate, i.e Mitt Romney, Jon Huntsman, Michele Bachmann, Tim Pawlenty, Herman Cain, Ron Paul or Rick Santorum, in 2012 as the "Immoral Majority" rules the country and will be doing so for awhile. The "Immoral Majority" you ask?

    The fastest growing USA voting bloc: In 2008, the 70+ million "Roe vs. Wade mothers and fathers" of aborted womb-babies" whose ranks grow by two million per year i.e. 78+ million "IM" voters in 2012.

    2008 Presidential popular vote results:

    69,456,897 for pro-abortion BO, 59,934,814 for "pro-life" JM.

    And all because many women fail to take the Pill once a day or men fail to use a condom even though in most cases these men have them in their pockets. (may it should be called the "Stupid Majority"?)

    (The failures of the widely used birth "control" methods i.e. the Pill and male condom have led to the large rate of abortions ( one million/yr) and S-TDs (19 million/yr) in the USA. Men and women must either recognize their responsibilities by using the Pill or condoms properly and/or use other safer birth control methods in order to reduce the epidemics of abortion and S-TDs.)

    (Currently, a perfect birth control barrier system does not exist. Time to develop one! In the meantime, mono-ma-sturbation or mutual ma-sturbation are highly recommended for hete-rose-xuals who need a contraceptive. Abstinence is another best-solution but obviously the se-x drive typically vitiates this option although being biological would it not be able to develop a drug to temporarily eliminate said drive?)

    June 3, 2011 at 8:55 am |
    • jim

      Abortion is not the 'one' issue. And frankly, it has nothing to do with the presidential or congressional elections. Why? Because the issue is in the hands of the courts, not the legislature. Duh. It is, however, kind of a Red Cape that drives evangelicals and conservatives to distraction, so they end up voting brainless tools like Bush, Bachmann, or Palin into office. Wake up. You want to reduce abortions – stop buying good made in China. Yet to see one single evangelical picketing Wal-Mart who support the communist-mandated abortions in China.

      June 3, 2011 at 9:37 am |
    • Bucky Ball

      Hey Mr. R,
      Could you stop over on the "Ralph Reed, Why the Christian Right Still Matters site, and post your great list of naughty words. Someone needs you over there, (Doo-Dah Man). Thanks 😈

      June 3, 2011 at 12:18 pm |
  17. Da

    No he actually doesn't!! He only matters to the folks who can't get a grip on separating Church and State!! When the truth finally comes "OUT" about Mr. Reed he will be just like the others who preach one thing, but behind the scene is doing another!! You can bet his "Vice" is what he screams so loudly about!!

    June 3, 2011 at 8:53 am |
    • Todd

      He already has. He was involved with Madoff

      June 3, 2011 at 9:34 am |
  18. Wes

    Reed is corrupt and his hands are dirty with blood of slaves for money scheme he was involved in. These evangelicals shame their own religion when they follow people who are money hungry and will do anything for $$$...

    June 3, 2011 at 8:10 am |
    • gozer

      Actually, they are typical examples of Christians, a religion that is all about shame. Well, maybe they don't sacrifice animals as often as the bible instructs them to, but other than that, fine true Christians.

      June 3, 2011 at 9:01 am |
  19. gil oberdas

    Republicans never heard of "Separation of Church and State" I guess!

    June 3, 2011 at 7:51 am |
  20. Adelina

    Can't USA get divided like Sudan?

    June 3, 2011 at 7:50 am |
    • Joe

      You are my favorite poster, Adelina. I just want to give you a big old hug. 🙂

      June 3, 2011 at 8:04 am |
    • Wes

      We tried dividing the country 150 years ago. The North did not take too kindly to that attempt.

      June 3, 2011 at 9:01 am |
    • Todd

      Dumbest thing we did was fight the Civil War. Of course, a lot of blacks would not have apprecieated it the North stayed aloof. Still, maybe we can just give the South and Mountain states back. THey are a serous drain on the government, and they are dumb as hel!!

      June 3, 2011 at 9:33 am |
    • Adelina

      It's not too late. USA can be split into two without civil wars. The pattern is this: Countless citizens will flee from the tyrannical, inhumane secular state into the generous, prosperous Christian state which protects everyone.

      June 3, 2011 at 11:23 am |
    • MM

      Hey Todd, do not lump in Mtn States with the south. Boulder and Denver, CO has more folks with graduate degrees than anywhere else in the country.

      June 3, 2011 at 3:28 pm |
    • Bucky Ball

      Exactly right. Until day two. On day two they are going to start fighting about who is more right than right. And the whole ball of wax goes into the cr-pper. It's really not that hard to think ahead one day. You should try it some time.

      June 3, 2011 at 3:54 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.