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. Robbin Goal

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    January 31, 2013 at 5:11 am |

    Ralph Reed uses Christians and political leaders for his own personal gain. He should have been sent to prison for the many crimes he has committed. Christians of which I am one, are trusting all too often and let their guard down, allowing a evildoer like this man to influence their lives and decisions. God is just and with that said, this man, Ralph Reed will suffer far beyond what he could have ever imagined. He has had his day but for a moment of time, and when its over it will be over. Why do so many give up the glory of service for the riches of this ending world?

    September 9, 2012 at 12:36 am |
  3. Phil Franks

    great article, ultimatey the guy is a nut case and will only do har, to the republicans political discourse. This article is pretty interesting http://gameon2012.wordpress.com/2011/06/16/ralph-reed-revival/

    June 16, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
  4. Marie Kidman


    June 8, 2011 at 5:26 pm |
  5. Z

    Ralph Reed should have been sent to prison as was his buddy Abramoff. Where O where can you find more ignorant voting sheep than in the churches. Vote for this politician..he is such a good christian, NOT!..Well we have seen what these good Christian politicians have done to this country..RUN do not walk away from these snake oil charmers..they are nothing but scam artist wanting your vote. Ralph Reed the biggest snake oil salesman of them all. These snake oil salesmen want you to vote against your own self interest..don't do it.

    June 5, 2011 at 11:34 pm |
  6. FairGarden

    America seems to be better-off if she could get to split into a Christian state and a secular state. The Christian state will accept all the refugees from the secular state, granting the safety of everyone and living with sane laws, and will continue to feed the starving population in the secular state. Absurd threats from the secular American state will keep all nations' unity.

    June 5, 2011 at 11:00 pm |
    • tallulah13

      HeavenScent Is that you?

      June 5, 2011 at 11:02 pm |
    • richie

      excuse me? It's the evangelical "christians" who are behind the GOP–GOP, the party of the rich, anti-immigrants. The christian state accept the refugees? You're living on the moon.

      June 5, 2011 at 11:21 pm |
    • Jimbo

      It says in scripture that when end times are coming there will be many wolves in sheep's clothing. Ralph Reed is one, along with most of the evangelical right. They don't practice the Christianity of Jesus, they practice the christianity of Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachman, of Pat Robertson and Jerry Fallwell. It's the Christianity of hatred and negativity.

      June 5, 2011 at 11:25 pm |
    • tallulah13

      On second thought, it's more political than Heaven Scent. It sure sounds like Adelina, though. She likes to change her name a lot so it could be her. Whoever this person is, they are either politically naive or just plain ignorant, which sounds a lot like Adelina.

      June 5, 2011 at 11:30 pm |
    • jim

      @FairGarden You seem to be strikingly similar to almost every christian I have ever met, dumb as a bag of hammers!

      June 6, 2011 at 8:00 am |
  7. Michael

    Why do you rob banks – cause that is where the money is.
    Why do you court the Christian Right – cause that is where the votes are – enough to matter.
    I don't believe in Santa Claus or the tooth fairy either but that does not make me immoral.

    June 5, 2011 at 11:00 pm |
  8. Torchster

    Ralph Reed shouldn't matter to anyone and should have gone straight to to jail with Jack Abramoff for his part in the political and money laundering schemes years ago. He is a lying, hypocritical abomination for anyone who is a REAL christian

    June 5, 2011 at 9:25 pm |
  9. Pete Scobby

    Reed is a political hack. He should have candidates kiss his ring just like the Pope. The one that gives him the most money gets the endorsement. He would support the devil for president given enough money. Without the money to run attack ads Reed is powerless. Organized religion mixes well with money, just like sugar and water.

    Reed would have been at the foot of the cross casting lots with the other Republicans for Jesus robe.

    June 5, 2011 at 7:28 pm |
  10. craig

    Screw all of dc it is our country! when are we going to take back what is ours?

    June 5, 2011 at 7:12 pm |
  11. jrcnnjr

    This is just another reason why you should NOT VOTE for a Republican. I am a Christian, but I am NOT a Religious Fanatic, and many of these GOP Religious Fanatics are Bigoted Hateful people who are Anti-Women, Racist, Anti-Gay, against Jews, and they often have no respect for ANYONE who does not follow their religious beliefs.

    America, If YOU let them, these Dogmatic and Religious Fanatics are going to DESTROY our country. Fanatic Religious People are one of the PRIMARY reasons why the world is in a perpetual state of Wars/Strife, because it seems they can’t think or act without INJECTING THEIR religion into an issue. Sadly, many (not all) of these often holier than thou, self righteous, hypocrites quoting their Religion (ie. Christianity, Catholicism, Muslim, Mormon, etc.) or Religious Book (ie. Bible, Quran, etc.) are often ‘Wolves in sheep clothing’ preying on religion and flock for their selfish Wealth/Greed, Bigotry, Hate, and/or Insecurities. Truly sickening . . .

    June 5, 2011 at 7:12 pm |
    • craig

      Americans have short term memory loss another hate monger will return to the white house next time around.

      June 5, 2011 at 7:23 pm |
    • Torchster


      June 5, 2011 at 9:26 pm |
    • MikeB

      I agree and in time, when they can't get what they want through the normal political process, they will begin using the tactics handed down to them by Alqueda and other religious groups who try to force their beliefs on their own people and everyone around them. It's kinda scary to think we are moving that direction.

      June 6, 2011 at 9:00 am |
  12. Dave from GA

    Religion and politic do not mix very well.

    June 5, 2011 at 5:30 pm |
  13. dude

    Get a grip, dude!

    June 5, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
  14. Salty Bob

    In the beginning man created the gods

    The truth about organized religion. I hope you gleam a small bit of useful information as I have. What games religion is playing in America and the world today? We live in a country where we can choose for ourselves how much or little Religion we want in our lives, but the followers of most religions just don’t understand the word no. Not in my life not in my schools not in my government, NO, is the choice I have made for me and my family, the following reasons are part of the problem as I see it.

    First: religion is in no way real. The word religion or god is nothing more than an expression or product of human fear and weaknesses or imagination. The Bible/Koran, a collection of ancient myths and stories borrowed from many different cultures over thousands of centuries. Followers of Christianity, Islam, and others want to make decisions for us based on there interpretation of myths and stories from ages past that have change from teller to teller until were left with what we see today.

    These groups are working hard and spending millions trying to influence our politician to pass laws based on their interpretation of these myths. Trying to convert the USA into a religious state. The only way this will end if things continue as they are is one group will out spend another and gain control in instant we could be living in the United Sates of Islam, sounds kinda funny but there are at the moment 2 sects with the money it will take to make the leap and crush the Wall of Separation. The Wall of Separation is supposed to protect us from all religions infringement upon our schools teachings of science to find real truth and knowledge. Not try and recruit our kids with fairytales or with some aged dogma from an era long dead, our children deserve better.

    Second: Organized Religions have overstepped their boundaries on many occasions. It divides us as a people to choose ignorance over logic, to forsake the future for a ruthless past. Religion started with early mans rites and ceremonies to honor nature, it grew into Charlemagne outright murder of the innocent in the name of Christianity, to jets crashing into towers killing thousands in the name of Islam. The time of burning witches, belief in a flat earth, the murdering of doctors, and crimes against women and children or the followers of gods many other immoral and vile acts against humanity as a whole can no longer and should no longer be tolerated, no matter what religious book or god they believe demands it, religious leaders must be held to account for the acts of its followers.

    Third: Coerced observance is the main method these groups use. Worship me or you will be tortured in a pit of fire for all eternity or, murdered outright. Fear mongering, tyranny, Remember the Dark Ages religions rule in that dark, distant past did not serve our ancestors well. Many of these groups place supernatural abilities on some of their members, kinda like the early versions of super heroes, born of a virgin nice trick or walk on water, hmm or cure the blind and sick shamans come to mind, super strength Hercules so many more. Throughout history you will find many who have claimed special abilities or feats. From every religious group again more fairytales entertainment for people who had very little else to do and lots of free time for the mind to wonder. No interpretation no matter how subtle can change the fact that their holy books are nothing more than a collection stories meant to entertain or teach something to the children or control people of that era nothing more.

    Fourth: We put our trust in our elected officials to maintain the wall of separation, to prevent religions ever reaching grasp from tainting the consideration of new laws! This country was not founded on the rule of any ones religion, but more the lack of religious influence in the governing of this country. But time and again you hear religious overtones spouting out of our leaders, and wannabe leaders, the wall is crumbling.

    If anyone of good conscience should agree with what I have said join together, so we can bring this country the very world we live on into the 21st century free of these groups and revel in all the promise this century has to offer so our children's children's children can look back in pride and say they did this for us and our posterity. This is after all a very small world and a grate leaping point into the vast unknown. I so hope more minds are opened and see beyond the centuries of engrained dogma. I just hope we have not destroyed it all by that time.

    June 5, 2011 at 2:28 pm |
    • The beginner of the republican party

      Thomas Jefferson drafted the Kentucky Resolutions and became the active head of Republican Party. He would be turning in his grave at the thought of this religion involved in politics.

      June 5, 2011 at 10:35 pm |
    • fam

      Thank you for a thoughtful, logical, well written response. We need more like you and dare I say, myself, to think, read, write and speak out against the religious fanatics among us.

      June 6, 2011 at 8:17 am |
  15. Bill

    Palin's biggest assets is her high pitched voice, she can wake up anyone. The rest of the hopefuls put you to sleep, in a dignified way ZZZZZZ.

    June 5, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
  16. MakeThemEatCake

    Ken, blame is the only argument that the administration's detractors have. the economy is in the toilet, unemployment is high, we are on the brink of defaulting on our debt, yet 8 years worth of flushing our nation's wealth down the toilet called Iraq and Afghanistan had nothing to do with it. Oh, but the democratic controlled congress approved it. based on faulty infomation, either intentionally or un-intentionally, provided by the then administration. bi-partisan solutions to these problems cannot be worked out because those complaining refuse to accept some responsibility for the state that we are in. If I work up debt on the family credit card, to the point that the credit limit is maxed, then move out and leave the rest of the family to pay it off is it right for me to then complain that my good name is tarnished because they aren't paying it off fast enough?

    June 5, 2011 at 1:23 pm |
    • grif9999

      Dem supporters try to blame the wars on the GOP. The real answer is they have supported the wars since the beginning. It is easy to see that as BO has not ended them yet. The blame for the wars goes equally to both parties. It is easy to complain from the cheap seats. What would you have done differently to fight terrorism?

      June 5, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
    • Ahab

      The real answer is that Democrats knew that they would be branded traitors and the voters would throw them out if they didn't support the wars. They had no guts. They wanted to keep their cushy jobs. Also, many of them – like many of us – believed the Bush Administration's lies about WMDs.

      100% of the blame for the war in Iraq and the war in Afghanistan lies on the shoulders of weak, incompetent, dishonest George W. Bush. He lied to all of us and most of us – like me – believed him. Thousands of American soldiers died for no reason due to his treachery.

      June 5, 2011 at 5:30 pm |
  17. MakeThemEatCake

    As a society, we are moving backward faster and faster each year. From an economic standpoint those in power (politically and economically) are trying to recreate the robber barons of early times. and now with this story, it looks, that to be politically viable, one will need to get the approval of the church.

    June 5, 2011 at 1:15 pm |
  18. Anthony Caudill

    It'll be fun to see my allies dismantle Ralph in a couple years. 😉

    June 5, 2011 at 12:17 pm |
  19. concernedwhiteman

    @Joe-how is he the worst president? oh, he ran up the deficit(bush)....no? oh, he had us in a pointless war 4 8yrs then?(bush)....no? oh, he caused the collapse of the housing market?(bush and co).....no? so then please tell me how he is the worst president? what's your argument 4 this statement? oh i get it....it's his name and his skin color tht makes you say tht....maybe u would prefer Bush back in office then?

    June 5, 2011 at 11:45 am |
    • Ken

      Perhaps now would be the time to start fixing problems and stop blaming others. What's done is done. Americans are in favor of results, not the affixing of blame. Let's have a dialogue about "real" solutions, based upon rational counsel, presented by the experts. Blaming others is easy, fixing what's broke requires work and intellect. What say you?

      June 5, 2011 at 11:59 am |
    • Ahab

      Ken, I say you're a Conservative who is trying to deflect blame from where it belongs. America must realize that Conservatism is a con, a scam, and a lie. If Americans would stop electing Conservatives, 50% of the nation's problems would instantly disappear.

      If a giant UFO abducted all Conservatives from America today at sunset, the country would be running 15% better by sunrise tomorrow.

      June 5, 2011 at 5:33 pm |
    • Ceadda

      @ahab you're so quick to point out what ails Ken... Do yourself a favor and stop your oversimplifying, area-man conclusions and stop orally masturbating yourself to your own egoistic tendencies.

      June 6, 2011 at 6:08 am |
    • jim

      @Ken What Americans have you been living among? The ones I know are far more interested in assigning blame, it's their favorite indoor sport!

      June 6, 2011 at 8:07 am |


    June 5, 2011 at 11:06 am |
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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.