- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 12, 2005

ATLANTA — For two decades, Ralph E. Reed Jr. made his mark as a political operator by helping other candidates win elections. Now, he will learn whether he can win one for himself.

While dodging fallout from a Washington lobbying scandal, the former executive director of the Christian Coalition and adviser to presidential campaigns is seeking to become Georgia’s first Republican lieutenant governor since Reconstruction, a largely powerless post that could serve as a steppingstone to higher office.

The election is more than a year away, but Mr. Reed, 43, already is scooping up campaign dollars and working to build a grass-roots team — tasks at which he excels.

To some, the big question is whether Mr. Reed can put to rest questions of whether there is a conflict between the anti-gambling beliefs he espoused at the Christian Coalition, when he called gambling “a cancer on the American body politic,” and his subsequent work as a political consultant through which he received money purportedly tied to gambling interests.

Century Strategies, the Georgia-based firm Mr. Reed started after leaving the Christian Coalition, was hired between 1999 and 2002 to build public support for closing an Indian casino in Texas and to fight a proposed state lottery in Alabama. The casino was shuttered; the lottery was defeated.

Now there are reports that Mr. Reed’s work was secretly funded by gambling interests seeking to stifle competition. Mr. Reed says he was assured the money did not come from gambling and he is cooperating with the Senate Indian Affairs Committee.

Mr. Reed, who has never held public office, faces a lone opponent for the Republican nomination — Sen. Casey Cagle of Gainesville, a state lawmaker since 1994. The winner of the Republican primary in July 2006 will be favored to win in November because of the state’s tilt toward Republicans.

Mr. Cagle’s campaign has said it is a stretch for people to think Mr. Reed didn’t know gambling money was helping fund his anti-gambling work in Texas and Alabama.

“Only an Enron accountant would believe Ralph’s claim that he accepted millions in fees without bothering to learn where they came from,” the campaign argued in a recent e-mail.

Meanwhile, some still are puzzled that Mr. Reed would want a job that pays $85,000 a year, considerably less than what he has made as a consultant, and far from the national stage on which he likes to play.

Without a trace of coyness, he says when asked why he is running. “I want to restore the office to effectiveness, and I believe I can make it a platform for bold, conservative reform.”

Others think there is another reason.

Marshall Wittmann, who worked with Mr. Reed at the Christian Coalition but who now works for the Democratic Leadership Council, said Mr. Reed wants to be president of the United States.

“Ralph’s going through a process in which he is laundering his resume. He knew he couldn’t go from the Christian Coalition, so he became a political consultant, then Georgia GOP chairman, then coordinator for the Bush campaign. The next logical step is to win a political office. This is what’s available, but it’s clearly a steppingstone to higher office.”

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