Republicans let Ralph Reed out of the penalty box

REPUBLICANS LET RALPH REED OUT OF THE PENALTY BOX…. I realize it’s been a couple of years — and some Republicans have surprisingly short memories — but the Abramoff lobbying scandal left Ralph Reed a humiliated disgrace. It wasn’t just some embarrassing misunderstanding; the scandal ruined him. Permanently.

At least, it seemed that way at the time. In a couple of weeks, Reed will host a right-wing gathering called the “Faith and Freedom Conference and Strategy Briefing” in Washington. The former Christian Coalition chief is calling it the “the political equivalent of NFL minicamp.”

Yesterday, Reed alerted supporters to the guest list he lined up to speak at the event. It included a lengthy list of heavy-hitters from the media (Tucker Carlson, Erick Erickson, John Fund), GOP strategists (Grover Norquist, Ed Goeas, Patrick Ruffini), Republican members of Congress (J. Randy Forbes, Thaddeus McCotter, Lynn Westmoreland, Tom Price), GOP congressional candidates (Teresa Collett, Anna Little, Star Parker, Tim Scott, Jackie Walorski), two former senators (Jim Talent, Rick Santorum), a sitting governor (Bob McDonnell), a vote-suppressing loyal Bushie (Hans von Spakovsky), and, of course, Karl Rove.

Now, I should note that this is an announced guest-list. Reed may or may not have secured commitments from all of these Republican luminaries, though the materials certainly make it seem as if these are confirmed guests.

And if so, that’s crazy. Indeed, let’s take a quick stroll down memory lane. Remember this one, from June 2006?

Yet another delightful characterization of Ralph Reed, courtesy of today’s McCain report on the Abramoff scandal. This one comes courtesy of Jack Abramoff himself, via his discussion with Marc Schwartz, a public relations representative for the Tigua tribe in Texas.

Let’s pick up the report on page 148. Schwartz was evaluating whether the tribe should hire Abramoff as its lobbyist: To Schwartz, Abramoff appeared to have the right credentials. Abramoff claimed to be a close friend of Congressman Tom DeLay. He also discussed his friendship with Reed, recounting some of their history together at College Republicans. When Schwartz observed that Reed was an ideologue, Schwartz recalled that Abramoff laughingly replied “as far as the cash goes.”

Or, how about this one?

Ralph Reed, email to lobbyist Jack Abramoff, 1998: “Hey, now that I’m done with the electoral politics, I need to start humping in corporate accounts! I’m counting on you to help me with some contacts.”

Or this?

E-mails and testimony before McCain’s panel showed that Reed, who once branded gambling a “cancer” on society, reaped millions of dollars in tribal casino proceeds that Abramoff secretly routed to him through various non-profit front groups. Abramoff, a lobbyist for the tribes, paid Reed to whip up “grassroots” Christian opposition to prevent rival tribes from opening casinos.

By any reasonable measure, Republicans should avoid taking this guy’s phone calls. Instead, Karl Rove, a Republican governor, five Republican congressmen, and five Republican congressional candidates have apparently agreed to speak at Reed’s right-wing shindig.

It’s a reminder that there is literally nothing a conservative can do to be permanently excluded from polite company.