McCain Gambles on Ralph Reed
By Lagan Sebert
MAN: You can criticize John McCain all day long, but one thing that has never been called into question is his integrity and his ethics.
VOICEOVER: But this McCain fundraiser in Atlanta triggered plenty of questions about how far McCain is willing to compromise in order to keep up with the funding demands of the presidential campaign. Ralph Reed, a conservative activist at the center of the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal, actively promoted the event. At a rally outside the hotel where the fundraiser was being held, demonstrators grabbed hold of the apparent irony.
DAVID ADELMAN, STATE SENATOR (D-ATLANTA): Since leading the Christian Coalition, Ralph Reed has done two things. First, he has sold his influence with Christian conservative voters to the highest corporate bidder as a Washington, DC, lobbyist. Second, he has run some of the most dishonest, disgusting, dishonorable campaigns in the history of this state. Those are my words; those are the words of mainstream Republicans.
ADVERTISEMENT VOICEOVER: Washington’s broken. John McCain knows it.
VOICEOVER: McCain’s campaign is trying to paint the 20-year veteran of the Senate as the true reformer in the race.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (R): When I went after Jack Abramoff, there were Republicans who suffered from that.
VOICEOVER: But Reed’s role in McCain’s Atlanta fundraiser raised more than a few eyebrows.
MELANIE SLOAN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CREW: John McCain has tried to say that he is a man of great integrity, and Ralph Reed has proven himself to be a man of absolutely no integrity. He was selling out his Christian brethren for gambling money. So for John McCain to then go and hold a fundraiser with Ralph Reed, the very guy who he has pointed out as a major part of the Jack Abramoff scandal, one of the biggest scandals to ever rock Congress, is really shocking.
VOICEOVER: McCain knows Ralph Reed’s history as well as anyone.
MCCAIN: And according to Mr. Abramoff, quote, "I’m going to try to get us $175,000, $100,000 to Ralph."
SLOAN: Ralph Reed and Jack Abramoff have known each other for a very long time. The two of them have known Grover Norquist for a very long time. And between the three of them, they were a triumvirate of power, really, here in Washington, DC, because Ralph Reed had the social activists, Grover Norquist had the conservative activists, and Jack Abramoff had all the money, and they quickly learned that using all three together, they could be incredibly powerful.
VOICEOVER: McCain’s investigation into the Abramoff Indian gaming scandal revealed Jack Abramoff took millions from Choctaw Casinos to pay Ralph Reed to run grassroots anti-gambling campaigns. Reed used money from Abramoff to mobilize Christian groups to block competing casinos from being built.
GEORGE LAWTON, TEACHER: There’s very few people that I can think of in Georgia in any circles, including the evangelical right, who have any respect for Ralph Reed.
MAN: Ralph Reed is a political operator, and I never sell short his ability, but at the end of the day, I don’t think Ralph Reed speaks for the evangelical movement, and I wonder if McCain knew that Ralph Reed was distributing, you know, and raising money for the event.
VOICEOVER: Reed told Atlanta’s leading newspaper that the McCain campaign recruited him to work on the fundraiser.
SLOAN: —though two men have really had an acrimonious, hateful relationship for years. So to see the two of them now working together is the height of irony.
VOICEOVER: Some of the fundraiser attendees gave a simple answer for why McCain would accept the help of Ralph Reed.
FUNDRAISER ATTENDEE: Ralph Reed still enjoys a strong following within the Christian right, so I think his participation in that respect would play well with the religious right.
WOMAN: But I have friends that all don’t know about him. So I think they would listen to him.
Associated Press: McCain nets $1.75 million at Reed-linked event
VOICEOVER: Though Reed was a no-show, his efforts helped McCain pull in almost $2 million during the 90-minute reception.
Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.