May 2010 Church & State | People & Events

Disgraced former Christian Coalition leader Ralph Reed is working hard to get back into the thick of American politics.

Reed spoke to the Iowa Christian Alliance in March, reported The Iowa Independent. During the event, Reed said he hopes to raise $500,000 to launch a political unit in Iowa that will produce voter guides.

The plan sounds like vintage Reed. During his years as head of the Christian Coalition, a group founded in 1989 by TV preacher Pat Robertson, Reed perfected the strategy of using voter guides as weapons of partisan attack.

Under Reed’s direction, state chapters of the Coalition throughout the ’90s distributed voter guides that were carefully stacked to promote certain candidates and attack others. Although the strategy worked for several years, it eventually collapsed after Americans United exposed the guides as partisan, and many churches refused to distribute them.

Reed left the Coalition in 1997 and went on to become an Atlanta-based political consultant. He fell from grace in Religious Right circles after his involvement in the Jack Abramoff casino/lobbying scandal was exposed.

At the time, Reed was running for lieutenant governor of Georgia as a Republican and was considered a shoo-in. He ended up losing by 12 points to an obscure state senator. (See “Wheel of Misfortune,” March 2006 Church & State.)

In June of last year, Reed formed a group called the Faith and Freedom Coalition and seems eager to resume his controversial tactics again.

“What we’re going to be doing over the next eight months or so here in Iowa, is we’re going to be working with the Iowa Christian Alliance; we’re going to have a sister organization, the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition,” Reed told the crowd. “Yes, we’re going to be distributing voter guides. Yes, we’re going to make sure God’s people know where the candidates stand.”

He added, “But let me tell you what else we’re going to do. We’re not just going to distribute voter guides. We’re going to tell the people where folks stand and we’re going to tell people that they ought to vote for this candidate because they stand for their values.”

Reed said he hopes to raise half a million dollars to execute the plan. The Independent reported that he “then instructed staff to pass buckets around for people to donate money, promising that any funds raised Tuesday night will be matched by his national organization.”

Reed told the Des Moines crowd, “Tonight, when you give, we’re not a PAC and we’re not a candidate. Therefore, there is no limit to what you give here tonight. Isn’t that exciting?”

Although Reed announced recently that he will not run in Georgia for the U.S. Congress seat being vacated by Rep. John Linder, it’s clear he is attempting a political resurrection. In March, journalist Sarah Posner reported for the Religion Dispatches Web site about Reed’s efforts to get back into the game as a Religious Right player. Posner called Reed’s efforts “a full-court press to re-create the Christian Coalition for the 21st century.”

Reed says the new group will register one million new voters “in what may be the largest conservative get-out-the-vote effort in modern political history.” Some observers are skeptical, pointing to Reed’s tendency to engage in hyperbole when he was running the Christian Coalition.

But others say Reed can rise again.

“The Brody File has been following Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition for months now, and I can tell you that it is indeed poised to be a major player in the 2010 and 2012 elections,” wrote David Brody, a reporter and blogger for Christian Broadcasting Network. “Reed is traveling to a couple of states nearly every day.”