This weekend, all of the leading Republican presidential contenders traveled to Washington to pay tribute to a man who embodies Washington politics at its worst: Ralph Reed.
You'd be forgiven if your memory of Reed is a bit hazy. It's been five years since the ex-boy-wonder activist and political kingmaker was disgraced for his connection to money-laundering schemes and for cynically exploiting his followers to gin up fake "grassroots movements" for convicted felon Jack Abramoff's corporate lobbying clients.
It's logical to assume that this would have been the end of Ralph Reed's political career. But because Reed still has an uncanny ability to connect politicians to special-interest backers looking for candidates who will put their profit margins before the interests of the American middle class, virtually every 2012 Republican contender -- including Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, and even our old friend Donald Trump -- lined up for their chance to win him over at his "Faith and Freedom Coalition" conference. The event quickly turned into a competition over who could attack the President in the most extreme turns, with Reed himself calling Barack Obama "the most out of the mainstream ... candidate that would ever have been nominated for president by either party," and GOP candidates racing to outdo him. One even said that if the Republicans don't win this election, "what we would have done is give away the great gift of America."
Meanwhile, in the rest of the country, something else was happening this weekend. Thousands of people invested for the first time in our campaign to fix what's broken in Washington and build a campaign that, by definition, has no kingmaker -- because tens of thousands of people have stepped up to own a piece of it.
If you make a $5 donation before midnight tonight, you'll be matched with another grassroots supporter, doubling your impact -- and building a campaign accountable to ordinary Americans and no one else.
In case you'd forgotten about Reed's role in Washington, here are a few of his career lowlights:
-- Involved in convicted felon Jack Abramoff's scheme to use "millions of dollars in gambling money laundered through false fronts ... to try to close casinos that competed" with Abramoff-linked casinos.
-- Funneled money from Abramoff clients to disguise his association with them (in fact, the laundering was his idea). Money from Abramoff clients was sent to shell organizations set up explicitly to pass on payments, then on to Reed's lobbying firm.
-- Accepted more than $1 million in fees from Abramoff and lobbyist Michael Scanlon.
-- Opened doors at the White House for Abramoff to make sure Abramoff's clients got attention from key figures in the Bush White House.
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