DAWSONVILLE, Ga. -- Ralph Reed, candidate for lieutenant governor, had just finished his opening statement to the Dawson County Republican Party when retired pulp paper executive Gary Pichon sprang from his seat with a question that cut to the chase:
"Did you accept any gifts, commissions or other payments of any kind from Mr. Abramoff, and are you likely to be a party in the unfolding investigation?"
Silence enveloped the 60 or so Republicans in the auditorium, and Reed's cheerful manner turned tense. "No," he replied. "No to all these."...
Abramoff and Reed -- the former executive director of the Christian Coalition -- have been friends for 25 years, and until recently it had been a mutually profitable association. Now it is proving highly inconvenient for Reed, and threatens to stall a career that has been emblematic of the modern GOP.
"Stall?" In a functioning democracy it'd derail it.
[A] torrent of e-mails revealed during the investigation ...shows a side of Reed that some former supporters say cannot be reconciled with his professed Christian values.
"After reading the e-mail, it became pretty obvious he was putting money before God," said Phil Dacosta, a Georgia Christian Coalition member who had initially backed Reed. "We are righteously casting him out."
In 1999, Reed e-mailed Abramoff after submitting a bill for $120,000 and warning that he would need as much as $300,000 more: "We are opening the bomb bays and holding nothing back."
In 2004, when the casino payments to Reed were disclosed, Reed issued a statement declaring "no direct knowledge of their [Abramoff's law firm's] clients or interests." In 2005, however, Senate investigators released a 1999 e-mail from Abramoff to Reed explicitly citing the client: "It would be really helpful if you could get me invoices [for services performed] as soon as possible so I can get Choctaw to get us checks ASAP."
One of the most damaging e-mails was sent by Abramoff to partner Michael Scanlon, complaining about Reed's billing practices and expenditure claims: "He is a bad version of us! No more money for him." Scanlon and Abramoff have pleaded guilty to defrauding clients.