Ralph Reed’s Rebound?: Fallen Fundamentalist Icon Hopes To Influence Upcoming Elections

Even if Reed is once again overstating his influence – does he really have enough operatives to knock on 500,000 doors? Can he actually rally 15 million people through banner ads on websites? – he has been getting more and more money each year from Religious Right donors.

As the November elections approach, it seems a second-tier advocacy group run by a disgraced Religious Right icon is gearing up to make a major impact.

Politico reported this week that Ralph Reed’s Faith & Freedom Coalition (FFC) is planning an all-out blitz in states like Colorado, Iowa, Arkansas, Kansas, Michigan, Louisiana and North Carolina in the hope that Republicans and can take control of the U.S. Senate.

You may remember Reed. He ran TV preacher Pat Robertson’s Christian Coalition throughout the 1990s. After leaving the group, he started a political consulting firm that became mired in the Jack Abramoff casino lobbying scandal. He also tried unsuccessfully to launch a political career and even wrote some political thrillers.

After those efforts flopped, Reed slunk back to the Religious Right. A few years ago, he formed the Faith & Freedom Coalition to push a fundamentalist agenda.

Politico reports that Reed has big plans for 2014.

His operation plans to “knock on roughly 500,000 doors” in key counties and distribute 20 million voter guides (which are surely biased) to some 117,000 churches. FFC will also send mailings to 6 million voters and make 10 million robocalls.

Reed also said he hopes to make a significant impact with a digital outreach, contacting 15 million “video viewers” through banner and video advertisements in several states. He told Politico he has a database of 33.1 million social conservatives, and expects to reach 6.2 million homes in battleground states.

“There has never been anything like this in the history of the pro-family movement,” Reed said. “What we are doing versus the Christian Coalition is the difference of a Ford Model-T and an Indy race car.”  

Now, Reed has made these sorts of claims before – and he has been known to exaggerate his influence. He did it during his days with the Christian Coalition, and a New York Times report in 2012 oversold Reed’s ability to deliver a win for then-GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney. (We know how that worked out.)

But the reality is, even if Reed is once again overstating his influence – does he really have enough operatives to knock on 500,000 doors? Can he actually rally 15 million people through banner ads on websites? – he has been getting more and more money each year from Religious Right donors.  

Publicly available documents show that the budget for Reed’s group jumped from $743,015 in 2009 to about $5.5 million in 2010. In 2012, it reached $10.88 million. It’s clear that someone (perhaps fat cats like the Koch Brothers) is pouring money into Reed’s operation. In a year when many Americans clearly suffer from political fatigue, that kind of cash could make a real difference.

Reed probably won’t contact one-third of all religious congregations in the U.S., and he certainly isn’t going to single-handedly deliver a win for conservatives. Of course if the GOP does take the Senate, Reed can claim a big victory – even if that win has more to do with general dislike for President Barack Obama than an actual tidal wave of support for conservative social ideals.  

The point of all this is that the Religious Right is taking the upcoming elections very seriously. Americans who oppose the agenda of the theocrats should as well.