When we consider the Koch brothers' investments in the 2012 race, we tend to think of Americans for Prosperity and the massive amount of money going into attack ads targeting President Obama.
But there's more to Charles and David Koch's efforts than just inundating voters with television commercials. Bloomberg News reported last week, for example, the Republican billionaires are working on initiatives related to voter turnout, phone banks, voter registration, and party building.
What's more, the Huffington Post reported over the weekend that the Kochs have also taken an interest in the religious right movement.
A conservative group led by longtime political activist Ralph Reed has budgeted $10 million for a major 2012 election push to turn out the religious right and block a second term for President Barack Obama, a top executive with his organization told the Huffington Post.
The Faith and Freedom Coalition's effort, which will include voter registration drives at NASCAR races in Florida, Virginia and other key swing states, is part of a much broader attempt to reactivate millions of socially conservative voters to not only defeat Obama but help some favorite conservative congressional candidates.
Reed's group isn't alone -- Concerned Women for America and the Pennsylvania-based Let Freedom Ring are engaged in their own election-year efforts -- but it's the highest profile outfit with the most ambitious election-year plans.
Though the report didn't say exactly how much money the religious right is getting for the 2012 endeavors -- it appears to be in the tens-of-millions-of-dollars range -- but Huffington reported the money is coming from Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus, John Templeton Jr., and "organizations that receive funding from the billionaire Koch brothers."
The report coincided with new reports on Mitt Romney's private meetings with religious right leaders, including James Dobson.
The religious right, as a movement, clearly lacks the influence and power it used to enjoy, but when Reed has a $10 million election-year plan, wealthy benefactors extending support, and Romney kissing his ring, it suggests Christian conservatives remain politically-relevant players.
For that matter, to reiterate a point from June, it appears that Ralph Reed is officially mainstream again. Just a few years ago, this would have been hard to predict.
Reed, of course, became a disgraced lobbyist caught up in the Abramoff scandal, who's now managed to position himself again as a right-wing GOP power broker. He pulled this off by simply waiting, confident that Republican officials, conservative activists, and the media would simply forget about his scandals and remember his organizing successes.
This has worked remarkably well, but there's still value in remembering his sleazy misdeeds. Remember this one, from June 2006?
Yet another delightful characterization of Ralph Reed, courtesy of today's McCain report on the Abramoff scandal. This one comes courtesy of Jack Abramoff himself, via his discussion with Marc Schwartz, a public relations representative for the Tigua tribe in Texas.
Let's pick up the report on page 148. Schwartz was evaluating whether the tribe should hire Abramoff as its lobbyist: To Schwartz, Abramoff appeared to have the right credentials. Abramoff claimed to be a close friend of Congressman Tom DeLay. He also discussed his friendship with Reed, recounting some of their history together at College Republicans. When Schwartz observed that Reed was an ideologue, Schwartz recalled that Abramoff laughingly replied "as far as the cash goes."
Or, how about this one?
Ralph Reed, email to lobbyist Jack Abramoff, 1998: "Hey, now that I'm done with the electoral politics, I need to start humping in corporate accounts! I'm counting on you to help me with some contacts."
E-mails and testimony before McCain's panel showed that Reed, who once branded gambling a "cancer" on society, reaped millions of dollars in tribal casino proceeds that Abramoff secretly routed to him through various non-profit front groups. Abramoff, a lobbyist for the tribes, paid Reed to whip up "grassroots" Christian opposition to prevent rival tribes from opening casinos.
All of this, apparently, is now considered little more than water under the bridge.