Nina Easton is the author of the seminal Gang of Five: Leaders at the Center of the Conservative Ascendacy, which told the story of five conservatives who played a major role shaping the modern conservative movement (they were the Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol, former Rep. David McIntosh (R-IN), Clint Bolick, Ralph Reed, and Grover Norquist). We talked with her last week about two of her gang, Ralph Reed and Grover Norquist, and their friend Jack Abramoff, who didn't make the cut.
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TPMm: I wanted to start out talking about the work you did on the book. But most of all we at TPMmuckraker concentrate on Jack Abramoff, Grover Norquist and Ralph Reed. So I'd like to first ask you why you decided to pick the five you did for the book, and why Abramoff didn't make the cut.
NE: I chose the five for very specific reasons. The first was I wanted each of them to represent a different piece of the movement, so I chose Ralph Reed, for example, to represent the religious right, Grover Norquist as a tax activist, Bill Kristol as the neoconservative Straussian. Each one of them represents a different piece of the movement, and then they also had to be institution builders.
And this is why Jack Abramoff at the time, when I started the book in '96, he wasn't - he was a lobbyist, he wasn't a big movement-conservative-player at the time. So I chose movement-conservative-players who were institution builders, who looked like they would be on the scene for a long time. Like I said, he was a lobbyist.
TPMM: Do you think in retrospect he was more of an institution builder than he seemed like he was?