The Reed-Rove-Bush-Enron Connection: pitiful, but aberrant, embarrassment? Or telling sign of a deeper pattern?
Let's review what we already know.
Back in 1997 Karl Rove recommended Reed for a pricey consulting contract with Enron. According to sources cited in this New York Times article, the idea was to send a lot of money Reed's way -- not from, but in some sense on behalf of Bush 2000 -- so as to keep him in the Bush camp. It seemed like a way for the Bush campaign to keep Reed happy but, shall we say, off the books. You might even call it an outside partnership.
We now know from this more recent article from the Post that Reed was doing what's called 'astroturf' organizing (phony grass-roots activism) for Enron.
This looks at least pretty similar to another set-up Reed had going at about the same time.
Back in 1999 and 2000, I wrote a series of articles on Ralph Reed and Microsoft. At the time Microsoft was working the political system hard to ward off the Justice Department's antitrust suit. That included spreading a lot of money around conservative circles and investing a lot in a possible future Bush presidency.
They also hired Ralph Reed to do astroturf work for them. This was during the same period of time when Reed was some vague sort of 'advisor' to the incipient Bush campaign but not an official consultant.
Reed did his work for Microsoft in conjunction with a guy named Tom Synhorst, a phone-bank maven specializing in astroturf work. (Reed and Synhorst were involved in setting up a number of front groups for Microsoft which agitated against the antitrust suit.)
By the time I wrote this article in mid-2000, Reed and Synhorst were also both working for Bush. In fact, back in 1999, they had been getting ready to ambush John McCain on Bush's behalf in South Carolina, as I discussed in this other article.
What's interesting here, however, is the timing. Reed and Synhorst were part of a close-knit group of political advisors working with Rove and Bush as far back as 1997.
Here's what Ceci Connolly said in a profile of Bush in the St. Petersburg Times in May 1997.
Officially, Rove and Bush are thinking no further than 1998. However, it is no secret they talk regularly to prominent strategists such as Iowa's Tom Synhorst, Californian Don Sipple and outgoing Christian Coalition head Ralph Reed. Everyone in the group knows Bush needs a tax cut to compete with the other big-name Republican governors who have led the way.
We know that Rove got Reed the Enron gig in 1997 (mobilizing evangelical revivalism for electricity deregulation) to keep him on ice for Bush. He got his gig with Microsoft in 1998.
Are we talking about a similar set-up here?
More on this tomorrow.