Ralph Reed is founder and president of Century Strategies, a public relations and public affairs firm with offices in Atlanta and Washington. He advises numerous Fortune 500 companies, as well as Indian Gaming Organizations.
As chairman of the Georgia Republican Party in 2002, he helped elect U.S. Senator Saxby Chambliss. He also helped to elect Sonny Perdue, the first GOP Governor in 130 years, and aided the GOP in gaining control of state Senate for first time since Reconstruction. During his tenure the state party budget increased from $5 million to $10.7 million, the donor base increased from 12,000 to 34,000, and the grassroots network grew to over 3,000 volunteers.
Reed has worked on seven presidential campaigns and served as Chairman of the Southeast Region for the Bush-Cheney ’04 effort, and campaign manager in Georgia. He has advised 88 campaigns for U.S. Senate, Governor and Congress in 24 states.
Reed has been named one of the top ten political newsmakers in the nation by Newsweek, one of the twenty most influential leaders of his generation by Life magazine, and one of the 50 future leaders of America by Time magazine. As executive director of the Christian Coalition (1989-1997), he built one of nation's most effective grassroots organizations.
He has appeared on numerous television programs, often guesting on CNN, and his columns have appeared in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. He is the author and editor of three best-selling books: Politically Incorrect: The Emerging Faith Factor in American Politics (1994); After the Revolution (1996); and Active Faith: How Christians are Changing the Face of American Politics (1996). He served as executive director of the College Republican National Committee (1982-1984), and also as youth co-chairman of the re-election campaign for President Ronald Reagan.
Reed has served on several corporate boards of directors and is active in SafeHouse, a faith-based organization helping the poor in inner city Atlanta.
Reed grew up in Toccoa, Georgia, and has a B.A. from the University of Georgia and Ph.D. in American History from Emory University. He and his wife Jo Anne have four children and reside in Duluth, Georgia.
Role in the Christian Coalition
Reed’s leadership at the Christian Coalition helped to move religious conservatives into the mainstream and make them one of the most important constituencies in the electorate. Political analysts now agree that the so-called “values voters” are among the most critical voting blocs in contemporary American politics. They proved critical to the election of the first Republican Congress in forty years in the 1994 landslide, and also were integral to the election victories of President George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004.
The strength of religious conservatives was dramatically demonstrated in the Republicans gaining control of Congress in 1994. In that election, Reed’s Christian Coalition turned out a record number of voters. Religious conservatives represented one out of every three voters, and voted roughly three-to-one for GOP candidates. Standing on a record of intensive grassroots organizing and unprecedented fundraising success, the Christian Coalition gained significant influence within the Republican Party. According to a 1994 Campaigns and Elections magazine, in growing the grassroots of the Christian Coalition, religious conservatives gained a “substantial” or “dominant” role in 31 state Republican Party organizations. Subsequently, Reed used his tenure to achieve issue battle successes at the state level and then projected that grassroots strength to impact legislation in Washington.
But the underpinnings of that 1994 Republican victory had been built over a number of years by Reed and others working in and around the Christian Coalition of America.
Inspired by union organizers of the past, Reed built a political network that influences candidates at every level. In eight years, the group’s budget has grown from $200,000 to $27 million, and it now boasts 1.9 million members. Many wondered how Reed achieved this seemingly overnight success. Simply put, he wedded high technology with cutting-edge political organization to engineer the most efficient and effective projection of religion into the nation’s political life in modern times.
Furthermore, “The boyish-looking Reed…has also successfully moved Christian conservatives toward mainstream issues. In his 1993 article, “Casting a Wider Net,” [in the Heritage Foundation’s Policy Review] he warned that the 'pro-family movement still has limited appeal even among the 40 million voters who attend church frequently.' To win more elections, he argued, the coalition has to expand its traditional agenda of opposing abortion and gay rights to include calls for tax cuts and smaller government.”
With a Ph.D. in American History from Emory University, Reed built the Christian Coalition movement with an eye toward social reform movements that had taken place before his time. Reed believed that the long tale of religious involvement in American life should be embraced by all Americans because it had served our country well and unified believers of many denominations. He observed that Christians and religious rhetoric had been driving forces behind nearly every social movement in America, whether of the right or of the left. From abolition to the New Deal, from the labor movement to civil rights movement, Christians had been instrumental to the expansion of social justice in America. The Christian Coalition sought to stand on those historic movements as it united Catholics, observant Jews, and Protestants from every walk of faith.
Reed Joined Coalition
USA Weekly reported that Reed “got his chance in January 1989. At a Washington dinner party during George H.W. Bush’s inaugural, he was seated next to Pat Robertson, whom Bush had beaten in the primaries. Robertson, who’d never mounted a real threat but had managed to build strong grassroots organizations in several states, was looking for someone to take it from there.”
Robertson asked Reed to draft a proposal for a grassroots political organization to further the cause of Evangelicals and Roman Catholics. The product of this meeting and plan was the birth of the Christian Coalition, which quickly capitalized on Robertson’s campaign and the void left by the closing down of the Moral Majority.
In 1989, Reed was at a crossroads professionally: he had recently finished his doctoral studies in American history at Emory University after serving as the executive director of the College Republican National Committee during the Reagan years. In Reed, Robertson could not have found anyone better suited for the job as Ralph had once said that he wanted to be the “Christian Lee Atwater.” With Robertson’s initial lists and support Reed went on to spend the next eight years as executive director of the Christian Coalition (1989-1997), where he built one of nation's most effective grassroots organizations. The Christian Coalition became “the McDonald’s of conservative activist groups.”
In the midst of all this grassroots success, Reed still managed to author two best selling books, Politically Incorrect and Active Faith.
On April 14, 1983, Reed wrote a column for The Red & Black student newspaper entitled "Gandhi: Ninny of the 20th Century," it denounced the motion picture Gandhi for its favorable treatment of the life of the pacifist leader of the Indian independence movement. A graduate student complained to the editor of The Red & Black that Reed had plagiarized a Commentary article by film reviewer Richard Grenier. After an investigation, Reed was fired from the paper. Reed wrote a final column acknowledging his failure to cite sources but accusing the graduate student who complained of "the most shocking, profane form of personal attack I can imagine." (Nina J. Easton, Gang of Five: Leaders at the Center of the Conservative Crusade, page 130-31)