In 30 years of culture wars, few conservative Christian standard bearers have traveled further in American politics than Ralph Reed. The former head of the Christian Coalition has been a high-priced communications consultant, a top Bush campaign adviser, chairman of Georgia's Republican Party and now a candidate for lieutenant governor here.
In Washington, federal investigations of Mr. Abramoff, a close ally of Tom DeLay, the House majority leader, have revealed that Mr. Abramoff paid Mr. Reed's consulting firm more than $4 million to help organize Christian opposition to Indian casinos in Texas and Louisiana - money that came from other Indians with rival casinos.
Mr. Reed declined to comment for this article; he has said publicly that he did not know that casino owners were paying for his services and that he has never deviated from his moral opposition to gambling. But the episode is a new blemish on the boyish face that once personified the rise of evangelical Christians to political power in America.
Some of Mr. Reed's past patrons - including the Rev. Pat Robertson, the Christian broadcaster who set Mr. Reed on the national stage by hiring him to run the Christian Coalition - say his work with Mr. Abramoff's Indian casino clients raises questions about how he has balanced his personal ambitions with his Christian principles.
"You know that song about the Rhinestone Cowboy, 'There's been a load of compromising on the road to my horizon,' " Mr. Robertson said. "The Bible says you can't serve God and Mammon."
Addendum: Later this morning I remember Mr. Robertson's involvement with diamond mines, and Greg Palast tells me there was so much more involved.
One of Robertson's former business partners recalled that, although he often travelled in the minister's jet, he never saw Robertson crack open a Bible. 'Everywhere we were flying he had the Wall Street Journal and Investors' Daily.'Well, as he said: you can't serve God and mammon.