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Ralph Reed denies White House, Enron job tie

Ralph Reed
Ralph Reed  

(CNN) -- The White House acknowledged Friday that in 1997, as George W. Bush was deciding whether to run for president, his senior political adviser Karl Rove recommended GOP strategist Ralph Reed for a consulting job with Enron Corp. Reed, former head of the Christian Coalition, went to work for Enron as a strategist, making from $10,000 to $20,000 a month, according to The New York Times.

Ralph Reed joined CNN's Judy Woodruff to talk about the story.

WOODRUFF: Karl Rove (is) telling reporters, telling The New York Times that he did put in a good word for you. Were you aware of that at the time?

REED: No, I was not, and in fact subsequent to being called by the Times and asked about this, I checked back with one of the executives that I met with in September of '97, he says that he never talked to him. He also talked to the other two executives that I met with who made the decision about retaining Century Strategies. They never talked to him. So he may well have talked to someone, but he didn't talk to the people who made the decision regarding hiring my firm.

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WOODRUFF: Well, the Times reporter Rick Berk is quoting friends, associates of Karl Rove as saying they remember him taking credit for arranging your job.

REED: Well, all I can tell you is there is about four quotes in that story, and three of them deny that I was retained or my firm was retained as a result of any communication from Karl. There's only one quote that says that it was, and that's a blind anonymous quote. I don't know who it is. But I can tell you I've talked to those executives, and they say that it had absolutely nothing to do with it.

So I really think this is much ado about nothing and moreover, Judy, it was reported in January of 1998 on the front page of The Wall Street Journal that I was doing work for Enron on the grass-roots side of their company. That's been known for years. That's not news.

WOODRUFF: So Rove never said anything to you about your work for Enron?

REED: Not that I can recall, at least in terms of saying I made a call or I asked somebody to retain you. I never -- I don't recall that.

WOODRUFF: What about the aspect of this story, again quoting an associate of Karl Rove's as saying this was an intended to keep your allegiance to George W. Bush at a time when they wanted you close to the campaign as an unpaid consultant, but they didn't want you on the payroll because your association as a Christian conservative, they didn't feel would be frankly helpful to him.

REED: Yes, I -- that's wrong on two counts. First of all, I met with George W. Bush in April of 1997 before obviously he had made any kind of decision. And I said look, I don't know what you're going to decide, but I want you to know I'm excited about you, and if you run, I want to be on your team, and I want to help you in whatever capacity I can. So I supported George W. Bush because of my deep affection for him, my high regard for him, the fact that I deeply admired him, and I thought he'd be a great president. And I was right, he's turned out to be a great president, and that was the only reason why I joined George W. Bush's team.

The other thing that's wrong about that -- about that statement is the suggestion that somehow because they didn't want me to be part of the Bush campaign, they put me somewhere else, where the fact is, Judy, from early '99 on, my firm was used by the Bush campaign to do voter contact -- telemarketing, direct mail, contacting voters, identifying voters. We were one of the primary firms used by the campaign, so it's just not true.

WOODRUFF: And you were paid for that?

REED: Yes, our firm was paid both by the Bush campaign and the Republican National Committee. So the whole thesis of the story is just plain wrong.

WOODRUFF: How do you account for this because apparently there were at least two different people who were talked to at least and perhaps more, one saying quote -- "it was basically accepted that Enron took care of Ralph."

REED: Well, Judy, it's not my job to explain a blind quote ... in an untrue story. I mean I can tell you what I know, and the facts simply are contrary ... to that statement.

WOODRUFF: We know today because we did some checking, Mr. Reed, that Enron now has no electrical customers in the state of Pennsylvania, so what exactly were you doing for them back in '97?

REED: Well what we were doing, Judy, was organizing consumers and citizens and encouraging them to support a deregulation plan that was backed by Governor Tom Ridge that would allow for more competition and more choice. That plan became law. It was implemented by the Public Service Commission. It's become a model for the nation, and it's lowered utility bills 5 to 10 percent, and saved consumers in that state hundreds of millions of dollars. It was a great success.

WOODRUFF: We were told that was signed into law in December '96.

REED: It was, but then there was a drawing up of regulations that implemented that law, and those regulations were implemented by the Public Service Commission.

WOODRUFF: And beyond that, what were you doing for Enron up until it basically collapsed late last year?

REED: Well, we were on and off. We were helping them at times and not helping them at times. But it was the same thing. It was just strategic advice and counsel about how to build those kinds of grass-roots organizations and grass-roots structures to help get their message out.




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