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A Thinning Reed?

Last Thursday, the Senate Indian Affairs Committee issued its final report on the investigation into the infamous Jack Abramoff/Michael Scanlon lobbying-related scam that bilked six Indian tribes out of an astonishing $66 million. The report also included a series of rather unflattering details for former Christian Coalition director Ralph Reed, now running as a Republican candidate for Georgia Lt. Governor's office.

According to the Committee's report, Abramoff funneled $4 million in fees from the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians to Mr. Reed's consulting firm, Century Strategies, through a number of conduits: first through Abramoff's lobbying firm Preston Gates, then via Grover Norquist's Americans For Tax Reform (ATR), and eventually through an entity controlled by Michael Scanlon called the American International Center (AIC).

Nell Rogers, a planner for the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, testified before the Committee that Abramoff indicated the use of financial conduits was necessary "to accommodate Mr. Reed's political concerns."

On the day the report was released, Mr. Reed reiterated that he was misled by Abramoff into believing the money paid to Century Stategies had not come from gaming interests. Mr. Reed also strained to play up the bright side of the Committee's findings, saying, "The report confirms that I have not been accused of any wrongdoing."

Will this be enough to persuade Georgia Republicans, who go to the polls in just over three weeks to decide Mr. Reed's fate?

A new poll taken over the weekend (after news broke of the Committee's report) showed Mr. Reed's lead over his primary opponent, Casey Cagle, shrinking to a mere three points, 44-41, down from a six-point lead in May. Also of concern: nearly half (47%) of Republicans surveyed in the poll have an unfavorable opinion of Mr. Reed.

We'll know on July 18 whether Mr. Reed will survive his first run for elective office, or whether the sticky web spun by Jack Abramoff will claim another victim.