When Ralph Reed resigned as executive director of the Christian Coalition, he said it was to pursue a new career as a political consultant. But could there be more to the story? There usually is.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Norfolk, Virginia, is investigating contract irregularities and excessive billing by a company that handled much of the Christian Coalition’s printing, mailing and fund-raising services. The probe was prompted the complaints of the organization’s former chief financial officer, Judy Liebert, who uncovered evidence of over-billing by the consulting firm of Hart/Conover to the tune of $1 million.

Liebert says the U.S. Attorney’s Office was not her first stop. She first took up her concerns with Reed himself and was allegedly told to “leave it alone.” When federal prosecutors and the U.S. Postal Service launched investigations, :Liebert was fired.

Nevertheless, since Reed remains executive director until his replacement is named and will continue as a board member after that, it is doubtful Christian Coalition will ever file a complaint against Hart/Conover, sources say. Officially, the organization says it has suspended doing business with the firm until the results of the investigations are in.

The smaller classroom debates

Led by Republican Gov. Pete Wilson, California is about to spend another $1.5 billion on a grand classroom reduction plan. Most Democrats in the Legislature are ecstatic, as is the California Teachers Association, the largest state affiliate of the National Education Association.

“But one wonders if there is enough tall grass in all of California to cover them when the results are in,” says my colleague Mike Antonucci, who covers the education beat full-time.

Why? Because the experiment has already been tried and the results were not very impressive, to say the least. The state of Nevada spent $250 million to reduce the average class size to 16 students. After two years in the smaller classes, state officials found that poor and minority children performed no better — others only marginally so.

For instance, the average reading score for students in larger classes was 621. For those in the smaller ones, it was 624. In language, larger classes tested at 626, smaller at 631. In math, larger classes scored 596, smaller 600. And even those modestly higher scores could have been attributable to other factors, concluded analysts.

A goof at the New York Post

New York Post reporter Brian Blomquist called attorney Robert Fiske to ask him what he thought about Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr’s Whitewater case.

Fiske told him he didn’t think much of the investigation and Blomquist wrote up the story. The problem is this wasn’t former Special Counsel Robert Fiske — it was just plain-old attorney Robert Fiske.

Instead of simply admitting they had royally screwed up, Post editors followed up the story with an attack on the interviewee as a “lying lawyer.”

I love the New York Post as much as the next guy, but, hey, when you’re wrong you’re wrong. Period.

Another Vince Foster book?

WorldNetDaily associate Christopher Ruddy’s book, “The Strange Death of Vincent Foster,” will be published by the Free Press later this year. In addition, London Telegraph reporter Ambrose Evans-Pritchard is writing a book for Regnery that will deal extensively with his reporting on the case. Now, the word is, Regnery is rushing out yet another book on Foster by quickie author Dan Muldea, who previously whipped one out on e one on the O.J. Simpson case.

What gives? Is Regnery simply trying to steal Ruddy’s thunder? And why would the conservative publisher want to undercut its own title by Evans-Pritchard? Stay tuned.

Sad state of the Chronicle

The word from the San Francisco Chronicle is that the paper’s editors and owners were at least mildly opposed to the ballot measure that would build a new stadium for the 49ers. Remember, this is the initiative managed by Jack Davis — famous for his Satanic, S&M birthday bash.

But it seems Mayor Willie Brown paid a visit to the Chronicle and diplomatically threatened to boycott the Chronicle if the paper took a strong position against the ballot measure. In other words, he resorted to an old Willie Brown trick — political extortion. And, as usual in this age of cowardice, it worked.

So the Chronicle has been on the bandwagon with the rest of the San Francisco establishment. I still say this measure’s going down — and deservedly so.

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