'Tis the season of scandal, and the South is not immune from the plague of corruption and moral relativism sweeping the land.

To help you keep abreast of the wheelings and dealings of the ethically challenged (at least the ones getting caught), here at FS we are now launching a new semi-regular feature, Southern Scandal Watch (TM). Today's cast of characters:

RALPH REED: Former darling of the Christian Coalition, now candidate for Lt. Governor of Georgia, is losing mojo over his associations with "long-time friend" and shady lobbyist Jack Abramoff and for having two minds about gambling. The Gwinnett Daily Post reports Republicans are "spooked" by recent polls showing Reed is "viewed unfavorably by 19 percent and favorably by only 16 percent, with nearly two-thirds of the respondents undecided." "I've never seen that before," said Matt Towery, chairman and CEO of Insider Advantage, who ran for lieutenant governor on the Republican ticket in 1990. "I've never seen a candidate with more unfavorables than favorables be in a race."

DON SIEGELMAN: Alabama's Democratic ex-governor, indicted last week for soliciting more than a million dollars in exchange for political favors, has vowed to press on in his bid for re-election. In an example of journalistic restraint (or stating the obvious), the AP runs a story today headlined "Experts: Indictment makes campaign harder for Siegelman." You think? Meanwhile, Siegelman's partner in alleged crime, ex-Health South CEO Richard Scrushy (who paid $500,000 to cover Siegelman's campaign debts while the company was engaged in $2.7 billion worth of accounting fraud) maintains his innocence, saying he's a patriot: "I take my hat off to sing the 'Star Spangled Banner.' I was a Boy Scout, but I am broken right now, because I am seeing things that are wrong."

HAMMER AND FRIENDS: Rep. Tom DeLay, whose happy mugshot graced blogs across the world just a week ago, is now invoking the bogeyman of "judicial activism" to explain his legal predicament -- and to have state district Judge Bob Perkins, a Democrat, removed from his case. Meanwhile, the Public Campaign Action Fund still has up their list of the Top 25 Friends of DeLay in Congress -- how close is your rep to The Hammer? Reader BR notes that 13 of the Hammeristas are, perhaps not surprisingly, from the South.

GOV. ERNIE FLETCHER: Kentucky's embattled GOP governor, facing multiple indictments for improper hiring practices and then pardoning those involved, suggested over the weekend that members of the grand jury might be held "liable" if they keep handing down indictments. Fletcher insisted this was not "intimidation," but the state Attorney General's office disagreed: "
The governor is trying to set a dangerous precedent of intimidating a grand jury."

OOPS, I SAID THAT? One of the funnest exercises over the coming months will be comparing the words of politicians about the importance of law and morality during the Clinton years, to their "evolving" opinions today.

For example, the Bluegrass Report points us to this gem from staunch conservative Sen. Mitch McConnel (R-KY) in 1999: "I am completely and utterly perplexed by those who argue that perjury and obstruction of justice are not high crimes and misdemeanors ... Perjury and obstruction hammer away at the twin pillars of our legal system: truth and justice." Tell Scooter, Karl and Dick.