Lo and behold, a few in the MSM are coming down hard on Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) for his failure to disclose real estate deal profits. It’s good to see major newspaper editorial boards taking on the Democratic culture of corruption. Check ’em out:
THE BEST CASE for Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) is that he was sloppy about financial disclosure rules in accounting for a real estate deal on which he made a $700,000 profit. The more unattractive case is that the senator’s inaccurate description of the investment was an effort to disguise his partnership with a Las Vegas lawyer who’s never been charged with wrongdoing but whose name has surfaced in federal investigations involving organized crime, casinos and political bribery since the 1980s. As of now, the evidence points toward sloppiness; Mr. Reid’s friendship with Jay Brown isn’t exactly a secret in the state. But either way, an Associated Press report about Mr. Reid’s dealings doesn’t cast the senator in an attractive light. Neither does his response to the AP story, which indicates a casual disregard for the importance of accurate reporting of lawmakers’ financial affairs.
Mr. Reid bought undeveloped property on the outskirts of fast-growing Las Vegas for about $400,000 in 1998 — one parcel outright and a second jointly with Mr. Brown. In 2001, Mr. Reid sold the land for the same price to a corporation he co-owned with Mr. Brown, who in the meantime was getting the land rezoned from residential to commercial use. But the senator didn’t report the sale on his annual financial disclosure form. When the new company sold the land to developers in 2004, yielding $1.1 million for Mr. Reid, the senator did not accurately list the transaction or go back and fix the previous forms to reflect the new arrangement.
“Everything I did was transparent,” Mr. Reid said at a news conference Wednesday, after the story broke. “Everything is fully disclosed to the ethics committee and everyone else. As I said, if there is some technical change that the ethics committee wants, I’ll be happy to do that.”
Mr. Reid’s professions of transparency and full disclosure are transparently wrong.
While now insisting he did nothing wrong, Reid is also offering to make a “technical change” to his earlier ethics reports if the ethics committee so desires. Simply giving the Democratic leader a mulligan is hardly the way to handle this case. When the Senate debated ethics reforms earlier this year, Reid was out in front to demand the toughest of standards from lawmakers.
“Americans have been shocked and even disgusted by revelations of corruption in our current system by Republican lobbyists, senior Bush Administration officials, members of Congress, and former congressional staff,” Reid said in March. “The scandals have shown that some outsiders and insiders believed they could act with impunity.”
That’s how this case looks, too. Unless Reid comes up with a better explanation for this lack of disclosure, Democrats should not keep him as their leader in the new Congress in 2007.
Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid would be well advised to stop thundering about corruption in the Republican ranks or crying “cover-up” over the GOP’s failure to promptly and appropriately deal with former Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.) and his sexually explicit e-mails to congressional pages. Reid faces too many questions about his own behavior to crusade against the misdeeds of others…
…Two months ago, the Los Angeles Times reported that Reid had smoothed the way for a campaign contributor and friend to develop a huge tract of land northeast of Las Vegas. Reid tried twice — before he was successful — to get a utility right-of-way moved from the proposed development site onto public land.
The first effort stalled because of objections from the Bureau of Land Management and others that the developer wasn’t going to pay anything for a deal that would greatly increase the value of his development site. Eventually, it was determined the developer should pay the federal government more than $10 million.
Then there are the free boxing tickets Reid took from the Nevada Athletic Commission. The panel was hoping to block formation of a national boxing commission; Reid favored one.
Only after the Associated Press reported this summer that Reid got the expensive tickets did the senator decide he would no longer accept such gifts.
Unfortunately, Reid’s ethics meter only seems to work when it’s too late.
Tim Graham at Newsbusters reports that the dinosaur networks are ignoring the story:
Thursday’s morning shows on ABC, CBS, and NBC stayed true to Democratic partisan form. No one covered the Associated Press investigative report on Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid’s inaccurate disclosure forms as he turned a $400,000 Las Vegas land deal into a $1.1 million bonanza. But there were five items on the Mark Foley scandal, almost at the end of its second week: an anchor brief on ABC, two anchor briefs on NBC, an anchor brief on CBS and a full story from CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson.
Ed Morrissey has been digging into the family connections and infrastructure of Reid’s lucrative land deals:
I spent most of the evening last night performing some research into the various machinations of the Harry Reid real-estate transactions that netted him a 175% return on his initial $400,000 investment, and the manner in which he hid his partnership with Jay Brown from the Senate. In this research, I discovered a Los Angeles Times article from June 2003 that outlines a lot of the structure that appears to have allowed Reid to ensure his success in his real-estate ventures. Not surprisingly, it shows Reid and his family at the center of efforts to promote developments that benefitted Reid and his cronies…
…Rory Reid, Harry’s son and a lawyer/lobbyist who worked for Nevada’s largest legal firm. Lionel Sawyer & Collins represented more than a few clients whose business became Harry Reid’s Senate business, but that isn’t news. In fact, his other three sons also worked for the same firm and did some lobbying as well. Rory, however, is a special case. Rory got himself elected to the Clark County Board of Commissioners in November 2002, which makes zoning decisions for Las Vegas and its environs.
Why is this important? It was a zoning change that allowed Reid and his partners to sell their parcels in 2004 to developers after being allowed to build a shopping complex on the land. So far, the exact timing of that zoning change has not yet come to light, but the coincidence looks very suspicious.
The more we dig into this story, a picture emerges that paints Reid as a manipulator for his own benefit and that of his family and friends. The Senate Ethics Committee has a great deal of work to do in order to clarify all of the strange coincidences that allowed Reid to pocket $700,000 in profit while hiding his partner from the public.
Tom Bevan at RCP dissects Harry’s hang-up.
The American Thinker provides some back story.
AJ Strata takes a deeper look at the Reid kickbacks.
Thomas Lifson adds:
So far, the Senate Minority Leader has mainly faced ethics questions about disclosure. But the underlying transaction, based as it is on decisions by government enriching Reid, is far more questionable.
Strata also notices what had struck me all along as most peculiar: Reid is acting entirely contrary to the objectives of his Democrat base. Conservation restrictions on land development are a fundamental tenet of the greenies. By blowing away these restrictions and building a strip mall (!), Reid became a wealthy man.
Isn’t this a form of rank hypocrisy? Where, oh where, are the greenies? Rapacious developers are their favorite target.
Because the broadcast networks and newspapers have little interest in the story, it is up to the internet and talk radio to make this an issue. If only David Zucker or another such genius could quickly produce a YouTube video showing all the maneuvers, and ending with a glorious shot of the strip mall despoiling the “pristine” Nevada desert!
Good idea. Any takers? Let me know.
Jed Babbin rallies:
Why is it that none of the major television networks or newspapers have managed to pay attention to the biggest real scandal of the 2006 campaign season, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid’s real estate shenanigans? According to yesterday’s AP report, Reid pocketed a $1.1 million windfall on the sale of some Las Vegas property he didn’t own at the time of the sale. This makes
Hillary Clinton’s futures trading venture look like amateur hour. And it’s time for conservatives to act because the biggest scandal is that the media are burying the story…
…Just imagine if this were Bill Frist, not Harry Reid. Calls for his resignation from Senate leadership (probably the Senate itself) would be loud and long, the Senate Ethics Committee would have already convened an investigation, the
FBI would have been called in to verify the deeds and signatures and the 527 Media carrion crows would be in full cry. There would be front-page stories about connections to organized crime and lead items on the evening news about how this will sink the Dems’ chances in November. But it isn’t Frist, or any other Republican. It’s Reid, on the verge of what the media hope is his tenure as Senate Majority Leader. So there’s no reason to cover the story, right? The media culture says that’s so.
Every talk show host should be booking the editors of the NYT, WaPo and LA Times, the news directors of CBS, ABC and NBC to ask why they aren’t covering this story. Every columnist should be calling them for interviews. Just ask, “why aren’t you covering this story?”