Harry’s Hypocrisy

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has spent much of the last few months attempting to make the Koch brothers into an election year bogeyman. In part due to his lack of leadership, Senate Democrats have absolutely nothing to run on, so rather than promote a policy they are reducing to setting up straw men – in this case a pair of wealthy, conservative brothers.

Just last week Harry Reid took to the floor of the Senate to lambast the Koch brothers as “un-American” who are using “terribly dishonesty” to “rig the system to benefit themselves.” That, Harry Reid says, is contrary to the America he believes in, which is an “America where economic opportunity is open to all.”

The hypocrisy is astounding.

Last week news poured in about Harry Reid’s questionable campaign spending. Using tens of thousands of dollars to enrich family members while apparently skirting campaign finance rules. Veteran Nevada political analyst Jon Ralston reported:

The Federal Election Commission has sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s campaign, asking for more information on why he listed an expenditure of more than $16,000 in “holiday gifts.”

The gifts, I have learned, were purchased from his granddaughter, Ryan Elisabeth Reid, who is a jewelry vendor in Berkeley, CA. The gifts were later passed on to donors and supporters, a Reid spokeswoman told me.

In a brazen, if half-hearted, attempt to hide the situation the FEC report lists the recipient as merely “Ryan Elisabeth” rather than her full name of Ryan Elisabeth Reid. And when Ralston asked Reid’s office they said she was nothing more than a “jewelry company/vendor.” The sketchiness doesn’t end there. Adam O’Neal of RealClearPolitics did some additional digging and uncovered that two powerful Reid donors—NV Energy and Caesars Entertainment—may have given money to his granddaughter’s theater company:

His granddaughter has also received financial support for her fledgling New York theater company from two Nevada-based foundations that typically prohibit donations to organizations outside of their service areas. The foundations belong to gaming and energy companies that have also donated to the lawmaker.

But none of this should come as any surprise to Reid-watchers, who have long known about the powerful lawmaker’s willingness to use his office to enrich his family. Just take a look at this Los Angeles Times’ story from 2003:

The name alone made the eyes glaze over: “The Clark County Conservation of Public Land and Natural Resources Act of 2002.” In a welter of technical jargon, it dealt with boundary shifts, land trades and other arcane matters — all in Nevada.

As he introduced it, Nevada’s senior U.S. senator, Democrat Harry Reid, assured colleagues that his bill was a bipartisan measure to protect the environment and help the economy in America’s fastest-growing state.

What Reid did not explain was that the bill promised a cavalcade of benefits to real estate developers, corporations and local institutions that were paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in lobbying fees to his sons’ and son-in-law’s firms, federal lobbyist reports show. . .

Other provisions were intended to benefit a real estate development headed by a senior partner in the Nevada law firm that employs all four of Reid’s sons — by moving the right-of-way for a federal power-transmission line off his property and onto what had been protected federal wilderness.

And even back then it was nothing new. The Times’ goes on to report that in the four years prior to that deal, lobbying firms employing the Reids “have collected more than $2 million in lobbying fees from special interests that were represented by the kids and helped by the senator in Washington.”

It’s all being done under a campaign-finance loophole that allows lobbyists to offer fees or lucrative jobs to relatives of elected officials.

So the next time Harry Reid sets off on a politically-motivated attack against the Koch brothers he’d be wise to remember who is really “rigging the system to benefit themselves” and who really is being “terribly dishonest.” Only then can he truly grasp who is really engaging in “un-American” practices.