Sometimes it’s just good to make sense. Often times in politics nonsense rules the day. Whether it’s a politician spouting some nonsensical rhetoric in an effort to pander, dodge, or maintain ideological blinders or a partisan operative or blogger who just didn’t read the article which they are using to support their partisan viewpoint we are inundated with nonsense. Today there was news that Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) accepted boxing tickets from the Nevada State Gaming Authority while he was attempting to regulate the industry. Now for the example of nonsense, courtesy Ed Morrissey at Captain’s Quarters, "the Senate Minority Leader has been exposed as taking favors from a notoriously corrupt industry while he intervened on their behalf."
Before Morrissey gets to this piece of nonsense he makes an important point that is true: that the scandals surrounding William Jefferson (D-LA) and Alan Mollohan (D-WV) have undermined the ability of the Democrats to use ethics as a hammer to pound on Republicans. Then he goes about using nonsense to attack Reid and claim that he is discrediting his party as Mollohan and Jefferson have. Let’s start with the end of the sentence about Reid: "while he intervened on their behalf." This seems like the key to unlocking the nonsense in his statement because Reid actually voted for more regulation and against the Nevada State Gaming Authority. That would mean that Reid DID NOT intervene on the behalf of the Gaming Authority.
Morrissey also brings up Reid’s contacts with his former staffer Eddie Ayoob, who went on to work with Jack Abramoff. Morrissey states that Reid made "four interventions on behalf of clients of Jack Abramoff". Now if this was provable then we would have a problem. Unfortunately for Morrissey all the evidence points to the fact that Reid did not intervene or act in favor of Abramoff clients due to campaign contributions or any other form of graft (honest or not). In one instance Reid, along with Nevada’s junior Senator John Ensign (R-NV), wrote a letter to the Interior Department opposing the construction of an off-reservation casino that was also opposed by an Abramoff tribal client. While questions have been raised about the number of letters written regarding this particular off-reservation casino, and questions of some of those letters are valid, the Reid-Ensign letter seems based on protecting an industry vital to their state’s commerce.
Reid has a long-standing opposition to off-reservation gambling and has had a number of dust-ups with Indian casinos and tribal gaming authorities. In 2001 he attempted to block the construction of a tribal casino near the san Francisco Bay Area and in 1997 he asked Attorney General Janet Reno to investigate unregulated Indian casinos that were operating without gaming compacts — at the time there were a number operating in Inland Empire, California. Reid also blocked a bill that would have allowed for more electronic gambling machines in California. It becomes clear when you look at Reid’s history that he has consistently and vocally opposed efforts to expand gambling operations that could cost his state’s biggest tourist draw, and biggest money-machine, business. So, it doesn’t make sense that say that Harry Reid intervened on behalf of an Abramoff client because he was influenced by money and Eddie Ayoob. Plus, I have never heard any credible report that Reid was under any kind of investigation by the Justice Department.
The other interventions that Morrissey mentions involved the Northern Marianas Islands where Abramoff was trying to keep Congress from imposing labor and minimum wage restrictions from being applied. Reid was contacted by Ayoob about this and then voted for the labor regulations and the minimum wage law. I don’t understand how voting against the guy you are supposedly intervening for is corrupt — if anything it is the opposite.
To get back to the boxing tickets, it seems that Reid should have paid for his tickets so that he could avoid an appearance of being influenced. Often times that is the biggest problem with accepting these gifts and with the excess of campaign contributions. They give an impression to the average American that the entire system is corrupt, that democracy is only for those who can afford it, and that they are locked out of the process. The appearance here is more important than anything else, especially considering that no law was broken and no vote was influenced. But for Morrissey and others who engage in this kind of nonsense, from either side of the aisle, I’ll leave you with the words of the late, great Bill Hicks: It doesn’t make any sense, if you just walk it back.