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Tag Archive: Harry Reid

AP Misleads On Reid:

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The Associated Press reports today that Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) misstated the ethics rules when defending his receiving of boxing seats and will no longer accept tickets to boxing matches to avoid the appearance of any impropriety. Unfortunately for the AP this story continues to misslead readers. Paul Kiel explains:

In an interview that appeared in Wednesday's The Las Vegas Review-Journal, Reid said that the exception for state agencies only applied to Senators from the state in question. Therefore, the exception applied to him and not Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who paid for his seat, because he was from out of state. That's wrong. It has nothing to do with what state you're from. The AP caught that and brought it to Reid's people. They admitted the AP was right on this point and Reid was wrong. And that's how Solomon can write that Reid "acknowledged Wednesday night he misstated the ethics rules governing his acceptance of free boxing tickets." ... But let's be clear: What Reid was wrong about wasn't whether he was allowed to take the tickets. He was wrong about whether McCain was allowed to because he was from out of state. On the larger question, whether he was permitted to accept the tickets, Reid didn't admit to being wrong because he wasn't. Zinging Reid on his error would certainly be in order.
Here is the misleading lede from the AP:
Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid learned that what happens in Vegas doesn't always stay in Vegas after all. A day after The Associated Press reported Reid accepted free ringside seats to boxing matches from a Nevada agency trying to influence him on federal boxing legislation, the senator offered his own ethics justification to a home state audience in Las Vegas. And he vowed to keep taking such gifts. But Reid's comments Tuesday quickly reached Washington, where several ethics experts concluded the Senate leader had misstated the Senate rules to his constituents. Within hours of being questioned by AP about the ethics experts' assertions, Reid's office abruptly reversed course and acknowledged Wednesday night he had misspoken about the ethics rules.
Now, I'm all for muckraking and uncovering what our elected officials are up to in Washington -- what they are doing in broad daylight. But writing a piece that seems intent on misleading the reader is unethical in itself. We already have enough disillusionment with our leaders who actually are corrupt. We don't need some hatchet job article that makes somebody who doesn't seem to have done anything wrong look corrupt. I'm sure that there's more corruption and graft going on in earmarking and government contracting. If the AP wants to break a story why don't they focus there instead of following dead-end trails that force them to make stuff up.

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Reid Did Not Break the Law; Somehow This Is Bad:

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Yesterday, I went over why the Associated Press article on Harry Reid and the nonsensical reaction by certain partisans was completely off the mark. I also said that it was my personal opinion that Reid probably should have paid for the tickets to eliminate the appearance of impropriety, even though it appeared that nothing untoward had occured. Well, Paul Kiel at TPM Muckraker and the Las Vegas Review Journal reinforce my first argument while showing that my personal opinion was wrong. You see, it would have been against the law for Reid to have paid for the tickets because they weren't tickets:

But it turns out that it would have been illegal for Reid to reimburse the commission for the seats. That's because these weren't actually tickets - they were credentials with no face value given to V.I.P.'s. And according to the boxing promoter who awarded those credentials to Reid, it is illegal for the commission to accept payment for them. Despite that, McCain insisted on paying, and so the commission simply gave his check (written for a seemingly arbitrary amount) to a charity since it couldn't accept it. What's more, that same promoter says that in other cases where Reid and McCain received tickets that could be reimbursed, Reid paid. That's a key fact which, if true, was left out of Solomon's article.
So, Reid didn't break the law and that is a story? Soon we will be seeing headlines like this: "BREAKING NEWS: Over 500 lawmakers may or may not have done something wrong."

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Walk it Back:

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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.

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Over the Weekend:

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  • The San Diego Union-Tribune gives an inside peek at the infamous Brent Wilkes poker parties in the Watergate and Grand Westin Hotels. The article also mentions that Wilkes was increasingly interested in obtaining CIA contracts and had received one contract to provide clandestine air transport to the CIA. Clandestine air transport...? Can somebody say "extraordinary rendition"?
  • Jeff Birnbaum writes in the Washington Post Congress is not moving to reform ethics despite the multiple scandals that have rocked the Capitol. An ethics reform package is unlikely to be passed this year.
  • Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), the Democratic Minority Leader, accepted boxing tickets from the Nevada State Athletic Commission while he was working to create a federal boxing commission. It doesn't appear that Reid changed his behavior or his actions in the wake of receiving the tickets. Two Senators, John McCain (R-AZ) and John Ensign (R-NV), accompanied Reid to the matches. McCain reimbursed the NSAC for his tickets while Ensign and Reid did not.
  • Finally, Newsweek has its own profile of Brent Wilkes, who is fast becoming to defense contracting what Jack Abramoff was to lobbying. The article notes that Duncan Hunter (R-CA), Jerry Lewis (R-CA), and Tom DeLay (R-TX) all had dealings with Wilkes. Hunter and Lewis have been tied up in some of the same contracts that Duke Cunningham was involved in while DeLay was a very frequent flier in Wilkes' company jet.

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Reid Defends Against Abramoff Connection:

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Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is rebutting an Associated Press article that claims a relationship between Reid’s actions that benefited clients of Jack Abramoff and contacts and contributions by Abramoff’s law firm and his clients. According to Roll Call, Reid states that the letters that he co-authored with Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) to oppose the construction of a casino the Jena Band of Louisiana were actually to protect Harrah’s Entertainment – a Las Vegas-based entertainment company that operates four casinos in Lousiana – and not the Mississippi Choctaws, who were represented by Abramoff. Allegations dealing with contacts between Reid and the law firm, Greenberg Traurig, took a step back as the lobbyist who frequently contacted Reid revealed that he was not part of “Team Abramoff” and had not tried to influence Reid on a minimum-wage bill.

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Reid Had Contact With Abramoff Law firm, Aided Clients:

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Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) had routine contacts with members of the law firm where Jack Abramoff worked. The Associated Press reports that Reid wrote four letters that were favorable to the interests of a tribal client of Jack Abramoff and received $68,000 from clients of Abramoff. Reid’s office states, “All the actions that Senator Reid took were consistent with his long-held beliefs, such as not letting tribal casinos expand beyond reservations, and were taken to defend the interests of Nevada constituents.” Most of the contacts between the law firm and the Senator were related to an Abramoff client in the Marianas Islands who opposed a Democratic bill to raise the minimum wage on the Islands.

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Democrats, Republicans Drop Lobbyists from PACs:

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Three top Senate Democrats are cutting their ties with William Oldaker, a longtime Appropriations lobbyist who works as treasurer for their political action committees, according to Roll Call. The Democrats, Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Byron Dorgan (D-ND), and Ted Kennedy (D-MA), are all aiming to clean up their own houses as they push for broad ethics reforms on Capitol Hill. In the House lawmakers are following suit with Rahm Emanuel (D-IL), Denny Rehberg (R-MT), and Clay Shaw (R-FL) all releasing their PAC treasurers who are also lobbyists. Senators Barak Obama (D-IL) and Joe Lieberman (D-CT) may seek a ban on this practice.

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Corporations Pay to Defeat Asbestos Bill:

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The Hill newspaper reports that 20 corporations have combined to spend $3 million to defeat the creation of an asbestos trust fund currently being debated in the Senate. The money is to be used for lobbying and advertising in an effort to convince moderate and conservative Democrats and conservative Republicans to vote “No” on the trust fund. The trust fund, opposed by the corporations, would stop asbestos-related litigation by creating a $140 billion trust fund to be paid out to victims of asbestos illnesses. The trust fund is also opposed by trial lawyers and labor unions who are concerned that the fund would stop litigation and would not be able to pay settlements to all victims. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) attacked the fund as corrupt, stating that corporations would be “jumping for joy” because “[t]hey were able to buy their way into the Senate paying for a bunch of lobbyists.” Sen. Arlen Spector (R-PA), the bills sponsor, responded angrily, “Slander!”

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Heard on the Hill: DeLay Staff Scales Back, GOP Eyes Gym Membership:

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Rep. Tom DeLay’s staff scaled back the luxuries after the indictment and fall from grace of the former Majority Leader. The staff is holding an office party today at “Bullfeathers, a favorite House-side dive,” according to Roll Call. The less expensive Bullfeathers is no Signatures or Capitol Grille costing each person $38 each. Many former and current staffers cannot even imagine paying for their own meals. While DeLay staffers party the House GOP has scheduled a vote on banning former members from the House gym. Democrats Harry Reid (D-NV) and Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) do not see lobbying in the gym as a problem.  Reid: “I’ve never been lobbied in the gym. Of course, I’m pretty ugly naked. So maybe that’s why.” Pelosi claims that this proposal exhibited the “smallness and pettiness” of the GOP lobbying reform proposals.

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