All Smoke, No Fire?
This is the third time in recent memory that serious questions have been raised about Harry Reid's ethics violations. The first two were generated by John Solomon of the AP, a guy I do not trust based on his williness to do Karl Rove's bidding (among other sins). But the LA Times now alleges that Reid has been less-than-forthcoming about his work for earmarks that increased the value of his personal holdings:
[L]ast year's huge $286-billion federal transportation bill included a little-noticed slice of pork pushed by Reid that provided benefits not only for the casino town of Laughlin, Nev., but also, possibly, for the senator himself.
Reid called funding for construction of a bridge over the Colorado River, among other projects, "incredibly good news for Nevada" in a news release after passage of the 2005 transportation bill. He didn't mention, though, that just across the river in Arizona, he owns 160 acres of land several miles from proposed bridge sites and that the bridge could add value to his real estate investment.
Nowhere in Reid's statements about the project was any mention of his Bullhead City land holdings; he does list it on his Senate financial disclosure forms. He valued the Arizona land at $500,000 to $1 million in his most recent disclosure, which reported total assets of at least $2.2 million.
And according to Paul Keil of the TPM Muckraker:
[S}trange details about Reid's land deals don't end there: in 2002, Clair Haycock — a friend of Reid's who had co-owned the plot with the senator — sold Reid his portion for $10,000, when the county assessor had valued the plot at $339,620. As an explanation, Haycock (of Las Vegas' Haycock Petroleum Co.) said in an e-mail that he "needed to sell his share to liquidate a company pension plan, which owned the property." He added that he "'expected nothing from Sen. Reid" in return for selling him the property.
Reid's office claims that there was a great need for the bridge so that trucks wouldn't have to drive 23 miles out of their way to cross the Colorado. And regarding the Haycock deal, the Times article says "[t}he low price resulted from Haycock's need to sell and Reid's lack of interest in buying." (I'm personally not familiar with the phenomenon of wealthy people selling six-figure assets for a fraction of their cost out of desperation, but perhaps there is a raging crack problem in the Nevada petroleum industry we have heretofore been ignorant of.)
Anyway, I'm sure that as Majority Leader, Reid's activities will no doubt be scrutinized much and things that may have gone unnoticed in the past will be raised to the level of media attention. And all may be just as innocent as Reid's office claims. Still, since voters rushed the GOP bums out the door out of disgust with their corruption issues, electing Reid as majority leader right now does not have the absolute best optics.