Were Illegal Donations to Harry Reid Payola in Exchange for Favors?

| May 30 2013
Christopher Cook

Is Harry Reid in Trouble?

In the previous post, we noted the basics of the Harry Reid-Harvey Whittemore story. What Whittemore did may or may not have been illegal (a court will decide) and Reid may or may not have known what he was doing.

But one thing is for sure: Harry Reid has used his power and influence to help Whittemore. More than once.

Check out the headlines below. There are several clear instances of Reid using, and attempting to use, his influence to help ease the skids of Whittemore.

First, with the Coyote Springs Project:

  • “Over The Last Four Years, Reid Has Used His Influence In Washington To Help The Developer, Nevada Super-Lobbyist [Harvey] Whittemore, Clear Obstacles From Coyote Springs’ Path.” (Chuck Neubauer and Richard T. Cooper, “Desert Connections,” Los Angeles Times, 8/20/06)
  • “At One Point, Reid Proposed Opening The Way For Whittemore To Develop Part Of The Site For Free — Something For Which The Developer Later Agreed To Pay The Government $10 Million.” (Chuck Neubauer and Richard T. Cooper, “Desert Connections,” Los Angeles Times, 8/20/06)
  • “As The Project Advanced, Reid Received Tens Of Thousands Of Dollars In Campaign Contributions From Whittemore. The Contributions Not Only Went To Reid’s Senate Campaigns, But Also To His Leadership Fund, Which He Used To Help Bankroll The Campaigns Of Democratic Colleagues.” (Chuck Neubauer and Richard T. Cooper, “Desert Connections,” Los Angeles Times, 8/20/06)
  • “Whittemore Also Helped Advance The Legal Careers Of Two Of Reid’s Four Sons. One Of The Two, Leif Reid, Who Is Whittemore’s Personal Lawyer, Has Represented The Developer Throughout The Coyote Springs Project, Including In Negotiations With Federal Officials.” (Chuck Neubauer and Richard T. Cooper, “Desert Connections,” Los Angeles Times, 8/20/06)

Then, by inserting provisions to move a power corridor off of Whittemore’s land and onto  taxpayers’ land :

  • “In 2002, Sen. Reid Went To Work On Removing The Power Line Corridor.  First, He … Tucked An Obscurely Worded Provision Into A Huge Land Bill To Benefit A Wide Range Of Interests In Clark County. The Provision Shifted The Power Corridor Off Whittemore’s Land And Onto Federal Land Along The West Side Of U.S. 93.” (Chuck Neubauer and Richard T. Cooper, “Desert Connections,” Los Angeles Times, 8/20/06)
  • “As Drafted, The Bill Would Have Done Whittemore A Large Financial Favor: It Required Him To Pay Nothing For Getting The Power Corridor Moved To The West Side Of The Highway — Even Though It Increased The Value Of His 10,500 Acres On The East Side By Clearing It For Development.” (Chuck Neubauer and Richard T. Cooper, “Desert Connections,” Los Angeles Times, 8/20/06)
  • “A Year And A Half Later, Reid … Tried Again, Inserting Language Moving The Power Corridor To The West Side Of The Highway Into A Public Land Bill For Lincoln County.” (Chuck Neubauer and Richard T. Cooper, “Desert Connections,”Los Angeles Times, 8/20/06)
  • “This Time, Whittemore Had To Compensate The Government On The Basis Of ‘Fair Market Value,’ But That Was Defined In Such A Way That Would Have Required Him To Pay Only About $160,000. Drawing Fresh Criticism, Reid … Changed The Cost Provision To Say Government Appraisers Should Determine What Whittemore Had To Pay — $10.4 Million As It Turned Out. The Bill Became Law In November 2004.” (Chuck Neubauer and Richard T. Cooper, “Desert Connections,” Los Angeles Times, 8/20/06)


Reid’s aides have gotten in on the act, expending efforts to help their boss’s friend get around the EPA:

  • “Less Than A Week After The Issue Arose, Sen. Reid’s Then-Top Aide For Energy And Environment, Peter Umhofer, Called The [EPA] Regional Office. Whittemore Said He Had Asked Umhofer To Set Up A Meeting For Him With Federal Officials. Umhofer Also Contacted The Corps Of Engineers.” (Chuck Neubauer and Richard T. Cooper, “Desert Connections,” Los Angeles Times, 8/20/06)
  • “Officials At Both Agencies Got The Message That Reid Was Deeply Interested In Coyote Springs, And Vendlinski Made Clear That Umhofer’s Intervention Had Upped The Stakes.” (Chuck Neubauer and Richard T. Cooper, “Desert Connections,” Los Angeles Times, 8/20/06)
  • “On Sept. 20, Two Days Before Reid … [Was] To Confer With Johnson, Three Reid Staffers Called The EPA Regional Officials To Express Reid’s Concerns About Permits, Including Developers’ Complaints That The EPA Had Become More Demanding.” (Chuck Neubauer and Richard T. Cooper, “Desert Connections,” Los Angeles Times, 8/20/06)

 

Reid’s help has not gone unnoticed by Whittemore, who has used his money directly to help Reid and his sons.

  • “Since 2000, Whittemore, His Wife And The Coyote Springs Company Have Given Reid’s Senatorial Campaign And Political Action Committees At Least $45,000.” (Chuck Neubauer and Richard T. Cooper, “Desert Connections,” Los Angeles Times, 8/20/06)
  • “That Included $35,000 For Reid’s Leadership PAC, The Searchlight Leadership Fund, Which Helped Him Advance As A Senate Leader. Most Of That Money Was Contributed In 2002 Shortly After Reid Introduced The Clark County Land Bill.” (Chuck Neubauer and Richard T. Cooper, “Desert Connections,” Los Angeles Times, 8/20/06)
  • “In 2000, Whittemore Gave An Additional $20,000 To The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Which Reid Promoted As A Party Leader.” (Chuck Neubauer and Richard T. Cooper, “Desert Connections,” Los Angeles Times, 8/20/06)
  • “Prior To 2000, The Whittemores Had Given Reid And His Senate Campaign Committee A Total Of $6,500, Plus $5,000 For His Leadership PAC.” (Chuck Neubauer and Richard T. Cooper, “Desert Connections,” Los Angeles Times, 8/20/06)
  • “Whittemore Also Helped Reid’s Sons, All Of Whom At Various Times Have Worked For The Law Firm In Which He Is A Senior Partner, Lionel, Sawyer And Collins. Rory Reid Is A Partner In The Firm. When He Ran Successfully For The Clark County Board Of Commissioners, Whittemore Contributed $5,000.” (Chuck Neubauer and Richard T. Cooper, “Desert Connections,” Los Angeles Times, 8/20/06)
  • “He Also Gave Josh Reid $5,000 For An Unsuccessful Bid For A Seat On The City Council In Cottonwood Heights, Utah. Rory And Josh Reid Have Been Active In Democratic Politics.” (Chuck Neubauer and Richard T. Cooper, “Desert Connections,” Los Angeles Times, 8/20/06)

But wait . . . there’s more. Despite a ban on lobbying, Harry Reid’s son had contact with his office:

  • “In 2001, The Senator’s Office Established A Rule That Family Members Could Lobby His Office But Could Not Get Special Treatment. In 2002, Responding To Questions By The Times, The Rule Was Changed To Prohibit Any Lobbying Of Sen. Reid’s Office By His Family.” (Chuck Neubauer and Richard T. Cooper, “Desert Connections,” Los Angeles Times, 8/20/06)
  • Susan McCue, Sen. Reid’s Chief Of Staff: “Leif is not a lobbyist, but he should not have called our office. I have reminded Leif of this policy to prevent future calls.” (Chuck Neubauer and Richard T. Cooper, “Desert Connections,” Los Angeles Times, 8/20/06)

 

There’s a long list of Democrats—Charles Rangel, Nancy Pelosi, and Gerry Studds leap to mind (and there are many more)—who have gotten away with clear wrongdoing and still managed to escape punishment and even get reelected. (Barack Obama’s name probably belongs on that list as well.) Republicans who do these sorts of things are far more likely to go down for them—even their constituents are less tolerant of such behavior, to say nothing of the media. Needless to say, this has sent a message to Democrats across the land: You can engage in corruption in office, and you’ll probably get away with it.

But sometimes, just sometimes, even a Democrat goes down for graft or influence peddling or one of the other ways that politicians tend to abuse the public’s trust. Will Harry Reid be such a one?

Well, one thing’s for sure: If Harry Reid had an (R) after his name, he’d already have a lawyer.

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