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October 13, 2006
Reid's Interventions And Family Connections, 2003 Edition

I spent most of the evening last night performing some research into the various machinations of the Harry Reid real-estate transactions that netted him a 175% return on his initial $400,000 investment, and the manner in which he hid his partnership with Jay Brown from the Senate. In this research, I discovered a Los Angeles Times article from June 2003 that outlines a lot of the structure that appears to have allowed Reid to ensure his success in his real-estate ventures. Not surprisingly, it shows Reid and his family at the center of efforts to promote developments that benefitted Reid and his cronies:

Over the years, Reid has used legislation to move federal land into private hands and private land into the public realm. He says he has done so to preserve scenic and environmentally sensitive areas while freeing up more land for urban growth.

Such was the case with the Clark County legislation. It was co-sponsored by Nevada's junior senator, Republican John Ensign, and the House version was introduced by Rep. James A. Gibbons (R-Nev.). President Bush signed it in November. ...

The bill also benefited at least five clients of Reid family lobbyists. And it contained a provision potentially worth millions of dollars to a senior partner of the law firm that employs Reid's four sons, a provision that was dropped at the last minute after questions were raised in Washington.

The bill freed about 18,000 acres near the cities of Las Vegas and North Las Vegas for development and annexation, by releasing two parcels of land from "wilderness study" protection. Key Reid and former Sen. Bryan lobbied for those provisions, lobbyist reports show. City officials did not return phone calls from The Times.

Harvey Whittemore makes an appearance here as well:

The Hughes swap was at least done in plain sight. The company name appeared in the Clark County bill, along with descriptions of what each party would get. Not so with Section 709 of the original bill, "Relocation of Right-of-Way Corridor Located in Clark and Lincoln Counties in the State of Nevada."

Only a close comparison of the provision with local property records for the Coyote Springs valley, which lies northeast of Las Vegas, revealed that the provision was intended to remove an obstacle to a proposed real estate development project headed by Harvey Whittemore, a longtime friend of Sen. Reid and a senior partner in the law firm that employs his four sons.

One might have wondered what the Senate Ethics Committee would have done with this information. We can surmise that it wouldn't have done much to stop it, mainly because the vice chair of the panel was none other than Harry Reid. He held the chair or vice chair for several years before rising to the position of Minority Leader for the Democrats after Tom Daschle lost his seat in 2004.

Another interesting fact comes to light in this article. Rory Reid, Harry's son and a lawyer/lobbyist who worked for Nevada's largest legal firm. Lionel Sawyer & Collins represented more than a few clients whose business became Harry Reid's Senate business, but that isn't news. In fact, his other three sons also worked for the same firm and did some lobbying as well. Rory, however, is a special case. Rory got himself elected to the Clark County Board of Commissioners in November 2002, which makes zoning decisions for Las Vegas and its environs.

Why is this important? It was a zoning change that allowed Reid and his partners to sell their parcels in 2004 to developers after being allowed to build a shopping complex on the land. So far, the exact timing of that zoning change has not yet come to light, but the coincidence looks very suspicious.

The more we dig into this story, a picture emerges that paints Reid as a manipulator for his own benefit and that of his family and friends. The Senate Ethics Committee has a great deal of work to do in order to clarify all of the strange coincidences that allowed Reid to pocket $700,000 in profit while hiding his partner from the public.

Addendum: The Philadelphia Inquirer and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution both call for a full Ethics Committee investigation of this deal, and the Inquirer calls for Reid to resign his leadership position.

UPDATE: Sensible Mom sees the full AP report, which noted Rory's seat on the Commission, but the zoning change took place in 2001. Rory took office in January 2003, which means he still supervised zoning issues in the same district as the Patrick Lane LLC parcels, but he didn't have any official input on the zoning change.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at October 13, 2006 5:50 AM

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