Kudos to the AP for revealing that Democratic Leader Harry Reid was involved in an unethical financial deal that netted him money most of us can only dream of. Here’s the beginning of the AP’s report:
Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid collected a $1.1 million windfall on a Las Vegas land sale even though he hadn’t personally owned the property for three years, property deeds show.
In the process, Reid did not disclose to Congress an earlier sale in which he transferred his land to a company created by a friend and took a financial stake in that company, according to records and interviews.
The Nevada Democrat’s deal was engineered by Jay Brown, a longtime friend and former casino lawyer whose name surfaced in a major political bribery trial this summer and in other prior organized crime investigations. He’s never been charged with wrongdoing — except for a 1981 federal securities complaint that was settled out of court.
Land deeds obtained by The Associated Press during a review of Reid’s business dealings show:
_The deal began in 1998 when Reid bought undeveloped residential property on Las Vegas’ booming outskirts for about $400,000. Reid bought one lot outright, and a second parcel jointly with Brown. One of the sellers was a developer who was benefiting from a government land swap that Reid supported. The seller never talked to Reid.
_In 2001, Reid sold the land for the same price to a limited liability corporation created by Brown. The senator didn’t disclose the sale on his annual public ethics report or tell Congress he had any stake in Brown’s company. He continued to report to Congress that he personally owned the land.
_After getting local officials to rezone the property for a shopping center, Brown’s company sold the land in 2004 to other developers and Reid took $1.1 million of the proceeds, nearly tripling the senator’s investment. Reid reported it to Congress as a personal land sale.
The complex dealings allowed Reid to transfer ownership, legal liability and some tax consequences to Brown’s company without public knowledge, but still collect a seven-figure payoff nearly three years later.
Reid hung up the phone when questioned about the deal during an AP interview last week.
But in a news conference Wednesday in Las Vegas, the senator said he believed he did nothing wrong but was willing to change his ethics report’s account of the sale if the Senate Ethics Committee ordered him to do so.
“Everything I did was transparent,” Reid said. “I paid all the taxes. Everything is fully disclosed to the ethics committee and everyone else. As I said, if there is some technical change that the ethics committee wants, I’ll be happy to do that.”
The senator’s aides said no money changed hands in 2001 and that Reid instead got an ownership stake in Brown’s company equal to the value of his land. Reid continued to pay taxes on the land and didn’t disclose the deal because he considered it a “technical transfer,” they said.
They also said they have no documents proving Reid’s stake in the company because it was an informal understanding between friends.
The 1998 purchase “was a normal business transaction at market prices,” Reid spokesman Jim Manley said. “There were several legal steps associated with the investment during those years that did not alter Senator Reid’s actual ownership interest in the land.”
Senate ethics rules require lawmakers to disclose on their annual ethics report all transactions involving investment properties — regardless of profit or loss — and to report any ownership stake in companies.
You can read the whole thing here.
It’s a sleazy story about a sleazy man. As I said, I’m impressed that the AP fulfilled an old-fashioned journalistic function and published this type of investigative story. What I really wonder is whether the rest of the media will run with it, so that there are hundreds and hundreds of mentions about Reid’s nefarious dealings, strident calls for his resignation, and angry articles and commentaries decrying corrupt Democratic leadership. I kind of doubt we’ll see that happening. I do, however, think it behooves bloggers to be aware of this story. While I don’t believe we should sully ourselves by turning it into a cause celebre, the fact is that if the MSM buries it, it will shine as an example of the agenda-driven media in this country.
UPDATE: The Captain has a good summary of the more unsavory aspects of Reid’s dealings. He was consorting with people with shady, borderline criminal activities, and he was pushing through legislation solely intended to benefit the men with whom he did business. It may not be illegal, but it’s certainly unethical. And as I noted in my post, I was less concerned with Reid’s ethics, and more curious about whether the MSM would jump all over the issue. The Captain indicates that the NY Times coverage whitewashed salient facts.
UPDATE II: Just a little something to think about when contemplating the possibility that the MSM may not be entirely evenhanded in dealing with scandals on either side of the aisle.