Sen. Reed and ethics

Dennis Byrne:

Instead of talking in sweeping platitudes about "ethics reform," Senate Democrats might want to prove they mean it by dumping their ethically challenged majority leader, Harry Reid.

The Nevada lawmaker has been implicated in yet another land scheme that this time could net him a tidy $50,000 to $290,000. Los Angeles Times investigative reporters Chuck Neubauer and Tom Hamburger, this week revealed that Reid paid $166 an acre for valuable northern Arizona land whose market value, according to the county assessor, four years ago was worth $2,144 an acre.

Who would be a big enough fool to sell Reid the land at such a ludicrously low price? A long-time pal who would financially benefit from some obscure legislation that the senator has often sponsored.

It worked like this, according to the Times:

In 2002, Reid (D-Nev.) paid $10,000 to a pension fund controlled by Clair Haycock, a Las Vegas lubricants distributor and his friend of 50 years. The payment gave the senator full control of a 160-acre parcel in Bullhead City that Reid and the pension fund had jointly owned. Reid's price for the equivalent of 60 acres of undeveloped desert was less than one-tenth of the value the assessor placed on it at the time.

Six months after the deal closed, Reid introduced legislation [which failed to pass] to address the plight of lubricants dealers who had their supplies disrupted by the decisions of big oil companies. It was an issue the Haycock family had brought to Reid's attention in 1994, according to a source familiar with the events.

If Reid were to sell the property for any of the various estimates of its value, his gain on the $10,000 investment could range from $50,000 to $290,000.

It is a potential violation of congressional ethics standards for a member to accept anything of value -- including a real estate discount -- from a person with interests before Congress.

Reed apparently prefers to put his gains into dry desert land instead of into cold cash, as did Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.), whom the FBI said was harboring $90,000 in marked bills in his home freezer.


Reed's insider real estate deals appear to be much more profitable than Bill Clinton's and have gotten much less scrutiny to date. Real estate is a good vehicle for this type of pay off because the market for it is imperfect as opposed to the stock market where the price is the same for all and is published to all. I suspect that reporters are now looking at every piece of real estate he has owned in the last few years to see if similar bargains may have been struck. How long Democrats will continue to ignore these embarrassing revelations is not clear. We are not at critical mass yet, but as this article points out it is a gathering storm for a party whose election theme was running against a culture of corruption.


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