Tuesday, June 24, 2003

What's in a name?

The L.A. Times publishes a devastating two-part series on the ways lawmakers use their influence to enrich family members. The second part focuses entirely on Nevada's own Sen. Harry Reid, who's seen his sons and son-in-law line their pockets nicely acting as "consultants" and lobbyists on various pieces of legislation. The PDF chart within the story which follows the money trail is mind-blowing. (Part one of the series is here.)

This Times editorial, published today, contained the following gem:

Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is in a class by himself. Reid sponsored legislation last year benefiting real estate, mining and corporate interests that were paying hundreds of thousands in lobbying fees to his sons' and son-in-law's firms. After The Times interviewed him last fall, Reid banned relatives, but not their partners and colleagues, from lobbying his office. It's a fig leaf that covers nothing. The unspoken message, intended or not, is clear: You want legislation passed? Hire my kid.

What's shameful about all this is that there's absolutely no reason to believe it was necessary to line the pockets of Reid's kids to get his support. He's a classic pork-barrel pol who caters to his constituents' every whim.

One statement by the senator in the main story, however, sounds awfully fishy:

Reid said he thought he might have had casual conversations about legislation with his family members but could not remember specific cases or times. ‘‘Have they said something? I am sure they have,’’ he said. ‘‘I don’t have meetings with my children to go over business things.’’

Really? Then why did son Rory, recently elected to the Clark County Commission, feel it was necessary to ask the Federal Elections Commission if he could raise money for his father's re-election campaign and for other Democratic candidates next year -- "double-dipping" that could violate the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law? Was Rory reading his dad's mind? (The FEC OK'd the request.)

To his credit, Rory Reid, a longtime Democratic Party operative, initiated the contact with federal officials; his father didn't. And Harry Reid will need all the help he can get. He won in 1998 by 428 votes ... and that was before he became his party's top hatchet man, leading the obstruction of George Bush's judicial nominees.