Wednesday, January 31, 2007

"Harry Reid, land shark?"

How's that "culture of corruption" thingy workin' for ya, Harry? From the Chicago Tribune:
If Harry Reid hadn't succeeded in politics, he could have done well in real estate. Actually, the Senate Democratic leader, who hails from Nevada, has managed both.

In 2001, he made $1.1 million on a Las Vegas transaction that got him some unwanted attention from the Senate ethics committee because he failed to report some crucial information on his financial disclosure forms. Now, we learn that he bought out a business partner in another land deal at a price that looks too good to be true and that he has sponsored legislation that would benefit that former partner.

An investigation by the Los Angeles Times found that in 2002, Reid paid $10,000 to a pension fund--controlled by an old friend, Clair Haycock--which owned a 37.5 percent share of a 160-acre parcel in Bullhead City, Ariz. That is one-ninth what Haycock paid when he and Reid bought the land 25 years ago. On a per-acre basis, it's also about one-fiftieth what it fetched in 1990 from buyers who later defaulted. The county assessor says it sounds like a "super deal" for Reid.

But the Times story raises the possibility that Haycock was getting more from his friend than $10,000. A few months later, the senator introduced a bill to prevent oil companies from suddenly canceling contracts with lubricants dealers--of which Haycock is one. The lawyer who represented Haycock in a dispute with Mobil Oil says, "The Haycocks provided access to Sen. Reid." In the end, the proposal went nowhere.

A Reid representative says the deal was perfectly legitimate and that any claimed connection to the oil measure is clearly mistaken, because Reid originally introduced the bill in 1994. He says one reason the agreed price was so low was that Reid didn't want to buy out Haycock during a slump in the local real estate market, and that he agree to do so only after his partner couldn't find another purchaser. For that matter, Reid was so unhappy with the investment that he tried in vain to give the land to a local developer.

But if Reid was dissatisfied with the land and eager to be rid of it, he might have opted for the easy solution: Put the entire parcel up for sale and split the proceeds. That would have let the pension fund liquidate its asset at the market price and let Reid do the same. His spokesman says that could have taken too long for Haycock, but it's hard to believe there would not have been ready takers for a property that he and Reid were ready to practically give away.

It's unlikely that Reid introduced the distributor bill as a quid pro quo. But there is still something unseemly when a member of Congress sponsors legislation intended to help out someone with whom he has an ongoing friendship and a business relationship--a lucrative one, in this case.

One of the burdens of power is intense scrutiny, as former House Speaker Dennis Hastert discovered. Last year, the Tribune revealed that he made more than $1.5 million on an investment in land near a major highway project that Hastert had championed.

As the new Senate Democratic leader, Reid can expect closer attention than ever to his financial dealings. (From the MSM? Yeah, right! - Ed.)

So far, they are not making him or his party look good.
It sure is a good thing that Madame Speaker has ushered in a new era of political ethics by having a squeaky clean party running the show. Well, excluding William "Cool Cash" Jefferson. And Alan "The Funnel" Mollohan. And "Impeached Judge" Hastings. And Harry "Land Shark" Reid. And...well, you get the idea.

I'm sure the MSM will be all over this Reid thing like...well, like a vegetarian on a T-bone.

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