Friday, April 08, 2005
SAEN Throws Out Impartiality To Get DeLay
As he introduced it, Nevada's senior U.S. senator, Democrat Harry Reid, assured colleagues that his bill was a bipartisan measure to protect the environment and help the economy in America's fastest-growing state.
What Reid did not explain was that the bill promised a cavalcade of benefits to real estate developers, corporations and local institutions that were paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in lobbying fees to his sons' and son-in-law's firms, federal lobbyist reports show.
Some of the legislations provisions were included as a direct result of fees paid to relatives of Senator Reid:
The Howard Hughes Corp. alone paid $300,000 to the tiny Washington consulting firm of son-in-law Steven Barringer to push a provision allowing the company to acquire 998 acres of federal land ripe for development in the exploding Las Vegas metropolitan area.
In addition, a law firm that employs all four of Senator Reid's sons received preferential treatment in the legislation:
Other provisions were intended to benefit a real estate development headed by a senior partner in the Nevada law firm that employs all four of Reid's sons by moving the right-of-way for a federal power-transmission line off his property and onto what had been protected federal wilderness.
At the time Senator Reid had no problem with members of his family being paid because he was a Senator:
Reid said he supported the bill because it was good for Nevada and not because it helped his family's clients. And when it comes to lobbying relatives, he said, he has plenty of company.
"Lots of people have children, wives and stuff that work back here," he said. "It is not as if a lot of cash is changing hands."
Moreover, the LA Times reports that Senator Reid is especially prolific at sending business to members of his family:
But Harry Reid is in a class by himself. One of his sons and his son-in-law lobby in Washington for companies, trade groups and municipalities seeking Reid's help in the Senate. A second son has lobbied in Nevada for some of those same interests, and a third has represented a couple of them as a litigator.
In the last four years alone, their firms have collected more than $2 million in lobbying fees from special interests that were represented by the kids and helped by the senator in Washington.
So pervasive are the ties among Reid, members of his family and Nevada's leading industries and institutions that it's difficult to find a significant field in which such a relationship does not exist.
Senator Reid managed to turn the "Clark County Conservation of Public Land and Natural Resources Act of 2002" into an employment bill for his friends and family:
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 SAEN editorial board has chosen to ignore cases similar to their accusations against DeLay. In an editorial Friday the SAEN said:
DeLay's wife and daughter have been paid more than $500,000 by his political action and campaign committees since 2001, according to a report in the New York Times.
As I pointed out above, $500,000 is peanuts compared to what Senator Reid procured for his family. The editorial went on to report allegations made against DeLay regarding possible improper travel:
And a Washington Post report raised questions about whether a 1997 DeLay trip to Moscow was paid for by a company lobbying for the Russian government and funneling funds through a nonprofit policy group.
However, the editorial fails to point out similar question facing Democratic minority leader Representative Nancy Pelosi:
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi helped secure $3 million last year for a nonprofit transportation-research organization whose president gave money to her political action committee as the group was paying for a European trip for one of her policy advisers.
Transportation adviser Lara Levison's nine-day, $4,475 trip to Spain and Germany last April to learn about hydrogen-fuel cells for buses was primarily paid for by WestStart-CALSTART.
But just days before the trip, WestStart-CALSTART announced that Mrs. Pelosi had helped the nonprofit group secure $1 million from the Federal Transit Administration for a bus rapid-transit program. A month after the Levison trip, the group sent out a press release thanking her for a $2 million grant for a fuel-cell program.
According to campaign records, WestStart-CALSTART Chief Executive Officer John R. Boesel also gave $1,000 to one of Mrs. Pelosi's political action committees in 2003 and $1,000 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
I hope that the editorial board will see the wisdom in correcting the record. And to be fair I should point out that the SAEN newsroom has run several reports on DeLay over the past weeks that also fail to mention any accusations regarding Democrats.
The absurdity of all this is perhaps summed up best by liberal Michelle Cottie in The New Republic Online, responding to a report about Delay in the New York Times:
But titillated readers anticipating details of a gross ethical--possibly even legal!--breach by DeLay were in for disappointment. As it turns out, there is nothing shady about the payments to the congressman's kin. Daughter Dani and wife Christine have long been actively involved in DeLay's political career--planning events, raising money, organizing schedules, helping manage the occasional campaign. Were the two women out of line for demanding money for their services? Presumably not, since even the Times acknowledged (though not until well into the piece) that DeLay is far from the only lawmaker who has allowed relatives to cash in on his political career; others include Democrats such as Senator Barbara Boxer and Representative Howard Berman. (Hell, if political nepotism were a crime, half the Bush and Cheney clans would be in jail by now.)
And lest some of my readers say that Ms. Cottie is a right-wing hack, she also has this to say:
Now I'm all for kicking a goon when he's down--especially an arrogant, power-mad goon like DeLay. But the Times' push to turn a mole hill into page-one material isn't just a case of questionable journalism--though that, of course, is what the paper of record should be fretting about. In crass political terms--say, from the standpoint of the countless Dems quietly relishing the additional bad press for their nemesis--the piece also has the potential to be actively counterproductive, steering the conversation away from DeLay's actual misdeeds, while lending credence to the congressman's eternal protestations that he is being unfairly targeted by his ideological enemies.
How come we can't see this kind of balanced reporting in the SAEN?
Here is another good site I said I would pass along.
Las Vegas Vacations