Thursday, February 09, 2006

Harry Reid, Hand In The Cookie Jar?

The AP reports that Harry Reid's possible involvement in the Abramoff scandal is deeper than it appeared. "The activities - detailed in billing records and correspondence obtained by The Associated Press - are far more extensive than previously disclosed. They occurred over three years as Reid collected nearly $68,000 in donations from Abramoff's firm, lobbying partners and clients."

Suddenly Senator Reid's attempts to portray this as a Republican only scandal seem hollow. The Democrats have tried this tactic since the news broke. Witness Howard Dean's pathetic, and easily refuted, claims that no Democrats were involved. Then he backpedals and claims that if any Democrat did take money he would be in big trouble. So much for his insistence that this is a Republican only scandal.

Although Senators are allowed to initiate actions to support donors, Senate rules demand that no donations be accepted around the time the issue is being debated or acted on. The evidence collected by the AP clearly shows Senator Reid's political group, the Searchlight Leadership Fund, and his campaign committee received donations from Abramoff supporters around the time he initiated or supported causes favored by Abramoff's clients. "Reid also intervened on government matters at least five times in ways helpful to Abramoff's tribal clients, once opposing legislation on the Senate floor and four times sending letters pressing the Bush administration on tribal issues. Reid collected donations around the time of each action....While Abramoff never directly donated to Reid, the lobbyist did instruct one tribe, the Coushattas, to send $5,000 to Reid's tax-exempt political group, the Searchlight Leadership Fund, in 2002. About the same time, Reid sent a letter to the Interior Department helpful to the tribe, records show....Reid himself, along his Senate counsel Jim Ryan, met with Abramoff deputy Ronald Platt on June 5, 2001, 'to discuss timing on minimum wage bill' that affected the Marianas, according to a bill that Greenberg Traurig, Abramoff's firm, sent the Marianas. Three weeks before the meeting, Greenberg Traurig's political action committee donated $1,000 to Reid's Senate re-election committee. Three weeks after the meeting, Platt himself donated $1,000 to Reid....On March 5, 2002, he sent a letter to the Interior Department pressing the agency to reject a proposed casino by the Jena band of Choctaw Indians in Louisiana. Fellow Nevada Sen. John Ensign , a Republican, also signed. The Jena's proposed casino would have rivaled one already in operation in Louisiana run by the Coushattas, and Abramoff was lobbying to block the Jena. The day after Reid's letter, the Coushattas wrote a $5,000 check to Reid's Searchlight group at Abramoff's suggestion....On Nov. 8, 2002, the Nevada Democrat signed a letter with California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein urging Interior Secretary Gale Norton to reject a proposal by the Cuyapaipe Band of Mission Indians to convert land for a health clinic into a casino in southern California....Six weeks after that letter, three Abramoff partners - including Platt and Ayoob - donated a total of $4,000 to Reid's Senate re-election campaign. Later in 2003, the Agua Caliente contributed $13,500 to Reid's political groups while the Saginaw chipped in $9,000."

Coincidence after coincidence according to Senator Reid and his staff. He only had "routine contacts." "'Senator Reid never met Jack Abramoff and never has taken contributions from him....'" As seen above, technically true. Abramoff never handed over any money to Reid, but directed others to do it. "As for the timing of donations, Manley said, 'There is no connection. This is just a typical part of lawful fundraising.'" Right, it just so happened that Senator Reid received money from people connected to Abramoff around the time he did their bidding.

Senator Reid defiantly refuses to return the tainted funds. "He argues there's no need to return the money." Then why are a whole host of Democrats scrambling to divest themselves of any cash given to them by Abramoff and his clients? As seen here: "Last week, Sen. Clinton's office announced that she would be donating $2,000 of her Abramoff jackpot to charity. The Republican National Committee says she took a total of $12,900 in Abramoff-linked cash. Other Democrats who have pledged to return tainted donations include Sens. Tim Johnson and Barbara Mikulski - as well as leading House Democrat Charles Rangel." These aren't minor league backbenchers, these are top Democrats. If they see a problem with keeping the donations, why can't Harry?

These actions by Senator Reid show that the "culture of corruption" that House Minority Leader Pelosi likes to claim belongs to the Republicans belongs to Democrats as well. Denying what appears obvious to the average citizen demeans Congress and Nevada. Senator Reid ought to resign. His actions bring no benefit to the state or nation. The sooner he leaves office the sooner corruption can be rooted out of the people's business.

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