Harry Reid/Commentary

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Harry Mason Reid (D-Nevada), the senior senator from Nevada, was elected in 1986 to the U.S. Senate. Reid was the Democratic whip from 1999-2004. Following the defeat of the Senate Democratic leader, Tom Daschle, in November of 2004, Reid was elected to take Daschle's place as senate Democratic leader.

Reid is considered a moderate Democrat with an ability to co-operate in a bipartisan fashion. He is also known as a senator who is well versed in the inner methodology of the Federal Government, and a capable wielder of its procedures as a weapon if he desires.


Reid was born in 1939 in Searchlight, Nevada. He graduated from Southern Utah State College in 1959, Utah State University in 1961, and from the George Washington School of Law in 1964.

Positions Held

  • United States Capitol Police Force, 1961-1964
  • Nevada bar admission, 1963
  • Henderson, Nevada city attorney, 1964-1966
  • Nevada State assembly, 1969-1970
  • Nevada lieutenant governor, 1970-1974
  • Nevada Gaming Commission chairman, 1977-1981
  • United States Congress, 1983-1987
  • United States Senate, 1986-present
  • Democratic Policy Committee, 1995-1999
  • Democratic Party whip, 1999-2004
  • Senate Democratic Leader, 2004-present

Associated Press: "Smearing Harry Reid"

The Associated Press's John Solomon and Sharon Theimer reported February 9, 2006, that Reid, who "has led the Democratic Party's attacks portraying Abramoff's lobbying and fundraising as a Republican scandal, ... wrote at least four letters helpful to Indian tribes represented by Jack Abramoff, and the senator's staff regularly had contact with the disgraced lobbyist's team about legislation affecting other clients ... They occurred over three years as Reid collected nearly $68,000 in donations from Abramoff's firm [Greenberg Traurig], lobbying partners and clients."

"Abramoff's firm also hired" Edward P. Ayoob, Reid's legislative counsel, as a lobbyist. Ayoob "later helped throw a fundraiser for Reid at Abramoff's firm that raised donations from several of his lobbying partners" and Susan McCue, Reid's "longtime chief of staff accepted a free trip to Malaysia ... underwritten by the U.S. Malaysia Exchange Association, a group trying to foster better relations between the United States and Malaysia ... a consulting firm connected to Abramoff that recently has gained attention in the influence-peddling investigation that has gripped the Capitol," Solomon and Theimer wrote.

"Reid has assailed Republicans' ties to Abramoff while refusing to return any of his own donations. He argues there's no need to return the money," they wrote.

The Smear

As he "started to read the [Associated Press] article," Scott Shields wrote February 9, 2006, in MyDD, he "smelled a smear."

"The first clue was that Senator Reid has a long history of protecting gambling in Nevada from outside competition. He does, after all, represent Las Vegas. So the fact that he sought to keep Indian casinos from expanding off of their reservations, while I may not necessarily agree, makes sense. He didn't need lobbyists telling him what to do on the issue, as he'd held that position long before they'd ever come knocking. But still... the article's a long one. I wasn't quite ready to dismiss it.
"The story totally lost credibility for me when it got to mentioning the Marianas Islands. By now, you're probably aware of the fact that one of Abramoff's pet projects was maintaining a low minimum wage in U.S. territories not subject to the federal minimum wage. This was of interest to the Republicans because manufacturers could exploit the territories' low wages to essentially create a sweatshop environment without completely having to leave America. This AP story tries to imply that Reid was complicit in this plot."

After contacting Reid's office and other fact checking, in his February 9, 2006, Talking Points Memo, Josh Marshall wrote that, "despite the AP story's narrative of lobbyist contacts, there doesn't seem to be any evidence whatsoever that Reid ever took any action on behalf of Abramoff's Marianas clients."

Also, Shields wrote:

"The kicker, of course, is that for all of their effort, Reid never supported the Abramoff position. The very definition of quid pro quo is 'this for that.' In politics, this means something valuable like money or gifts for a politician's votes or some other form of official support. In this case, though Reid or his staffers may have taken meetings on the subject, it never amounted to anything. In other words, there may have been quid, but there was no quo. So this convoluted story is just that -- a convoluted story. No climax, no punchline, and most importantly, no evidence of wrongdoing on the part of Reid."

In the Comments to Shields' MyDD entry, bink wrote:

"As a refesher: Abramoff is a convicted criminal. He pled guilty, in Federal courts, to the following:
  • Defrauding the Indian Tribes
  • Tax evasion
  • Conspiracy to bribe a Congressman (Bob Ney) with material gifts and lavish trips
  • Bank fraud in the purchase of the SunCruz casino deal
"Now, looking at this article, how is Harry Reid implicated in any of these charges? He wasn't."

Yucca Mountain

Yucca Mountain in central Nevada has been slated to become the United States' high level nuclear waste repository. President George W. Bush approved this finding in 2002 and made a campaign promise in Nevada during the 2000 presidential election to wait until the scientific study was completed. Reid is reported to have shouted at the president while at the White House[1] and has publicly called George Bush a liar because of this decision, [2], is rumoured to have voted in retaliation[3] to block a Utah wilderness bill meant to keep a native Ameircan Utah group from accepting nuclear waste in exchange for monetary return, because their senate delegation voted in favor of the Yucca Mountain Project.

In his December 5, 2004, appearance on Meet the Press, Reid reiterated that he believed Bush was a liar,

MR. RUSSERT: When the president talked about Yucca Mountain and moving the nation's nuclear waste there, you were very, very, very strong in your words. You said, "President Bush is a liar. He betrayed Nevada and he betrayed the country."
Is that rhetoric appropriate?
SEN. REID: I don't know if that rhetoric is appropriate. That's how I feel, and that's how I felt. I think to take that issue, Tim, to take the most poisonous substance known to man, plutonium, and haul 70,000 tons of it across the highways and railways of this country, past schools and churches and people's businesses is wrong. It's something that is being forced upon this country by the utilities, and it's wrong. And we have to stop it. And people may not like what I said, but I said it, and I don't back off one bit.

Opposition Leader

In November 2003, Senator Reid spoke for nine hours continously in a successful effort to filibuster[4] a vote on 4 judicial nominees of George Bush's that the Democratic party opposed.

On February 11, 2004, he forcefully voiced his reservations[5] on the Senate floor about Bush's appointment of Laurence H. Silberman as co-chair of the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction.

Financial backing

Note: Financial data courtesy of The Center for Responsive Politics (opensecrets.org).

Reid is an able solicitor of contributions. His Searchlight Leadership Fund political action committee contributed $159,331 to Demcratic federal candidates in the 2004 election cycle. Reid is ranked as one of the top Senate recipients from the following industries for the 2003-2004 election cycle (rank in parenthesis):

  • Airlines (#2)
  • Alternate energy production & services (#4)
  • Candidate Cmtes (#4)
  • Casinos/Gambling (#1)
  • Computer software (#5)
  • Dairy (#2)
  • Democratic Candidate Committees (#4)
  • Democratic officials, candidates & former members (#3)
  • Industrial Unions (#3)
  • Lobbyists (#5)
  • Lodging/Tourism (#4)
  • Mining (#3)
  • Misc Unions (#4)
  • Mortgage bankers and brokers (#4)
  • Professional sports, arenas & related equip & svcs (#3)
  • Public Sector Unions (#4)
  • Recreation (#2)
  • Tobacco (#2)
  • Transport Unions (#3)
  • US Postal Service unions & associations (#3)

Running effectively unopposed for his third term in the Senate in 2004, Reid was still able to garner $7,003,483 in campaign contributions that year.

Related SourceWatch Resources

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By Harry Reid


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