Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Reid gets a pass

Literally, and twice.

Senator Harry Reid, who will be the majority leader in the next Congress, did not break Senate rules in accepting free ringside seats at boxing matches from the Nevada Athletic Commission, the Ethics Committee has concluded.

The Associated Press reported this year that Mr. Reid, Democrat of Nevada, had attended three Las Vegas fights from 2003 to 2005 without paying, using credentials provided by the Nevada Athletic Commission, a state agency. At the time, Mr. Reid was supporting legislation to create a federal agency to oversee boxing, a move that the commission opposed.

First he gets a pass from the boxing commission, then he gets a pass from the ethics panel. Although it's hard to see what else the panel could have done, because gifts from government agencies are explicitly allowed under Senate rules.

Reid defended attending the matches, although he admitted it looked bad and said he wouldn't do it again.

The good news? Reid continued supporting the commission, legislation for which passed in the Senate (though it failed in the House). So it's hard to argue that there was any bribery or other corruption going on.

Most importantly, though, the ethics legislation envisioned by Democrats would explicitly ban such gifts. So this question need never come up again. Assuming Democrats walk the walk in January.

Unless they want to keep enduring mini-embarassments like this, they had better.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

IMHO, it's hard to argue there wasn't special favors going on. Reid's attendance at those boxing matches had nothing to do with his being able to make a decision. They were obvious "gifts." He accepted them and believes he has a right to receive such freebies. Same old, same old. Nothing changes.

BTW, he also has a lobbyist son and son-in-law and swears they are not allowed in his office. Yeah, right Harry! wink, wink


12/20/2006 4:27 PM  
Blogger Sean Aqui said...

I agree that the passes were gifts intended to change Reid's mind, and that such gifts should not be allowed. And if the Dems walk the walk, they won't be once the new Congressional session starts.

But since such gifts are an explicit exception to the Senate ethics rules, there's not much the ethics panel could have done.

And since Reid didn't change his mind, it's hard to argue that there was a corrupt exchange involved.

As for his kids: there's no rule barring relatives of politicians from becoming lobbyists. If Reid doesn't let them in his office, it hardly matters: they could always call him at home, or talk to him at family gatherings.

The real test is not contacts (although reporting requirements for such contacts are supposed to be tightened, too), but whether Reid's legislative actions reflect too closely on his progeny's interests. I fully support such scrutiny.

12/22/2006 10:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's kind of a crazy requirement: you can have contacts with lobbyists that don't agree with you on issues, but you can't have contacts with lobbyists who do???? What about just having a legislator who can converse with BOTH, but who cannot be bought by either? To me, this is why doing away with meals and small gifts is such a silly thing that Dems are proposing. If a legislator can be bought for the price of a small token gift and/or lunch, then he or she is a lost cause anyway. I say----let the lobbyists free to lobby whomever they wish. Just make it all very public and transparent so we, the public, can judge for ourselves whether or not we think someone was bought.


12/29/2006 8:34 PM  
Blogger Sean Aqui said...

Disallowing gifts is a small step, but a good one. Especially when some of the gifts were anything but small.

Nobody's arguing that politicans can't talk to lobbyists. Only that lobbyists should have to make their case on the strength of their arguments, not through bribery. Disallowing gifts helps reduce the number of times we have to wonder if it was the latter.

12/30/2006 11:05 AM  

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