Another man might have assumed, correctly, that launching a campaign of insult and insinuation against two billionaires would result in renewed attention to his own finances. Not Harry Reid. The Senate Democratic leader since 2005, and the Senate majority leader since 2007, is not one to reflect before speaking. His mouth runs far ahead of his brain.
In recent years Reid has declared an American war “lost” while our troops still fought overseas; praised President Obama for his “light” skin and “no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one”; asserted falsely and without evidence that Mitt Romney had not paid any taxes for a decade; and said “Why would we want to do that?” when asked if he would fund cancer research during the government shutdown.
Now, with his majority in danger, his president unpopular, and his floor agenda obstructed by members of his own caucus, Reid thrashes about uncontrollably. He calls Obamacare horror stories “untrue.” He says Obamacare numbers are not as high as projected because Americans “are not educated on how to use the Internet.” His Senate Majority PAC launches a $3 million ad campaign tying Republican candidates to two men most Americans have never heard of, two men who, funnily enough, are more popular than Reid.
From the floor of the Senate, Reid says these two men, Charles and David Koch, are “un-American” and are trying “to buy America.” Without the terrible specter of the Koch brothers, Harry Reid would be disarmed. He has no issue for his Democratic senators to run on; the minimum wage and climate change are not enough. Nor has he another means of inspiring donors to open their checkbooks. He only has fear, fear of the Kochs, fear of extractive industry, fear of the portion of the elite that favors economic freedom. The Koch brothers, Reid says, “rig the system to benefit themselves.” He should know.
The fact that Harry Reid’s political and influence operation includes his five children has been established for some time. A few weeks ago, when I first heard Reid accuse private citizens of being un-American, I dredged up a Los Angeles Times article from 2003 with the headline, “In Nevada, the Name to Know Is Reid.” Chuck Neubauer and Richard T. Cooper’s meticulously researched and reported article begins with the story of the “Clark County Conservation of Land and Natural Resources Act of 2002,” a land bill of the sort that puts people to sleep. “What Reid did not explain” when he introduced the bill in the Senate, Neubauer and Cooper wrote, “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.” I wonder why he left that part out.
Firms tied to the Reid family, the Los Angeles Times reported, earned more than $2 million from 1998 to 2002 “from special interests that were represented by the kids and helped by the senator in Washington.” How much more have they earned in the eleven years since this article was published? Land, energy, water, gaming, and mining — the Reids manage a diversified portfolio. They are not financial investors but political ones. Reid’s four sons are lawyers, as is his son-in-law. They make their money furthering the interests of paying clients, clients operating businesses in the state represented by Reid.
Those businesses are not necessarily American. After a 2011 trip to China, Harry Reid began touting the virtues of ENN Energy Group, a Chinese firm that sought to build a $5 billion solar farm in Nevada. Reid’s son Rory represented ENN, though Rory claimed in a 2012 Bloomberg article never to have discussed “the project with my father or his staff.” Somehow, though, commissioners friendly with the Reid family agreed to sell property to ENN for one-sixth of the land’s appraised value.
The senator repeatedly expressed his support for the project. But ENN could not find a customer for its energy and dropped its plans last June. In another instance Reid pressured Homeland Security officials to approve the visas of Chinese casino investors represented by Rory Reid. Rory’s brothers should not feel left out, however. Hoover Institution scholar Peter Schweizer says Papa Reid has “sponsored at least $47 million in earmarks that directly benefited organizations that one of his sons, Key Reid, either lobbies for or is affiliated with.”
Who could have been surprised, then, when the Washington Post in 2012 “uncovered nearly 50 members who helped direct millions of dollars in earmarks to projects that either held the potential to enhance the surroundings of a lawmaker’s own property, or aided entities connected to their immediate family,” and one of those members was Reid. The Post zeroed in on an almost $22 million earmark, passed close to a decade ago, that financed a bridge over the Colorado River. The bridge connects the gambling resorts of Laughlin, Nev., to Bullhead City, Az. Harry Reid owns 160 acres in Bullhead.