Senate Democratic Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.) accepted free ringside tickets
Posted by ssbg on May 30, 2006
Democrats who have busied themselves painting corruption as an exclusively Republican affair have hit a number of obstacles to that message — Reps. William Jefferson and Alan Mollohan prominent among them. Now the Democrats have to add their own leadership — again — as the Senate Minority Leader has been exposed as taking favors from a notoriously corrupt industry while he intervened on their behalf:
Senate Democratic Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.) accepted free ringside tickets from the Nevada Athletic Commission to three professional boxing matches while that state agency was trying to influence him on federal regulation of boxing.Reid took the free seats for Las Vegas fights between 2003 and 2005 as he was pressing legislation to increase government oversight of the sport, including the creation of a federal boxing commission that Nevada's agency feared might usurp its authority.
He defended the gifts, saying that they would never influence his position on the bill and he was simply trying to learn how his legislation might affect an important home state industry. "Anyone from Nevada would say I'm glad he is there taking care of the state's number one businesses," he said. "I love the fights anyways, so it wasn't like being punished," added the senator, a former boxer and boxing judge.
Senate ethics rules generally allow lawmakers to accept gifts from federal, state or local governments, but specifically warn against taking such gifts — particularly on multiple occasions — when they might be connected to efforts to influence official actions. …
Several ethics experts said Reid should have paid for the tickets, which were close to the ring and worth between several hundred and several thousand dollars each, to avoid the appearance he was being influenced by gifts.
In a further blow to efforts to paint corruption as Republican, two GOP Senators also attended fights with Harry Reid. John McCain insisted on paying for his tickets at the retail value ($1400) while Reid's fellow Nevadan, John Ensign, recused himself from participating in Reid's pending legislation.
This follows on Reid's four interventions on behalf of clients of Jack Abramoff, actions which closely coincided with large donations from the tribes Abramoff represented. Reid, some will recall, also accepted campaign assistance from a former aide, Edward Ayoob, after Abramoff hired Ayoob to work as a lobbyist. These revelations get little play from the media (the AP mentions both in this story) and none from Democratic partisans who headline almost everything they can about Jack Abramoff, even though they have been known for a year. They excuse this and a number of other Abramoff recipients by rationalizing that Abramoff donated more money personally to Republicans, even though he directed his clients to donate tens of thousands of dollars to Senators Reid and Tom Daschle, Reps. Patrick Kennedy and Dick Gephardt, and at least in the case of Reid in conjunction with specific interventions on their behalf.
Now Reid has been caught taking favors on behalf of an industry with an embarrassing past and a not-much-improved present. I enjoy boxing, but no one who has watched the sport believes that its alphabet soup of associations play straight, nor does the judging always raise its credibility above the level of professional wrestling. Reid's instinct to regulate the sport has a rational basis, even if it would be unlikely to improve anything more than boxer safety. Accepting several thousands of dollars worth of tickets while actively pursuing legislation that would impact this industry is such an obvious ethical violation that Reid's protestations of overreaction are insulting to the intelligence of the voters.
I wrote last year that Democrats would regret their attempts to turn corruption into a partisan campaign issue. That problem relates to power, not party, and corruption affects enough of both parties to require a bipartisan effort to truly contain and end it. Neither party seems willing to commit to such reform, and as long as Democrats continue to screech at corrupt Republicans while excusing the likes of Reid, Kennedy, Jefferson, and Mollohan, then nothing will ever change.