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Reid Got $1.1M In Shady NV Land Deals

A surprising admission from the DNC's Associated Press:

Reid got $1M in land sale

By JOHN SOLOMON and KATHLEEN HENNESSEY, Associated Press Writers

WASHINGTON – Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid collected a $1.1 million windfall on a Las Vegas land sale even though he hadn't personally owned the property for three years, property deeds show.

In the process, Reid did not disclose to Congress an earlier sale in which he transferred his land to a company created by a friend and took a financial stake in that company, according to records and interviews.

The Nevada Democrat's deal was engineered by Jay Brown, a longtime friend and former casino lawyer whose name surfaced in a major political bribery trial this summer and in other prior organized crime investigations. He's never been charged with wrongdoing — except for a 1981 federal securities complaint that was settled out of court.

Land deeds obtained by The Associated Press during a review of Reid's business dealings show:

–  The deal began in 1998 when Reid bought undeveloped residential property on Las Vegas' booming outskirts for about $400,000. Reid bought one lot outright, and a second parcel jointly with Brown. One of the sellers was a developer who was benefiting from a government land swap that Reid supported. The seller never talked to Reid.

–  In 2001, Reid sold the land for the same price to a limited liability corporation created by Brown. The senator didn't disclose the sale on his annual public ethics report or tell Congress he had any stake in Brown's company. He continued to report to Congress that he personally owned the land.

–  After getting local officials to rezone the property for a shopping center, Brown's company sold the land in 2004 to other developers and Reid took $1.1 million of the proceeds, nearly tripling the senator's investment. Reid reported it to Congress as a personal land sale.

The complex dealings allowed Reid to transfer ownership, legal liability and some tax consequences to Brown's company without public knowledge, but still collect a seven-figure payoff nearly three years later.

Reid hung up the phone when questioned about the deal during an AP interview last week

Senate ethics rules require lawmakers to disclose on their annual ethics report all transactions involving investment properties — regardless of profit or loss — and to report any ownership stake in companies.

Kent Cooper, who oversaw government disclosure reports for federal candidates for two decades in the
Federal Election Commission, said Reid's failure to report the 2001 sale and his ties to Brown's company violated Senate rules.

"This is very, very clear," Cooper said. "Whether you make a profit or a loss you've got to put that transaction down so the public, voters, can see exactly what kind of money is moving to or from a member of Congress."

"It is especially disconcerting when you have a member of the leadership, of either party, not putting in the effort to make sure this is a complete and accurate report," said Cooper. "That says something to other members. It says something to the Ethics Committee."

Other parts of the deal — such as the informal handling of property taxes — raise questions about possible gifts or income reportable to Congress and the IRS, ethics experts said.

Stanley Brand, former Democratic chief counsel of the House, said Reid should have disclosed the 2001 sale and that his omission fits a larger culture in Congress where lawmakers aren't following or enforcing their own rules

SALE HIDDEN FROM CONGRESS

Reid and his wife, Landra, personally signed the deeds selling their full interest in the property to Brown's company, Patrick Lane LLC, for the same $400,000 they paid in 1998, records show.

Despite the sale, Reid continued to report on his public ethics reports that he personally owned the land until it was sold again in 2004. His disclosure forms to Congress do not mention an interest in Patrick Lane or the company's role in the 2004 sale.

AP first learned of the transaction from a former Reid aide who expressed concern the deal hadn't been properly reported.

Reid isn't listed anywhere on Patrick Lane's corporate filings with Nevada, even though the land he sold accounted for three-quarters of the company's assets…

Reid's two lots were never owned by the government, but the piece of land joining Reid's property to the street corner — a key to the shopping center deal — came from the government in 1994.

One of the sellers was Fred Lessman, a vice president of land acquisition at Perma-Bilt Homes.

Around the time of the 1998 sale, Lessman and his company were completing a complicated federal land transfer that also involved an Arizona-based developer named Del Webb Corp.

In the deal, Del Webb and Perma-Bilt purchased environmentally sensitive lands in the Lake Tahoe area, transferred them to the government and then got in exchange several pieces of valuable Las Vegas land.

Lessman was personally involved, writing a March 1997 letter to Interior lobbying for the deal. "This exchange has been through many trials and tribulations … we do not need to create any more stumbling blocks," Lessman wrote.

For years, Reid also had been encouraging Interior to make land swaps on behalf of Del Webb, where one of his former aides worked.

In 1994, Reid wrote a letter with other Nevada lawmakers on behalf of Del Webb, and then met personally with a top federal land official in Nevada. That official claimed in media reports he felt pressured by the senator. Reid denied any pressure.

The next year, Reid collected $18,000 in political donations from Del Webb's political action committee and employees. Del Webb's efforts to get federal land dragged on.

In December 1996, Reid wrote a second letter on behalf of Del Webb, urging Interior to answer the company's concerns. The deal came together in summer and fall 1997, with Perma-Bilt joining in.

In January 1998 — just days before he bought his land — Reid applauded the Lake Tahoe land transfers, saying they would create the "gateway to paradise."

Clark County intended for the property Reid owned to be used solely for new housing, records show. Just days before Reid sold the parcels to Brown's company, Brown sought permission in May 2001 to rezone the properties so a shopping center could be built.

Career zoning officials objected, saying the request was "inconsistent" with Clark County's master development plan. The town board in Spring Valley, where Reid's property was located, also voted 4-1 to reject the rezoning.

Brown persisted. The Clark County zoning board followed by the Clark County Commission voted to overrule the recommendation and approve commercial zoning. Such votes were common at the time.

Before the approval in September 2001, Brown's consultant told commissioners that Reid was involved. "Mr. Brown's partner is Harry Reid, so I think we have people in this community who you can trust to go forward and put a quality project before you," the consultant testified.

With the rezoning granted, Patrick Lane pursued the shopping center deal. On Jan. 20, 2004, the company sold the property to developers for $1.6 million. Today, a multimillion dollar retail complex sits on the land.

On Jan. 21, 2004, Reid received more than $1.1 million of the sale proceeds. Reid disclosed the money the following year on his Senate ethics report as a personal sale of land, not mentioning Patrick Lane

Brown's name has surfaced in federal investigations involving organized crime, casinos and political bribery since the 1980s.

This past summer, federal prosecutors introduced testimony at the bribery trial of former Clark County Commission chairman Dario Herrara that Brown had taken money from a Las Vegas strip club owner to influence the commission. Herrara was convicted of taking kickbacks. Brown was never called as a witness…

Tell us more about "Honest Leadership," Mr. Reid.

Reid hung up the phone when questioned about the deal during an AP interview last week…

That’s your "open government" right there.

I didn’t realize that politicians were allowed to speculate in the real estate market.

Or do such proscriptions only apply to those hopelessly corrupt Republicans?

Speaking of which, lest we forget, here is Senator Reid on his moral high horse just last December, courtesy of the (then elated) Associated Press:

Reid: Congress ‘most corrupt in history’

Senate Democratic leader blasts Republican-led Congress

Dec 22, 2005

WASHINGTON – Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid called the Republican-led Congress "the most corrupt in history" Sunday, and distanced himself from Jack Abramoff, a powerful lobbyist at the center of an escalating probe…

Reid, like many members of Congress, Democrats and Republicans, has received campaign contributions from Abramoff clients. Some lawmakers have returned those donations, but Reid gave no indication he would do so…

"America can do better than what we’ve done," said Reid. "The most corrupt Congress in the history of the country. We have such significant problems with what’s going on in this country." …

"I feel totally at ease that I haven’t done anything that is even close to being wrong," Reid said.

Right.

As we have reported sever times, Harry Reid received sums (at least $68,000) from Abramoff that dwarfed what Tom Delay received ($15,000). And, unlike Delay, Reid even refused to give the filthy lucre back.

And now we find out that he has been dabbling in a little real estate on the side as well.

How perfect.

This article was posted by Steve Gilbert on Wednesday, October 11th, 2006. Comments are currently closed.

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