Ethics complaint against Reid should be updated, but that would get lost, too

Rory and Harry Reid (Graphic by The Daily Caller)

I mentioned back in March that the ethics complaint filed in December against Harry Reid was going nowhere. Little did I realize that the complaint had been sucked into that black hole from which nothing emerges — Democratic politics.

Now we learn that the Senate Ethics Committee says it never received the complaint even though the group that filed it has a receipt dated Dec. 20.

That ethics complaint was filed Dec. 16 by Cause of Action, a group that says it advocates for government accountability.

The complaint accused Reid of using his influence to overturn decisions by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to deny visas to foreigners who planned to lend financial support to the renovation of the Sahara Hotel, the now renamed and reopened SLS. Such EB-5 visas are granted to foreigners who invest more than $500,000 in American projects that create jobs. The agency had turned down the SLS investor visa applications due to “suspicious financial activity.” The decision was ineligible for appeal.

One official reported getting into a shouting match with a Reid staffer over the denial of those visas.

But that Cause of Action complaint was filed before all the chips were on the table. Perhaps Cause of Action should add an addendum to it original complaint outlining a potential quid pro quo between Senate Majority Leader Reid and a high-ranking administration official — though that would probably be lost, too.

You see, four days after that complaint was filed, the Senate voted to confirm the nomination of Alejandro Mayorkas to become the second in command at the Department of Homeland Security. The vote was 54-41. But none of the news stories on the missing complaint mention this little follow up.

Alejandro Mayorkas

Had Reid not just nuked the Senate rules of filibuster the nomination would have failed to achieve the previously required 60 votes.

Mayorkas was confirmed despite the fact he was under investigation at the time for expediting certain visa applications for certain applicants despite the rejection of those visas by career staffers. Among those seeking foreign investors were Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe and the brother of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Anthony Rodham. They were after visas for investors in an energy-efficient car company. Sound familiar?

Sen. Reid made a personal call to Mayorkas, according to the Washington Times, who promised him his agency would take a “fresh look” at the SLS visa request. Soon after that the agency expedited visas for about two dozen foreign SLS investors. The Washington Times reported that Federal Election Commission records show executives for two companies involved in the hotel project had made $127,000 in political donations over the previous three elections, mostly to Democrats.

Let’s recap: Senator asks for a favor. Senator gets favor. Senator changes filibuster rules. Man who granted favor gets promotion he would not have gotten under old filibuster rules.

What a coincidence.

The original Cause of Action complaint said, “Despite the fact that these applications were ineligible for appeal, Senator Reid’s efforts to lobby USCIS resulted in the reconsideration and approval of those applications … Even more troublesome is the fact that Senator Reid’s son, Rory Reid, and his law firm, Lionel, Sawyer & Collins P.C., are legal counsel to the SLS Hotel and Casino.”

Cause of Action points out that the U.S. Senate Code of Official Conduct permits members to assist people with executive branch agencies, but it also says:

“The decision to provide assistance to petitioners may not be made on the basis of contributions or services, or promises of contributions or services, to the Member’s political campaigns or to other organizations in which the Member has a political, personal, or financial interest.”

The complaint also notes that visa recipients are allowed to contribute to political campaigns.

“The American people deserve better,” says the letter from Cause of Action’s Executive Director Daniel Epstein. “It is unfair for politicians to attempt to influence the enforcement of our laws, especially when they — or their close family members — stand to benefit. Even more importantly, such unethical efforts threaten the integrity of our immigration system and our national security.”

The letter concludes by requesting an investigation by the Senate Select Committee on Ethics. Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer chairs the committee that lost that complaint.

This is hardly the first time Reid has been accused of helping friends and family.

Sen. Reid in 2012 pressed NV Energy to purchase power from a solar generating facility that would be built in Laughlin if it could get power contract. The company was ENN Energy Group from China and it was represented by Rory Reid and Lionel, Sawyer.

Reid helped recruit the company to come to Nevada during a trip to China.

ENN obtained county public land for a fraction of appraised value. Rory Reid had been chairman of the County Commission. The project failed and the land reverted to the county, despite the senior Reid’s efforts.

According to Peter Schweizer, writing for Fox News in 2012, “Sen. Reid has sponsored at least $47 million in earmarks that directly benefitted organizations that one of his sons, Key Reid, either lobbies for or is affiliated with.”

With Reid there is a target rich environment, though someone seems to keep hiding the targets.

 

SLS is now open.

Footnote: From today’s newspaper about an arena and hotel project: Jackie “Robinson is also looking to line up 600 foreign investors to raise $300 million under the federal ‘EB-5 visa’ program. The program allows investors to receive visas if they invest $500,000 in projects. Robinson has hired an immigration lawyer for this job.” But has he hired Rory Reid?

How hot is it? That depends

Perhaps you heard the news: The earth is on pace to make 2014 the hottest year on record.

It was in all the papers, even made the front page of the Las Vegas newspaper.

NOAA said September, May June and August were the hottest months on record, so the pace is set.

But according to climatologist Roy Spencer it is highly unlikely 2014 will set a record because “thermometers cannot measure global averages — only satellites can. The satellite instruments measure nearly every cubic kilometer – hell, every cubic inch — of the lower atmosphere on a daily basis. You can travel hundreds if not thousands of kilometers without finding a thermometer nearby.”

And never mind that most thermometers are in cities, which are heat sinks of concrete, steel and glass.

Spencer notes:

“In my opinion, though, a bigger problem than the spotty sampling of the thermometer data is the endless adjustment game applied to the thermometer data. The thermometer network is made up of a patchwork of non-research quality instruments that were never made to monitor long-term temperature changes to tenths or hundredths of a degree, and the huge data voids around the world are either ignored or in-filled with fictitious data. …

“As British economist Ronald Coase once said, “If you torture the data long enough, it will confess to anything.”

Besides, even if 2014 does turn out to be the hottest, we are talking about fractions of a degree, an insignificant difference.

 

Think tank pounds its bungstarter and releases torrent of common sense

From the warehouse-sized where-have-I-heard-that-before department comes a piece in The Wall Street Journal by a couple of bean counters for the usually reliably liberal Brookings Institution suggesting that the socialistic means of water distribution doesn’t work.

The writers point out:

“Traditional solutions — diverting more water from rivers, building new reservoirs or drilling additional groundwater wells — are no longer ways to substantially increase the water supply. In a new report for The Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institution, we, along with co-author Peter W. Culp, propose that states use market tools to promote water trading. That is, farmers or other users who reduce their consumption should be allowed to lease or sell the conserved water.

“A major overhaul of Western water law is overdue, but implementing such reform would take years. In the near term, states should authorize short-term leases of water, build basic market institutions, deploy risk-mitigation tools such as dry-year options, and implement basic controls such as regulating how much water can be pumped. The current absence of viable market opportunities and incentives is producing perverse results.”

In November 2011 in a column that has long since disappeared into the ether, I suggested that the best way to allot water was through a free market.

I, of course, quoted Thomas Sowell’s comments from his book “Basic Economics”:

“There is no need for government officials to decide arbitrarily — and categorically — whether it is a good thing or a bad thing for particular crops to be grown in California with water artificially supplied below cost form federal irrigation projects. Such questions can be decided incrementally, by those directly confronting the alternatives, through price competition in a free market.”

Other commentary on this topic:

When it comes to water no one dares speak about free markets and cost competition

Stop thinking of water as a communal property, but as a marketable commodity

Just say no to the rural groundwater grab, once and for all

Nobody seems willing to address the one solution for making water available along the Colorado River

Commentary: Open market would solve water shortage problem

Water grab: The laws of economics trump the state and federal lawful approval

Let them drink whiskey — further blathering on water distribution

In that last one I quote Murray Rothbard, one-time UNLV professor of economics:

“If the government wants to conserve water and lessen its use, all it need do is raise the price. It doesn’t have to order an end to this or that use, set priorities, or decide who should be allowed to drink more than three glasses a day. All it has to do is clear the market, and let people conserve each in his own way and at his own pace.

“In the longer run, what the government should do is privatize the water supply, and let water be supplied, like oil or Pepsi-Cola, by private firms trying to make a profit and to satisfy and court consumers, and not to gain power by making them suffer.”

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

 

Newspaper column redux: No cessation of secessionist feelings

In light of John L. Smith’s musings today on the secessionist spirit that still haunts the land as Nevada approaches its sesquicentennial of statehood — that’s 150 years for those of you in Green Valley — I thought I would repost a newspaper column from November 2012, especially since it has disappeared into the ether in the meantime.

John L. Smith

“A recent Reuters online survey suggests almost one in every four Americans wants to secede from the United States. That includes 34 percent of those surveyed in the Southwest, 26 percent in the Rockies, 25 percent in the Southeast, and 22 percent in the Far West (where Nevada was placed.)” John writes.

“As you might imagine, 53 percent of voters who identify themselves with the Tea Party movement would like to leave the Union. The rest of the nation, I suspect, would spring for the bus fare.”

So here is that newspaper column from two years ago in all its satirical sendup:

Some public relations genius at the Obama White House came up with a foolproof way to engender good will among the little people and make them think their voices are heard. So they created a section on the whitehouse.gov website called We the People where said people could directly “petition” the president over various issues, and, if enough people sign the petition, the president’s staff would reply.

Fools always find a way.

After Obama’s re-election “petitions” started calling for various states to secede from the Union in protest over federal usurpation of powers not enumerated in the Constitution. Louisiana was the first. Texas was the first to reach the requisite 25,000 signers to garner a reply. That’s a poke in the eye with your own stick.

Of course, the petitions have the legal standing and weight of the steam off a pile of fresh manure.

Most of them say: “We petition the Obama administration to: Peacefully grant the State of Arizona (or Louisiana or Texas or Arkansas or Oklahoma) to withdraw from the United States of American and create its own NEW government.” They then quote the Declaration of Independence on how governments are instituted among men and it is the right of the people to alter or abolish them.

The website now has petitions for secession from all 50 states. Nevada has two.

One of those is a cut-and-paste from previous petitions. The other actually spells out reasons Nevada has a right to secede. The version online is shortened due to a word limit. (It has since been scrubbed from the ether.)

I have been provided an unexpurgated version:

“The State of Nevada hereby petitions that it be granted the lawful right to secede from the United States of America and form its own new government as a free and sovereign nation with dominion over all unappropriated land therein and with no obligations to the current federal government.

“Whereas, the State of Nevada was admitted into the union under the presumption and presidential declaration that it would be on equal footing with every other state previously admitted, but was extortion-ately required to include in its charter that all unappropriated lands within the boundaries of the state more than 85 percent of the state be forever placed under the control of the federal government.

“Whereas, the voters of the State of Nevada voted in 1996 to amend the State Constitution to remove the Disclaimer Clause that surrendered said unappropriated land, but the Congress and the President have, in violation of the right to petition said federal government for redress of grievances, ignored the will of the voters.

“Therefore, the people of the State petition to be allowed to peacefully secede from the United States and form its own government except for the County of Clark, which could join California or Arizona because the original statehood ordinance was fraudulent and agreed to under duress, and is thus null and void.

“Therefore, all laws and ordinances by which the State of Nevada became a member of the Union would be repealed and all obligations on the part of the State or the people thereof to observe the same would be withdrawn.”

Now, before you jump on the computer and eagerly sign the petition, you should be warned that the Battle Born State has a Paramount Allegiance Clause in its Civil War-era Constitution and doing so might be construed as sedition.

“All political power is inherent in the people[.] Government is instituted for the protection, security and benefit of the people; and they have the right to alter or reform the same whenever the public good may require it,” it reads. “But the Paramount Allegiance of every citizen is due to the Federal Government… whensoever any portion of the States, or people thereof attempt to secede … the Federal Government may … employ armed force…”

Thus, Nevadans have the God-given right to alter or reform our government but authorize the federal government to bring guns and kill us if we try.

As one-time Nevadan Mark Twain said of writers: “ours is a useful trade, a worthy calling; that with all its lightness and frivolity it has one serious purpose, one aim, one specialty, and it is constant to it the deriding of shams, the exposure of pretentious falsities, the laughing of stupid superstitions out of existence … the natural friend of human rights and human liberties.”

 

Other commentary from the time:

Senseless and futile gesture

White House responds

A call for secession

Creating shams

Drop by next week for another installment of the newspaper column on the sesquicentennial.

Newspaper column: Delusional candidates would rob Peter to pay Paul

Vice President Joe Biden breezed through Nevada one afternoon earlier this month, stopping long enough to pitch the idea of increasing the federal minimum wage 40 percent from $7.25 an hour to $10.10, saying this would not cost jobs and would pump $19 billion into the nation’s economy.

“All of this is disposable income, and it gets straight into the economy,” Biden said, which is utter Keynesian nonsense because it is nothing more than redistributionism, taking money from some pockets and putting it in others.

President Obama has called for raising the minimum wage. Nevada Sen. Harry Reid has repeatedly championed a higher minimum, though our junior Sen. Dean Heller has voted against it.

It is an issue in some of the four congressional races on the ballot, as recounted in this week’s newspaper column, available online at The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News and the Elko Daily Free Press.

Bilbray and Heck take opposite stances on raising minimum wage. (R-J photo)

Asked about the minimum wage issue after his Democratic opponent came out in favor of raising it not to $10.10 but to $15, Republican Rep. Joe Heck, whose 3rd Congressional District covers the southernmost reaches of the state, replied, “The last thing our economy needs is another mandate from Washington that will cost us jobs. Raising the minimum wage will not increase jobs, expand opportunity, or be a silver bullet to reduce poverty. Instead, it will cost mainly young and low-skilled workers the chance to get a start in the working world and learn critical job skills that will help them transition to more gainful employment.”

In fact the Congressional Budget Office has estimated that raising the minimum wage to $10.10 could cost a half a million jobs.

But opponent Erin Bilbray told the Las Vegas newspaper, “I believe this will help the economy and make it stronger. I think when you give the middle class money it helps us all.”

In the 4th Congressional District, covering the southern half of rural Nevada and northern Clark County, Democratic incumbent Steven Horsford has supported the $10.10 minimum pay.

“I don’t support continuing to give corporations and billionaires tax subsidies and tax loop holes when we can’t give minimum wage workers — who make $14,500 — a raise,” Horsford said during a debate with Republican opponent Crescent Hardy.

For his part Hardy shrugged off the issue and replied, “To bring it to $10 an hour — it ain’t no big issue.”

In the 1st Congressional District in urban Las Vegas, incumbent Democrat Dina Titus has issued a statement saying, “I believe that everyone deserves the opportunity to earn a decent wage for a hard day’s work, whether they’re a young worker trying to earn money for college or a single mother supporting a family. In short, the minimum wage is about fairness …”

Republican opponent Dr. Annette Teijeiro replied to an inquiry by saying, “The myth of creating a ‘living wage’ by government fiat is just that, a myth. Artificial government mandates do not create prosperity and in some cases create financial ruin.

“As a small business person, I understand that if my payroll budget is tight then the only way to accommodate a mandated government wage increase is to fire enough workers to afford the increase or to increase the cost of the products and/or services I sell. So the end result of a government mandated minimum wage increase are more payroll taxes paid by the employer and the employee, and less workers to be able to pay for this new expense or higher prices to afford the payroll increase costs.”

In the northernmost part of the state, the 2nd Congressional District, Republican incumbent Mark Amodei in 2013 voted against raising the minimum wage to $10.10 and his Democratic opponent apparently has not made an issue of it.

The facts are on the side of the opponents of raising the minimum wage.

James Sherk, a senior policy analyst in labor economics at the Heritage Foundation, told Congress a year ago that every dollar increase in minimum wage really only raises take-home pay by 20 cents once welfare benefits are reduced and taxes are increased, meaning the $10.10 proposal nets only 57 cents an hour. Sherk noted a number of workers would lose their jobs and go from $7.25 to zero.

Then there are the affects on prices for everyone.

Mark Wilson, writing a policy analysis for Cato Institute, reports that a “comprehensive review of more than 20 minimum wage studies looking at price effects found that a 10 percent increase in the U.S. minimum wage raises food prices by up to 4 percent and overall prices by up to 0.4 percent.”

If raising the minimum wage by 40 percent would pump $19 billion into the nation’s economy, image how the economy would purr like a kitten if Social Security checks next year were raised 40 percent instead of a paltry 1.7 percent. We don’t hear anyone calling for that do we?