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.
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.
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?