Reid unapologetic about violating ethics rules to help Las Vegas company

Being Harry Reid means never having to say you are sorry.

Reid not only is calling the whistleblowers who complained to the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security about his meddling in decisions about whether to expedite visas to foreign investors in a Las Vegas hotel casino whiners but bragged that he would do it all over again.

“One of the problems we have with government … is people take too long to make decisions,” Reid is quoted as saying.

Harry Reid (Screen grab from YouTube)

In this case, the decision had been made, and it was: No, the visas would not be expedited and the urgency was one created by the hotel-casino, not by the government, according to the IG report. The Washington Times reported at the time that Homeland Security had denied visas for some of those investors from Asia because of “suspicious financial activity.” That decision was ineligible for appeal.

Reid personally called Alejandro Mayorkas, the head of immigration services at the time, and demanded the visas be expedited and that his staff be given a weekly update. Mayorkas did so. He since has been promoted to the No. 2 post at Homeland Security, even though his nomination did not get the 60 votes that would have been needed before Harry nuked the filibuster.

Reid neglects to mention that at the time of his intersession his son Rory’s law firm was representing the company in question SLS, formerly the Sahara.

Cause of Action filed an ethics complaint against Reid mentioning this minor fact.

“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 …” the complaint says, adding that the recipients of the investments were major contributors to the Democratic Party and Democratic candidates. “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.”

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.

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?

Investigations of Reid going nowhere fast

That story in the Washington Times about the Justice Department thwarting efforts to investigate allegations of wrongdoing by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Utah Sen. Mike Lee reminds me that it has been three months since an ethics complaint was filed against Reid.

That too has gone nowhere.

In fact, I can’t find a single reference to the complaint in any Nevada news outlet.

According to the Times, Justice’s public integrity section rejected FBI agents’ efforts to seat a federal grand jury and subpoena witnesses.

Sens. Harry Reid and Mike Lee

Among the allegations against Reid is that money from online poker advocates prompted him to do an about-face on his opposition to online poker and come out in favor of it shortly after his re-election in 2010. He even introduced a bill to legalize online poker, though it has not gone anywhere.

A Utah newspaper last year published a recorded conversation between businessman Jeremy Johnson, who is under a federal indictment, and one-time Utah Attorney General John Swallow following a 2010 fundraiser at which Reid announced his support of online poker.

Johnson told Swallow after Reid left that he pulled aside an online poker backer and asked about the change in stance by Reid.

Johnson asked the person, “How in the hell did you guys get him to do that?”

The backer reportedly said, “Let’s just say he got a little something in his retirement fund.”

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

The complaint accuses 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, now renamed the SLS. Such 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.

Alejandro Mayorkas

“This one is going to be a major headache for us all because Sen. Reid’s office/staff is pushing hard and I just had a long yelling match on the phone,” that official wrote in an email. That official was later called by Reid himself, seeking the help of the agency’s head,  Alejandro Mayorkas.

Soon after that the agency expedited visas for about two dozen foreign 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.

“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 …” the complaint says. “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 that committee.

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.

Had Reid not just changed the Senate rules 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 now-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.

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 visa request. Soon after, visas were expedited. Hotel project had groundbreaking. Senator changed filibuster rules for presidential nominees so only a simple majority was required. Mayorkas won confirmation on a simple majority vote.

What a coincidence.

And surely it is merely a coincidence that nothing has come of the complaint or the Utah investigation or the fact no Nevada news outlet is reporting on either.

Perhaps ethics complaint against Reid should be updated

I mentioned the other day that a conservative-leaning watchdog group had filed a letter of complaint with the Senate ethics panel concerning acts by Nevada senior Sen. Harry Reid that constituted a conflict of interest.

The group, Cause of Action, pointed out that Reid and his staff urged the head of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to grant special EB-5 visas to a group of Asians planning to invest in the renovation of the old Sahara Hotel, now called SLS Las Vegas. Such visas are granted to foreigners who invest more than $500,000 in American projects that create jobs. The agency had turned down the visa applications due to “suspicious financial activity.” Though that decision was ineligible for appeal, the head of the agency reversed it.

Alejandro Mayorkas

Cause of Action noted that Reid’s son Rory and his law firm, Lionel, Sawyer & Collins are legal counsel to SLS and Senate rules demand that senators avoid conflicts of political, personal or financial interest.

Perhaps, Cause of Action should amend its letter. Four days after filing the complaint, the Senate voted to confirm the nomination of the head of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Alejandro Mayorkas, to become the second in command at the Department of Homeland Security. The vote was 54-41.

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

Mayorkas was confirmed despite the fact he was under investigation at the the time for — wait for it —  expediting EB-5 visa applications for certain applicants despite the rejection of those visas by career staffers. Among those seeking foreign investors were now-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.

Do you see a pattern?

Career staffers reject visas for foreign investors in a Las Vegas hotel project represented by the senator’s son. The senator makes a personal call to Mayorkas, according to an email obtained by The Washington Times, and Mayorkas promises the senator his agency would take a “fresh look” at the visa request. Fresh look results in visas being expedited. Hotel project has groundbreaking. Senator changes filibuster rules for presidential nominees so only a simple majority is required. Fresh looker wins confirmation on a simple majority vote.

The Latin term is quid pro quo, something for something.

So far as I can find, no Las Vegas news media outlet has bothered to report on the ethics complaint against Reid, which was filed in mid-December.

Perhaps the state Gaming Control Board should investigate the SLS foreign investors’ “suspicious financial activity.”

Harry Reid accused of violating code of conduct … so what’s new?

A year ago the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that the owners of the Sahara hotel, now renamed SLS Las Vegas, had obtained the last piece of the $415 million in financing needed to renovate the Strip resort.

The story included a statement from Nevada’s senior senator, Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who said the investment in SLS “will create thousands of jobs, infuse millions into the local economy, and help bring new energy to the north end of the Strip.” It went on to say that Reid said he has supported the project “from the outset and am so pleased that SLS Las Vegas is officially breaking ground.”

Sahara to become SLS (R-J photo)

Just how supportive Reid was came out in December in an exclusive story from The Washington Times, which reported that Homeland Security had denied visas for some of those investors from Asia because of “suspicious financial activity.” That decision was ineligible for appeal.

According to the Times account, one U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services official reported getting into a shouting match with a Reid staffer over the denial of those visas.

“This one is going to be a major headache for us all because Sen. Reid’s office/staff is pushing hard and I just had a long yelling match on the phone,” that official wrote in an email. That official was later called by Reid himself, seeking the help of the agency’s head,  Alejandro Mayorkas.

Soon after that the agency expedited visas for about two dozen foreign investors. The 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.

Less than a week after the Times report, though it has gone largely unreported until Watchdog.org picked up on it, Cause for Action filed an ethics complaint against Reid.

“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 …” the complaint says, adding that the recipients of the investments were major contributors to the Democratic Party and Democratic candidates. “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 points out 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.

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.”

And are just the latest allegations. With Reid there is a target rich environment.