Of course, any book with a title like Peter Schweizer’s, “Extortion: How politicians extract your money, buy votes, and line their own pockets,” which came out about a week ago, has to have a section on Harry Reid.
Schweizer opens that section with a quote from “The Godfather” by Don Corleone, “Do you spend time with your family? Good. Because a man that doesn’t spend time with his family can never be a real man.”
The book then describes a scene at a restaurant hours after Reid was sworn in on Jan. 4, 2005, for his fourth term and became Senate majority leader. “Reid was seated in the quiet backroom of the restaurant. The lobbyists, who represented the largest and most powerful corporations in the world, took turns saying hello to the new leader. ‘It was like a scene out of “The Godfather,”’ one lobbyist told Roll Call. ‘He was in the room and people were lined up to greet him and pay homage.’”
Schweizer then proceeds to list a litany of deals and schemes involving Nevada’s senior senator along with sons Rory, Key and Joshua and son-in-law Steve Barringer. Somehow son Leif escapes scrutiny.
Not much in the book breaks any new ground for those familiar with Reid and his family. The writer leaves out a few familiar names, such as recently convicted Reid campaign cash bundler Harvey Whittemore. Reid’s manipulation of the Legislature to force the premature closure of coal-fired power plants and foist the entire cost on ratepayers was probably too recent to make the book’s deadline.
Schweizer describes Reid’s rise to power as due not to his charisma, good looks and fine speeches — that’s obvious — but to his building of a Washington and Nevada political machine known for being ruthless. He repeats a quote attributed to Reid’s one time chief of staff, Susan McCue, a woman who turned the term media relations into an oxymoron and someone with whom I’ve had the displeasure of the occasional telephonic shouting match.
McCue told a reporter Reid looks at a person’s vulnerabilities to “disarm, to endear, to threaten, but most of all to instill fear.”
The author also quoted Reid pal and former fellow senator, Richard Bryan, as saying Reid “has a memory like a political elephant. You cross him, he’ll never forget that. There will be a price to pay. Certainly there are people who paid the price.” Bryan, who works at the same law firm as most of Reid’s sons have at one time or the other, declined to name names, though I can certainly think of a few.
Schweizer concludes that “Mr. Cleanface” — a name given Reid by mobster Joe Agosto, whom the writer misidentifies as Tony Agosto — “runs the Democrat Party’s toughest family extortion syndicate …”