How did Harry Reid get rich?
Betsy Woodruff, NRO:
In 2004, the senator made $700,000 off a land deal that was, to say the least, unorthodox. It started in 1998 when he bought a parcel of land with attorney Jay Brown, a close friend whose name has surfaced multiple times in organized-crime investigations and whom one retired FBI agent described as “always a person of interest.” Three years after the purchase, Reid transferred his portion of the property to Patrick Lane LLC, a holding company Brown controlled. But Reid kept putting the property on his financial disclosures, and when the company sold it in 2004, he profited from the deal — a deal on land that he didn’t technically own and that had nearly tripled in value in six years.
When his 2010 challenger Sharron Angle asked him in a debate how he had become so wealthy, he said, “I did a very good job investing.” Did he ever. On December 20, 2005, he invested $50,000 to $100,000 in the Dow Jones U.S. Energy Sector Fund (IYE), which closed that day at $29.15. The companies whose shares it held included ExxonMobil, ChevronTexaco, and ConocoPhillips. When he made a partial sale of his shares on August 19, 2008, during congressional recess, IYE closed at $41.82. Just a month later, on September 17, Reid was working to bring to the floor a bill that the Joint Committee on Taxation said would cost oil companies — including those in the fund — billions of dollars in taxes and regulatory fees. The bill passed a few days later, and by October 10, IYE’s shares had fallen by 42 percent, to $24.41, for a host of reasons. Savvy investing indeed.
Here’s another example: The Los Angeles Timesreported in November 2006 that when Reid became Senate majority leader he committed to making earmark reform a priority, saying he’d work to keep congressmen from using federal dollars for pet projects in their districts. It was a good idea but an odd one for the senator to espouse. He had managed to get $18 million set aside to build a bridge across the Colorado River between Laughlin, Nev., and Bullhead City, Ariz., a project that wasn’t a priority for either state’s transportation agency. His ownership of 160 acres of land nearby that stood to appreciate considerably from the project had nothing to do with the decision, according to one of his aides. The property’s value has varied since then. On his financial-disclosure forms from 2006, it was valued at $250,000 to $500,000. Open Secrets now lists it as his most valuable asset, worth $1 million to $5 million as of 2010.
How Reid acquired that land is interesting, too. He put $10,000 into a pension fund his friend Clair Haycock controlled, to take over the 160-acre parcel at a price far below its assessed value. Six months later, Reid introduced legislation that would help Haycock’s industry, a move many observers said appeared to be a quid pro quo, though Reid and Haycock denied that the legislation was the result of a property deal.
We don’t know how much more money Reid has or how he made all of it. For that, we’d have to see his tax returns.
What makes this article so cute is also what makes it so galling: we know that, at best, these “revelations” will only serve to embarrass Reid temporarily, or perhaps provide fodder for political opponents. Beyond that, the facts carry with them an air of fatalism — a “that’s just how things are done in DC” tenor that has resigned itself to the fact that of course nothing will ever be done legally to look into Reid’s dealings, or to the dealings of any of these politicians who grow rich on insider schemes or by pushing legislation as a quid pro quo for sweetheart arrangements.
Sorry, but I find that unacceptable. Time was when we — the governed, for whom these public servants ostensibly work — would have tarred and feathered the thieving scum enriching themselves at our expense and in our names, then run them out of town on a rail. Nowadays, this kind of thing — though cast as unacceptable — is nevertheless routinely accepted. We grouse about it, but nothing is done to stop it — and worse, we have resigned ourselves to the notion that doing nothing to punish such behavior is itself a part of the status quo that can’t be challenged.
Just because lawmakers are able to write laws exempting themselves from prosecution in many cases doesn’t mean we have to accept the validity of those laws.
Want to start taking back the country? Start by tearing away the layers of immunity lawmakers grant themselves.