Ethics, Harry Reid and a Promise

Article excerpt


By the time Rep. Nancy Pelosi promised "the most honest, the most open and the most ethical Congress in history," a partial picture of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's penchant for questionable real-estate deals was already public, including the fact that Mr. Reid last year hung up on an Associated Press reporter who had the temerity to ask. A lot more is available this week.

Over the weekend, the Los Angeles Times reported that Mr. Reid bought a tract of desert in rapidly developing northern Arizona in 2002 for less than one-tenth the assessor's value from a pension fund controlled by a friend of 50 years, Clair Haycock, a Las Vegas lubricants distributor on whose apparent behalf Mr. Reid has sponsored multiple unsuccessful tries at lubricants-distribution legislation over the years.

Mr. Reid, partial owner of the 160-acre tract for more than 20 years, purchased the equivalent of 60 acres for $10,000, yielding him full control of the parcel. Mr. Reid can now recoup anywhere from $50,000 to $290,000 on that $10,000 investment, estimates show.

Mr. Reid's spokesman insists that the transaction does not constitute a gift. But the sale was almost certainly below fair-market value, probably significantly so. The price works out to $166 an acre.

The context of Mr. Reid's relationship with the Haycock family raises more questions. Since the mid-1990s, Mr. Reid has tried on multiple occasions to push a bill protecting lubricants distributors from contract cancellations by suppliers. …