Magazine article USA TODAY

Harry Reid's Second Job as a Cattle Rustler

Magazine article USA TODAY

Harry Reid's Second Job as a Cattle Rustler

Article excerpt

"[The Senate Majority Leader] epitomizes the worst in politics today, as he employs his public office for private gain, and is willing to destroy the lives of others to advance his interests, as well as to use the clout of his office to influence the conduct and actions of [the Bureau of Land Management]."

YOU MIGHT SAY Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D.-Nev.) is a family man. He likes to use public office to benefit his family at the expense of yours. Reuters reporter Marcus Stem discovered Reid's family connections when investigating an odd set of circumstances that tie Reid to the Bureau of Land Management and Cliven Bundy, a 67-year-old rancher whose property near Bunkerville, Nev., is in the way of Reid family plans for the Gold Butte region.

Reid says that the fight between BLM and Bundy is not over. He should know. The director of BLM is none other than Neil Kornze, Sen. Reid's former senior policy advisor on land-use issues (2003-11), who has no prior experience in Federal land management, but Reid often has described him as "perfect for the job." Indeed, perfect for Harry Reid.

Kornze's decision to call off the cattle seizure and to stand down rather than complete the confiscation conveniently saved Reid from an enormous political embarrassment. There is nothing like a massive bloodbath in Nevada precipitated by a Reid family land-grab to stoke political flames enough to consume Reid's weak popularity in short order. Reid knows that there is more than one way to skin a cat, and so now BLM has turned to litigation as its way of obtaining judgments against Bundy that BLM hopes will force Bundy to turn over his ranch as payment.

Reid has a long history of involvement with BLM, peddling his influence there to achieve benefits for his family and friends. Reid worked with BLM to change the boundaries of the desert tortoise's habitat to accommodate the planned development of a top financial donor, Harvey Whittemore. You see, the desert tortoise is a justification against development only for those who are not politically connected to Reid. Whittemore gave Reid and Reid's Political Action Committee $45,000. If Bundy were a Reid financial backer, his fate well might be different.

Among the reasons posited by BLM in justification for its decision to seize Bundy's cattle were two: protection of the desert tortoise's habitat and the need for a cattle-free desert to permit creation of a solar panel project for clean energy generation. The desert tortoise excuse is laughable to those resident in the Gold Butte region because they know that the few remaining ranches form oases in an otherwise barren desert that actually help keep the tortoises alive. BLM efforts to turn the ranches back to desert likely would reduce tortoise populations by depriving them of ready access to irrigated and green areas in and around the ranches.

Moreover, the tortoise thrives in Las Vegas--and, in fact, even is considered a nuisance by many there--and it was BLM, not Bundy, that euthanized hundreds of them when BLM closed the Desert Tortoise Conservation Center. BLM elected not to dedicate funds to the project and, rather than free the tortoises into the surrounding environment, BLM killed them. Quite obviously, those with political clout not only get to push the desert tortoise around, they get to kill the tortoise, but those who have no beef with the tortoise but also no ins with the Reid family, like Bundy, can be accused of harming the desert tortoise (without proof) and lose their property as a consequence.

As Stern reports, BLM's second justification for seizing Bundy's cattle and driving him out of business comes straight out of Reid's playbook: "Reid and his oldest son, Rory, are both involved in an effort by a Chinese energy giant, ENN Energy Group, to build a $5,000,000,000 solar farm and panel manufacturing plant in the southern Nevada desert. Reid has been one of the project's most prominent advocates, helping recruit the company during a 2011 trip to China and applying his political muscle on behalf of the project. …

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