Reid hit with ethics com­plaint on casino in­vestors

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY DAVID SHERFINSKI

A con­ser­va­tive-lean­ing watch­dog group has filed an ethics com­plaint against Se­nate Ma­jor­ity leader Harry Reid, ac­cus­ing him of vi­o­lat­ing the cham­ber’s code of con­duct by push­ing to help a po­lit­i­cally con­nected Las Ve­gas casino project get visas for for­eign in­vestors.

The com­plaint, filed with the Se­nate Se­lect Com­mit­tee on Ethics by Cause of Ac­tion, is based in part on a Wash­ing­ton Times in­ves­ti­ga­tion last year. That in­ves­ti­ga­tion found that af­ter pres­sure from Mr. Reid and his staff, the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion over­ruled ca­reer Home­land Se­cu­rity of­fi­cials and ex­pe­dited visa ap­pli­ca­tions for about two dozen for­eign in­vestors for the casino.

D.C.-based Cause of Ac­tion ar­gues in a let­ter to the Se­nate ethics panel that by urg­ing ex­pe­dited ap­proval of a spe­cific set of visa ap­pli­ca­tions, the Ne­vada Demo­crat may have run afoul of the Se­nate’s Code of Of­fi­cial Con­duct. The com­plaint also notes that Mr. Reid’s son, Rory Reid, and his law firm are le­gal coun­sel to the SLS Ho­tel & Casino.

“The Amer­i­can peo­ple de­serve bet­ter,” wrote Daniel Z. Ep­stein, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Cause of Ac­tion. “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.”

The com­plaint also reignites the de­bate over the EB-5 in­vestor pro­gram, which has been un­der an in­ter­nal depart­ment in­ves­ti­ga­tion. Au­di­tors are look­ing into whether the for­mer head of U.S. Ci­ti­zen­ship and Im­mi­gra­tion Ser­vices, Ale­jan­dro May­orkas, put un­due pres­sure on sub­or­di­nates to ap­prove visa ap­pli­ca­tions be­ing sought by a clean-en­ergy com­pany called Green­Tech co-founded by Terry McAuliffe, who is now Vir­ginia’s gov­er­nor.

The EB-5 pro­gram al­lows for­eign in­vestors to ob­tain le­gal sta­tus in ex­change for pledges to in­vest $500,000 to $1 mil­lion in job-cre­at­ing U.S. com­pa­nies. It has come un­der fire from crit­ics who ar­gue that it isn’t se­lec­tive enough and al­lows wealthy for­eign­ers a leg up in the im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem.

In the case of Mr. Reid, The Times re­ported that de­spite early pres­sure from Mr. Reid’s staff, ca­reer of­fi­cials in­side the Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity ini­tially turned down the SLS Ho­tel ap­pli­ca­tion on the grounds that it failed to meet the cri­te­ria for ex­pe­dited re­view. The de­ci­sion, dated Dec. 17, 2012, stated flatly that “there is no ap­peal or re­con­sid­er­a­tion of this de­ci­sion.”

That sim­ply prompted Mr. Reid to reach out di­rectly to Mr. May­orkas to over­turn the rul­ing, set­ting into mo­tion a process that con­sumed top po­lit­i­cal of­fi­cials in­side the Home­land Se­cu­rity and Com­merce de­part­ments and ul­ti­mately re­sulted in a rul­ing that granted ex­pe­dited sta­tus to the ho­tel over the ob­jec­tions of ca­reer of­fi­cials.

A spokes­woman for Mr. Reid told The Times in De­cem­ber that the se­na­tor “has sup­ported and will sup­port the SLS Las Ve­gas in any way he can.”

“Sen. Reid be­lieves it is his job to do all he can to pro­mote eco­nomic growth and de­vel­op­ment in the state, and he makes no apolo­gies for help­ing to bring jobs to Ne­vada,” spokes­woman Kris­ten Orth­man said.

A spokesman for the ethics com­mit­tee and Chair­woman Bar­bara Boxer, Cal­i­for­nia Demo­crat, said they couldn’t com­ment on the de­tails of any in­ves­ti­ga­tion. The com­plaint, dated Dec. 16, was re­ported Tues­day morn­ing by Watch­

In it, Cause of Ac­tion ques­tions se­na­tors’ ac­cess to de­ci­sion-mak­ers.

“Ca­reer em­ploy­ees at the U.S. Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity, for ex­am­ple, have claimed that ‘top man­agers have given … po­lit­i­cally con­nected ap­pli­cants spe­cial treat­ment,’” Mr. Ep­stein wrote. “Se­na­tor Reid’s full and hon­est dis­clo­sure will help to main­tain pub­lic faith in the in­tegrity of our po­lit­i­cal and le­gal in­sti­tu­tions, avoid sus­pi­cion of the politi­ciza­tion of the ex­ec­u­tive branch, and dis­pel any ap­pear­ance of im­pro­pri­ety amongst mem­bers of the Se­nate.”


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