Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) is in trouble with the Federal Election Commission over his campaign’s purchase of more than $16,000 worth of "holiday gifts" (for donors) from a Berkeley, Calif., jewelry vendor who also happens to be Reid’s granddaughter.
Reid has agreed to reimburse his campaign for the purchase, which the Reid office claims consisted of "coasters, picture frames and other trinkets" valued around $50 each. Yet questions remain:
The Washington Post has asked Reid’s campaign precisely what kind of gifts the money was used to purchase. The campaign has yet to respond to multiple inquiries.
Paul Ryan, an election lawyer at the Campaign Legal Center, said "you’d need to buy a heck of a lot of gifts of ‘nominal’ value to spend $16,000."
"I’d consider anything over $25 or $30 to be pushing the limits of ‘nominal value,’" Ryan said.
Just don’t try to ask Reid about it, because he gets pretty angry.
You’ll be shocked to learn that this is not Reid’s first run-in with the FEC. In 2006, Reid used campaign funds to pay out bonuses to the staff at the Ritz-Carlton where he resides in Washington, D.C. (It is illegal under federal election law to use campaign funds for personal use.) Here's an Associated Press story that contains additional examples of Reid’s general shadiness:
Questioned about the campaign expenditures by The Associated Press, Reid's office said Monday his lawyers had approved them but he nonetheless was personally reimbursing his campaign for the $3,300 he had directed to the staff holiday fund at his residence. His office said he got the money to buy the Ritz condo from an earlier house sale.
Reid also announced he was amending his ethics reports to Congress to more fully account for a Las Vegas land deal — highlighted in an AP story last week — that allowed him to collect $1.1 million in 2004 for property he hadn't personally owned in three years.
In that matter, the senator hadn't disclosed to Congress that he first sold land to a friend's limited liability company back in 2001 and took an ownership stake in the company. He collected the seven-figure payout when the company sold the land again in 2004 to others.
Reid portrayed the 2004 sale as a personal sale of land, not mentioning the company's ownership or its role in the sale.
Meanwhile, Reid continues to attack libertarian philanthropists Charles and David Koch for allegedly using their wealth and status to enrich themselves and those around them. Keep it up, Harry!