Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) recommended for powerful federal posts three partners at a Nevada-based firm that donates to a nonprofit run by his current and former aides.
Reid shepherded two judicial nominations through the Senate in 2012 and 2013 for attorneys at the firm of McDonald Carano Wilson. Both were confirmed after Reid fought on their behalf.
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A third partner, U.S. Attorney for Nevada Daniel Bogden, was dismissed from the Justice Department in 2006. Reid led the successful effort to have him reappointed.
McDonald Carano Wilson is a corporate donor to the Clean Energy Project (CEP), a nonprofit founded by Rebecca Lambe, Reid’s top political operative, and Susan McCue, his former Chief of Staff.
Reid has secured billions in subsidies for CEP donors. Reid frequently touts the jobs created by CEP donors to which the he has steered funds.
His work on behalf of McDonald Carano Wilson employees could fuel allegations by ethics groups that CEP donations appear to have helped earn Reid’s legislative backing.
The firm did not respond to requests for comment.
"Are you interested in becoming a judge?" Reid asked partner Andrew Gordon in the summer of 2012, according to a news release from his alma mater. Gordon said he was, and Reid recommended him to President Barack Obama, who nominated Gordon that September.
When Gordon’s nomination for a vacant spot on the U.S. District Court for Nevada came to the Senate floor the next year, Reid heaped on the praise.
"There is no doubt in my mind that Andy Gordon will serve the court well and be one of Nevada’s great judges," Reid said on the Senate floor. "I am looking forward to his confirmation."
He was confirmed by voice vote in March of 2013.
Gordon was the second McDonald Carano Wilson attorney whom Reid helped land a seat on the federal bench. In 2011, he went to bat for Miranda Du, another partner at the firm.
"I was very pleased to recommend this woman [for an appointment] because she is such an experienced litigator and very proud Nevadan," Reid said in a floor speech about her nomination.
Du was confirmed by a vote of 59-39 in March of 2012.
Asked about his advocacy on behalf of McDonald Carano Wilson attorneys, Reid spokesman Adam Jentleson noted that both "received broad bipartisan support."
Du’s family fled Vietnam, where her father had served in the U.S.-allied Army of the Republic, after the war and spent two years in a Malaysian refugee camp before emigrating to Alabama. Du worked her way into the law school at the University of California, Berkeley, and eventually landed a job at McDonald Carano Wilson.
"She has the support of a bipartisan coalition of Nevada officials, including the governor," Republican Brian Sandoval, Reid said in his floor speech.
Nevertheless, Reid’s advocacy on her and Gordon’s behalves marks another example of the senator using his perch in Washington to benefit donors to his former aides’ green energy group.
The numerous instances in which he has done so raises red flags, according to Ken Boehm, chairman of the National Legal and Policy Center, an ethics watchdog.
"It is run by Reid insiders, funded by those who want Reid’s political favors, and there’s a track record of Reid dispensing favors to those who fund it," Boehm told the Washington Free Beacon.
In addition to its donations to CEP, McDonald Carano Wilson has ties to the group’s management. Kathleen Drakulich, a partner at the firm, is a member of the CEP board. She did not respond to a request for comment.
Bogden was one of seven U.S. Attorneys fired from Justice Department in late 2006. Reid and Sen. John Ensign (R., Nev.), who initially recommended his nomination to President Bush, unsuccessfully called for his re-instatement.
Bogden took a position as a McDonald Carano Wilson partner. He worked for the firm for two years until Reid convinced the newly elected Democratic president to renominate Bogden for his old post.
"I just think it is so unfair what happened to him," Reid said at the time.
His re-nomination dovetailed with Democrats’ vehement opposition at the time to everything George W. Bush. However, it also served as another feather in McDonald Carano Wilson’s cap and was used as proof of the organization's clout: The firm repeatedly hyped Bogden’s appointment on its website.