Harry Reid to the Rescue

Political action committee aligned with Senate majority leader leaps to Democratic senate candidate Rep. Shelley Berkley’s defense

Rep. Shelley Berkley / AP
August 16, 2012

A secretive political action committee founded to help Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D, Nev.) in his tough 2010 reelection campaign is running attack ads against the Republican opponent of Democratic Senate candidate Shelley Berkley.

Patriot Majority, an "anti-Tea Party group" that played a key role in reelecting Harry Reid, was founded by Democratic strategist Craig Varoga and is linked to Susan McCue, Reid’s former Chief of Staff and a former ProgressNow Education board member.

Patriot Majority receives millions of dollars in funding from unions such as the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and from software billionaire Tim Gill, a co-founder of George Soros’ secretive Democracy Alliance.

The PAC launched its first round of ads this summer, attacking Berkley’s Republican opponent, incumbent Sen. Dean Heller (R, Nev.). The television spots purport to detail Heller’s record on Medicare, but are more heavily focused on the Medicare proposal contained in the House Budget.

The Heller campaign calls Patriot Majority a "Harry Reid front group" that is peddling falsehoods.

Patriot Majority’s most recent anti-Heller Medicare ad launched July 9—the same day the House Ethics Committee voted unanimously to investigate Berkley for allegedly influencing federal regulators "in ways that favored the business interests of her husband."

Entitled "Disastrous," the ad accuses Heller of voting to "end Medicare as we know it." Heller supported the House budget as a congressman and voted for it again in the Senate in May 2011, where it died 57-40.

A previous Patriot Majority ad from June, entitled "Jimmie and Dexter," profiled an elderly Nevada couple enjoying the "Medicare they earned" and criticizing Heller for voting to "essentially end Medicare."

The Heller campaign pointed out that Jimmie and Dexter, the two individuals profiled in the ad, are over the age of 55, and thus would not be affected by the Republican Medicare reforms.

However, Berkley has voted in favor of deep Medicare cuts.

Berkley voted for a 2 percent cut to Medicare during Budget Control Act sequestration—a cut of $140 billion over ten years to the federal health care program.

Berkley also voted in favor of Obamacare, which includes $200 billion in cuts to private Medicare plans, and which could affect the Medicare Advantage benefits of 110,000 people in the state of Nevada, according to a report by the Hill.

Heller, on the other hand, voted against Medicare cuts in the first session of the 110th Congress, the second session of the 111th Congress, and the first session of the 112th Congress.

The Patriot Majority Medicare ads began airing on television stations in northern Nevada before spreading to the Greater Las Vegas area—Berkley’s home region, and the base of her political support.

Reid is Berkley’s chief sponsor in the U.S. Senate race, and experts say Reid’s fundraising help has kept Berkley afloat.

Berkley has received 60 percent—$2.4 million out of $3.9 million—of her funding this election cycle from out-of-state donors in cities such as Los Angeles, New York, Washington, D.C., and Chicago. Berkley has received most of her in-state funding from Las Vegas.

"The people who finance elections come from a very few number of ZIP codes," UNLV political science professor David Damore told the Las Vegas Sun on July 26. "In general, people who give aren’t just giving to their local election, they’re giving across the board. ... It helps to have Reid there saying, ‘This is my candidate. This is what I need to win this.’"

The Berkley campaign did not return a request for comment.