Donor Blames Harry Reid for Low Approval Ratings, Being Out of Touch

Democratic leader comes under fire at private fundraiser for Mark Pryor

Harry Reid
October 2, 2014

A $1,000-per-plate fundraiser with Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor (Ark.) turned into an anti-Harry Reid gripe fest last month, after one donor blamed the majority leader for the Senate’s poor public approval ratings and said the idea of him leading the institution was laughable.

"If you asked a thousand Americans, is this the guy who’s best positioned to lead the U.S. Senate, people would laugh at you," said the donor, according to another attendee and a recording of the event obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

Pryor was speaking at an invitation-only fundraiser in New York to benefit the Democrats for Education Reform Federal PAC on Sept. 21.

During the discussion, an attendee began criticizing Reid, telling Pryor that the Democratic leader held some responsibility for the low approval rating of Congress.

"Let me just interrupt," Pryor said, according to an audio recording that was corroborated by an attendee. "I think possibly the best thing that could happen … to this institution, this election cycle would be if [Senate Minority Leader] Mitch McConnell gets beat and Harry Reid gets replaced."

The rest of Pryor’s comment is drowned out by clapping. A spokesperson for the Pryor campaign did not respond to requests to confirm this statement or questions about his opinion on Reid’s leadership role.

"Okay, so you made my question a lot easier," the attendee told Pryor. "I agree with you 100 percent, because I think there’s a big, forget about partisanship and [inaudible], there’s a generational issue. I just don’t think Harry Reid is in touch with what is happening in modern America on education, the economy, all of these things."

He went on to ask Pryor who would be the best option to succeed Reid as majority leader.

Pryor suggested Sen. Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.), saying he "does a pretty darn good job there in the Senate, and he’s actually, he’s not this crazy wild-eyed, left wing liberal either."

The senator also had favorable words for Sen. Mark Begich (D., Alaska).

"I think Begich is really strong," said Pryor. "You know, he’s green, he’s just running for his first reelection."

He called the leadership role "a full time [job], you have to really focus on that to the exclusion of all the state issues … you really have to devote your life to it. But I think Schumer is pretty much there on that."

Pryor also weighed in on potential replacements for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) if he lost his seat to Democratic candidate Alison Lundergan-Grimes.

"The next guy in line would be [Senate Minority Whip John] Cornyn from Texas," said Pryor. "Cornyn, I don’t see him as really being that great."

Pryor suggested Sen. Richard Burr (R., N.C.), but "I don’t think he’d ever do it."

"Of course the best one would be Sen. Lamar Alexander (R., Tenn.)," he added. "Lamar doesn’t have a chance of doing it, he’s too moderate in this environment."

Earlier this year, Pryor told Politico that he would support Reid staying on as majority leader, although his endorsement was hardly enthusiastic.

"Yeah," said Pryor when asked if he would back Reid. "It’s up to him on whether he wants to do it."

The Republican National Committee later used this to hit Pryor for "ma[king] it clear that, if elected again, his first vote would be for Obama’s best friend—Harry Reid."

Pryor has been pushing back against the Cotton campaign’s effort to portray him as partisan Democrat and a loyal foot soldier for President Barack Obama, who is unpopular in Arkansas.

A donor at the fundraiser also joked that "a lot of the Koch brothers money" was being used to tie Pryor to President Obama in Arkansas.

"Yeah. Eighty-five percent of it," said Pryor.

Pryor’s campaign received a $5,000 contribution from Koch Industries last September, the Weekly Standard reported, and the company has been one of the top 20 contributors to his PAC since 2009.

Pryor was also the top Democratic recipient of Koch Industry contributions in the Senate during the 2012 cycle, taking in $10,000, according to OpenSecrets.