Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Dean: Harry Reid is in Big Trouble

Per Howard Dean, the highest Democrat in office, Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), is in big trouble for his interaction with Jack Abramoff and Abramoff's Indian tribe clients.

So said he on Fox News Sunday yesterday, per this post. When asked his opinion if it were found that Democrats had written letters on behalf of Indian tribes who Abramoff represented, Dean replied: "That's a big problem, and those Democrats are in trouble, and they should be in trouble."

Per this article in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Harry Reid should be in big trouble. On March 5, 2002, Reid among other Senators, wrote Interior Secretary Gale Norton to,


reject an application from the Jena Band of Choctaw Indians, which was seeking to open a casino outside its Louisiana reservation.

An Abramoff client fighting the Jena casino, the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana, donated $5,000 to Reid's political action committee, the Searchlight Leadership Fund, the next day, according to The Associated Press report.



The timing of the payment is indeed uncanny. Of course, it is dismissed as a Senator from a gambling state trying to defend his state's interest in this industry by keeping legalized gambling limited. And that may be true, but by the standards used by Reid, Howard Dean and others, Reid is in no small degree of trouble. Further, his refusal to refund the money to avoid the appearance of impropriety seems not to be in the interests of cleaning up the ethical concerns in Washington.

Interestingly, this is the same Senator Reid who was reported in the Washington Note.com for having rejected a bipartisan ethics reform proposal:

Senator Reid shared with us that just that day an unnamed Democratic Senator had come to him with a proposal on "ethics reform" ala Abramoff that could be bi-partisan. Reid told this person that this was the wrong time to be engaged in construtive "reform" proposals with the other side. He said that this was the time to draw a line and to show how "our side" differed dramatically from "their side."

He is not so interested in reform as he is a political gotcha. And while I'm sure that there are innocent explanations for Reid's behavior vis a vis the Indian tribes and receipt of funds, Reid advancing ethics reform at this point is a bit like Bill Clinton advancing a workplace sexual harassment law.

And now, Tom Harkin has his hands in the Abbramoff matter. He claims that despite hosting two fundraisers in Abramoff's box at the MCI center (for which he failed to properly account), he never met Abramoff. Which leads me to believe that he found the door to the box open and just set up an impromptu fundraiser there.

Harkin is probably fine, but the curious denials do little more than invite investigation. Of course, what it really goes to show is that not all interaction with Abramoff was bad, and that good people may have gotten innocently caught up in it. But I doubt that the Democrats will be so generous to likewise innocent Republicans who find themselves likewise caught in the net. And while there may be innocent explanations for all of it, Dean's rhetoric has left little wiggle room for the Democrats.

ADDENDUM

For more details on the names in the Abramoff scandal check this Wilipedia article which lists all individuals, Republican and Democrat, who are known to have taken money or favors from Abramoff. It is the best thing I have seen so far that tracks the players and references the sources.

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