Reid to Amend Ethics Reports To Fully Account For Land Deal

By Jonathan Weisman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) announced yesterday that he will amend four years of ethics reports to Congress to more fully explain a real estate transaction that allowed him to collect $1.1 million in 2004.

At the same time, he said he will personally reimburse his political campaign $3,300 that his campaign fund contributed for the Christmas bonuses of support staff at the Ritz-Carlton in Washington, where he lives.

The actions, prompted by reports by the Associated Press, are proving to be a headache for Democrats as they press their case that Republicans have succumbed to a "culture of corruption." The land deal, in particular, has brought comparisons to a real estate transaction last year that netted House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) $2 million. In both cases, congressional leaders reaped significant windfalls from land that was purchased in rapidly growing regions and then sold as part of ventures that appear to have obscured the lawmakers' involvement.

Reid spokesman Jim Manley dismissed any comparison, saying Reid noted ownership of the land on his financial disclosure forms. But in his amended ethics statements, he will also note that he transferred ownership to a limited liability corporation in 2001. Subsequent disclosure statements will list ownership under the company's name, Patrick Lane LLC.

"The fact is that this case is simple," Manley said. "He bought the land. He sold the land, and he fully reported that he owned it. Now he's going to go above and beyond all the requirements to ensure the facts are clear for all to see."

Manley said the profit on the deal was about $700,000, after Reid's initial $400,000 investment is subtracted from the amount of the sale.

The Associated Press reported last week that Reid gained the 2004 windfall even though he had not owned the property for the previous three years. Reid had not divulged the 2001 transfer of the land to Patrick Lane LLC, which he co-owned with Jay Brown, a friend and former casino owner.

On the Ritz-Carlton Christmas fund, Reid aides denied any wrongdoing. They said the staff of the hotel, where Reid lives in a condominium, frequently has the burden of additional work because of Reid's political activities. Doormen, valets and other staff members are called on to deal with a stream of visitors and political events.

On advice of counsel, Reid said, he gave the Ritz-Carlton Christmas fund $600 in 2002, $1,200 in 2004 and $1,500 in 2005 from his reelection campaign. Federal election law bars candidates from using political donations for personal use. Reid said he did no such thing but will reimburse his campaign "to prevent this issue from being used in the current campaign season to deflect attention from Republican failures."

© 2006 The Washington Post Company