FEC Dismisses Complaint Against Reid

The Associated Press
Friday, March 16, 2007; 9:39 PM

WASHINGTON -- The Federal Election Commission has dismissed a complaint a conservative group filed against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid over his use of campaign money to pay holiday bonuses at the hotel where he lives.

FEC staff concluded that partly because of the small dollar amount involved _ $3,300 _ the complaint did not merit pursuing, according to a report by commission staff released Friday by Reid's office. Based on that report the commission voted Feb. 21 to dismiss the complaint, which was filed by Citizens United, a conservative activist group.

Reid, D-Nev., reimbursed the money to his campaign committee after The Associated Press reported on the matter last October.

He had argued that the payments to the doorman and other support staff at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Washington, where he has a condo, were approved by lawyers and permissible as a gift of nominal value on a special occasion, something he said was permitted under federal election law.

The amounts paid were $600 in 2002, $1,200 in 2004 and $1,500 in 2005.

Citizens United contended the payments from the Friends of Harry Reid campaign account were an unlawful expenditure of campaign money for personal use.

"The total amount of the activity related to the alleged violation at issue is de minimis," FEC legal staff wrote, using a legal term that means trivial. "The Office of General Counsel believes that the commission should exercise its prosecutorial discretion and dismiss the matter."

A Citizens United spokesman said the group was disappointed in the outcome.

"The FEC's decision sends the signal that as long as you're a powerful member of Congress and you only cheat by a few thousand dollars, it's OK," said spokesman Jonathan Rick.

© 2007 The Associated Press