Drinking the Kool-Aid, Rolling the Dice

This is my second in a trilogy of articles on our “Kool-Aid States” — those states with a majority of voters who follow a leader in spite of the information available about the leader’s thinking and philosophy, knowledge of the leader’s character, and/or of the results of the leader’s actions. The three states are California (see “Kool-Aid Country”), Massachusetts and Nevada.

Nevada seemed like a perfect choice.  After all, Nevadans enjoy the highest unemployment rate in the nation and their senator, Harry Reid, has done little for them that hasn’t directly resulted in more power and wealth for Harry Reid (more about this later). To continue to re-elect this guy has got to be a sure sign of a preponderance of Kool-Aid drinkers; especially in light of the aforementioned economic situation, basically the result of decisions made by the Reid/Pelosi Congress and the Obama administration.

But, as I considered it more carefully and continued my research, it seemed obvious that there was something else at work here. For example:

Nevada voters clearly understand the danger of betting on anything but a “sure thing”; there’s no way that any Nevada voter could see Harry Reid as a sure thing.

Sharon Angle led in the polls by three percentage points the day before the election and yet lost by five percentage points; a swing of a eight percentage points in one day. That doesn’t make sense.

President Obama was a major cause of Nevada’s economic problems with his ignorant comment that businesses “can’t go take a trip to Las Vegas … on the taxpayers dime.” Any businessman who continues to support an administration that would cause such devastation to their economy is either a Kool-Aid drinker, or … something else is going on.

How about Harry Reid? How has he fared since becoming a senator from Nevada, and how has he helped the Nevada economy get out of its catastrophic meltdown?

Reid and his family have fared very well indeed (see, How did Harry become rich?). Born poor in Searchlight, Nevada, the son of a Nevada miner, and on the relatively modest salary since becoming a senator, Harry has amassed a fortune of between four and six million dollars (or more). In addition, his sons have also done well, mostly by taking full advantage of having a powerful senator as their father. In this instance, “full advantage” involves some “shady” deals. Here’s some relevant quotes from a Los Angeles Times article (June 23, 2003) by Chuck Neubauer and Richard T. Cooper:

What Reid did not explain was that the bill promised a cavalcade of benefits to real estate developers, corporations and local institutions that were paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in lobbying fees to his sons’ and son-in-law’s firms, federal lobbyist reports show. The Howard Hughes Corp. alone paid $300,000 to the tiny Washington consulting firm of son-in-law Steven Barringer to push a provision allowing the company to acquire 998 acres of federal land ripe for development in the exploding Las Vegas metropolitan area.

The American Gaming Assn. is one of Barringer’s most faithful clients, following him from one firm to another and paying his present firm $180,000 over the last two years.

Beyond Nevada’s largest industries, Sen. Reid has helped a helicopter-tour company fighting new federal flight restrictions around the Grand Canyon. The company used his son-in-law Barringer to lobby on the issue. A chemical company seeking federal money to clean up radioactive waste and a hydrogen-fuel maker looking for a federal contract also got help from Reid. Both hired son Rory to lobby on unrelated issues in Nevada.

Mac Johnson’s article in Human Events (10/17/2006), “Harry Reid’s Real Estate Investing Plan”, provides us with three excellent examples of how Harry Reid’s influence helped Reid, his sons, and friends, much more than it helped the state of Nevada.

In the early 1990s the Del Webb Corporation, wanted to develop some government land outside of Las Vegas. Since the land wasn’t for sale Del Webb needed Reid’s help in order to obtain the land, so they hired a former Reid aide and donated $18,000 to Harry Reid’s campaign fund. Reid “pressured” the Interior Department to allow Del Webb to swap some environmentally valuable land near Lake Tahoe for the environmentally worthless (but commercially valuable) land in Las Vegas. But that didn’t solve the entire problem.

In a remarkable coincidence, land adjoining the above “swapped” land was then sold by a Del Webb partner to … Senator Harry Reid and his partner, Jay Brown. The transaction was at fair market value, Reid later stated. Mr. Brown, described by the Associated Press as a ‘casino lawyer’ whose ‘name has surfaced in federal investigations involving organized crime, casinos and political bribery,’ and Sen. Reid wished to develop the land as a strip mall—which would have a much fairer market value than the land they bought, which was zoned strictly residential.

However, Reid quickly fixed that, but not before he “sold” his share of the land and his name was removed from all the legal documents. The residential land Reid bought for $400,000 was soon sold for $1.1 million (Reid’s part) as a commercial property. It is also interesting that even though he no longer “owned” the land, he still received the $1.1 million windfall.

According to Mac Johnson, the above is nothing compared to the experience of one Harvey Whittemore, a longtime Reid family friend. In fact, all of Reid’s sons have worked for Whittemore, and Reid’s son Lief has been Whittenmore’s personal attorney.

Whittemore inadvertently got a great deal on a 42,832-acre property once intended as a missile test range. The land was a development nightmare, because it was infested with the endangered Desert Tortoise and the entire road frontage along U.S. 93 was blocked by a mile-wide power line corridor leased to the federal government.

Although neither Sen. Reid nor Leif Reid intervened on his behalf, according to Sen. Reid, the Bureau of Land Management gave Whittemore clear title to a 10,000-acre rent-free lease constituting the Desert Tortoise Preserve in the middle of the site, in exchange for 10,000 acres on the eastern edge of the 5-mile by 13-mile tract.”

The tortoises were expected to make the move to their new preserve.

The federal power corridor was a bigger problem. But after Sen. Reid inserted a measure into a federal land bill opening up the property across the highway for the corridor, then repeatedly inserted a provision into bills to move the corridor across the highway, that pesky 15-square-mile corridor just disappeared. Eventually, Johnson notes, Whittemore was forced to pay the $10.4 million that government appraisers said the change was actually worth.

But that was still a bargain, since together the federal changes to the corridor and the Desert (and Mountain) Tortoise habitat freed up more than 20,000 acres of highway-accessible real estate for a development that will eventually include 159,000 homes, 16 golf courses (several by Jack Nicklaus), and all the associated strip malls this new city will require.

In every instance, Reid made sure that the proper decisions were made, legislation passed to allow friends and associates to be able to do what they want, when they want, and where they want, regardless of government regulations.

“I have done, I think, everything I can to protect myself and to protect my boys,“ Reid told the Los Angeles Times on June 23, 2003

So, this is how Harry Reid helps the citizens of Nevada. Or, more accurately, a few favored citizens of that great state.

These facts, and others not mentioned, point to the potential of a number of “Kool-Aid drinker” voters in Nevada, but this doesn’t explain the support of the major gambling corporations in both Las Vegas and Reno. Why would they support a committed member of the Obama administration after the treatment that they received by Obama essentially ordering corporations to quit spending their money on trips to Las Vegas?

We know very little about what happened to cause the gambling establishments to go so far as to insist that all of their employees immediately go and vote for Harry Reid. We do know, however, that the union was providing shuttle buses to take employees to their voting sites and possibly made it clear on the way whom they were to vote for.

Management was intimately involved in this process, a unnamed supervisor (fear of reprisal) stated,

“[T]he pressure from upper management was ‘disturbing.’ We were asked to talk to people individually to find out why they had not yet voted and to fill in these spreadsheets explaining why,” the employee said. “I did not feel comfortable doing that.

“It put me in a very awkward position,” the employee added, saying the level of coordination between Harrah’s upper management, the culinary union, and the Reid campaign was ‘disgusting.’

There seems little doubt that the Reid campaign illegally coordinated with the union and Harrah’s Casino to force employees to vote for Reid, and to cooperate in every way possible to get the vote out. This is obvious from a memo Harrah’s received from the Reid campaign.

“… the problem seems to be with mid-level supervisors. They simply are not cooperating and listening to upper management.

“Culinary has more money for buses and can back load extra buses on Thursday and Friday and increase the number of runs. However, this means you have to put a headlock on your supervisors to get them to follow through.

“PLEASE … PLEASE tell me how I can help. Would it help to have the senator call Gary and help give you the backing you need? (Emphasis mine)

“Anything. Name it.”

The only memo that surfaced was the one to Harrah’s, where there was at least one employee who was so “disgusted” with the situation that they had to let the world know what was going on. It’s hard to imagine that Harrah’s was the only gambling establishment pressured to “get the vote out.” One can only assume that the other establishments either followed through in an acceptable fashion, or that the memos to them never surfaced.

While both the Justice Department and the Federal Election commission are looking into this situation, those who believe that the facts will surface and this wrong will be righted are really “drinking the Kool-Aid,” in my opinion.

But, the question remains — why would the “upper management” of these gambling establishments strongly support the candidacy of Harry Reid when he is such a strong supporter of Obama, after what Obama did that exacerbated the economic catastrophe in Nevada? A hint can be found in the email string that resulted from the original email sent by the Reid campaign. An employee of Harrah’s wrote to the executive staff:

“… there is nothing more important than to get the employees out to vote. Waking up to a defeat of Harry Reid Nov 3rd will be devastating to our industry’s future.”

Why would Harry Reid’s defeat be “devastating” to the gambling industry? Was Sharron Angle an enemy of the industry? Nothing I have read even suggests that. In fact, Angle’s main issue was to get the Nevada economy back on track. I imagine that she would have been a strong supporter of everything the gambling industry needed to be back in business; to turn Las Vegas from a ghost town to the thriving metropolis that it once was.

However, Sharron Angle’s election could have caused some critical problems for the gambling industry. First, Obama had already shown them the devastation that one of his casual comments could cause to the industry — what if he decided to go beyond that, maybe even penalize companies that were foolish enough to spend money on jaunts to Las Vegas. After all, San Francisco is much prettier, with a more conducive political environment.

In addition, the strongest union by far in Las Vegas and Reno is the Culinary Workers, which state that they have 60,000 members in Las Vegas alone. Add to that the pervasive presence of the SEIU and both unions’ commitment to the Obama administration. And there is no doubt that if the gambling industry had not done all that they could to “get the vote out” for Harry Reid, those unions could have caused major problems for the industry and every gambling establishment throughout the state.

This thought–conjecture, whatever you want to call it–brings to mind a scenario that was played out in many major cities not that many years ago:

A nattily dressed, well-built, man enters a retail store, approaches the owner and says, “I’ve noticed that your store has some beautiful display windows. It would be shame if someone were to throw some bricks through them. Why, they might even follow that up with some gasoline-soaked, flaming rags. That would be terrible. I’d strongly suggest that you purchase some protection from us … would hate to see your store destroyed.”

Nowadays, those selling “protection” aren’t quite so obvious … after all, I believe that it’s against the law.  And, of course, there’s no way the unions, Harry Reid, or the Obama administration would be involved in anything like that.

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Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    Unionized States of America

    our united days are behind us

  2. graypanther says:

    11:03: if that’s true, we’re in for some interesting times. Let’s see; Western California, meaning the big cities and the coast, will go with Oregon and Washington state. Eastern California will gratefully unite with its political sibling, Nevada. Vermont will make common cause with Massachusetts, which will drive Maine and New Hampshire to declare the Republic of LFOD, and possibly fracture New York State. In that case it wouldn’t be impossible that Pennsylvania would separate into its northern and southern half…

    My crystal ball gets cloudy after that, but I guarantee you the dominoes would keep falling.

  3. graypanther says:

    oh, and speaking of California, this was a unanimous decision:

    The California Supreme Court decided unanimously Monday that illegal immigrants may continue to be eligible for in-state tuition rates at the state’s colleges and universities rather than pay the higher rates charged to those who live out of state.

    In a ruling written by Justice Ming W. Chin, one of the panel’s more conservative members, the state high court said a California law that guarantees the lower tuition for students who attend California high schools for at least three years and graduate does not conflict with a federal prohibition on giving illegal immigrants educational benefits based on residency.

    nuff said?

  4. Gail B. says:

    When Nevadans read this one, they may recall him!

  5. PSYDOG says:

    Reids a snake and any other politicians of his ilk needs to be ran out of town on a rail. Our government needs some serious house cleaning on both sides.

  6. Dean says:

    USA = Unions Suck Abundantly

    Re California Supreme Court ruling that illegal aliens are eligible to pay in-state tuition rates. What a bunch of idiots!

    It has been 20 years since I last vacationed in California and I will not return to California for any reason. Unfortunately, that means I won’t see some of my favorite relatives, but I will not spend a penny on anything Californian. I have gone so far as to make sure any flights I am on are not routed through or have a quick stop in that land of liberal lunacy. Visit sunny California and see the inmates of the world’s largest looney bin!!!!

  7. Anonymous says:

    3:34 Why don’t they go home and attend Universite de Mexicala?

    me casa NO su casa.

  8. whats_up says:

    @ PSYDOG,

    I agree with you wholeheartedly. I hate Reid and the corruption that he stands for. It is sad that the candidate the Republican party choose to run was so outside the mainstream that you couldnt even beat Reid. Angle was the only candidate that Reid had a chance of beating and sure enough the “tea party” nominated her. Seriously couldnt you field a better candidate? Please for the love of God, find a candidate that can beat Reid and they will win in a landslide.

  9. Randy Wills says:

    Just to keep things in perspective, it will not be until the end of the second Obama term, or the first of whoever replaces him, before Nevada has a chance to oust Reid.

    He can – and will do his best to – do a lot of damage between now and then.

    I think that we’re all getting tired of the seemingly irresolvable civil and political conflict. Tell me, my friends, is anyone feeling really good about anything that is taking place in government? Wouldn’t it be a good time to address the real problem; the role that unbridled human nature, leading to avarice of every conceivable form, plays in all of this?

    Randy

  10. whats_up says:

    @ Randy,

    I agree with you Randy, I dont like what is happening in government right now. But when neither side is willing to compromise on their core beliefs what do you suggest. Neither Repubs or Dems are willing to solve the problems of this country, all they want to do is make the other side look bad. I dont know what the answer is.

  11. Butch says:

    Why are people so stupid. It is easy to do research to prove that unions harm the economy. All you have to do is look at which states do the best when we have a recession- it is always the right to work states. Right to work states have milder recessions and recover quicker.

    Obama’s intention is to destroy this country. Everything he has done since taking office has weakened this country morally, financially, or militarily. Unionization is another one of those steps to weaken the country and send more jobs overseas. Likewise with security screening. How much would you like to bet our Muslim in Chief makes sure the Muslims have at least a partial pass and do not have to comply with the same requirements as other people.

  12. graypanther says:

    A few more words about California now that everything is settled.

    Californians elected a Democrat to every single Constitutional office – Governor, Lt. Governor, standing Senator, Insurance Commissioner, and Attorney General. In the entire legislature, meanwhile, only one seat flipped; and that was from Republican to Democrat in the Assembly. Statewide in California, there was little if any anti-incumbent sentiment at the ballot box.

    Political correctness was abundantly served in that California now has an anti-death-penalty Attorney General who, oh yeah, is a person of color.

    The only thing I can say contrary to this thread is that, although there’s a whole bunch of rumbling about California being bailed out by the Feds, the truth is somewhat otherwise. For every tax dollar California sends to DC, it receives 78 cents in return benefits. Contrast that to, for (extreme) example, Mississippi, which receives over two dollars in benefits for every dollar remitted. If we’re going to have this debate, we have to use the real numbers – it’s just like the earlier contention that “taxpaying workers are fleeing the state” when the opposite is true.

  13. Randy Wills says:

    To “whats-up” @ 4:35 PM:

    One thing that I do know is that the government is not the answer. I am a realist and I know that the Republicans have had chances in the past and have not responded any better than the Democrats. I’m afraid that the common thread – fallen human nature – is the furthest thing from most individual’s mind when it comes to solving humanity’s problems. More government isn’t going to help.

    Until we address our condition with that reality foremost is our minds, we’re doomed to repeat past failures and likely exacerbate them in the process.

    Randy

  14. BUTCH says:

    The problem is that these idiots in California who elected the morons that represent them finally get tired of pooping in their own nest and suffering the consequences of what they created. Then they look for a place with a great quality of life, like Idaho. They move in here and immediately want to change things to fit their liberal agenda. They come here and poop in our nest and try to screw up our quality of life.

    CALIFORNIANS- STAY OUT!!!!!!

  15. Dominoes anyone? says:
  16. graypanther, no gray matter says:

    graypanther quotes Federal dollars when it’s their state budget that is on deaths door…… soon to suck off the Federal government teat for rescue. I say NO.

  17. Spiffy Lube says:

    W D 4 0

  18. graypanther says:

    @3:24, I think you underestimate the skills of Brown and his cohort as politicians. Yes, the easy thing to do would be to apply in some way for Federal funds, but the political cost within the state would be unacceptably high.

    There are ways to collect money from outside the state without Federal intervention, by passing taxes and fees that will be assessed on entities in other states or countries; e.g., but hardly limited to, oil severance tax. There are also loopholes in the California tax code that, if closed, would bring in significant revenue from New York, New Jersey, Texas, Louisiana, and possibly Oklahoma. And if anybody knows where those loopholes are, Brown does.

    Incidentally, you might easily have made your point without tacking on a caption derogatory of my intelligence. Save your slams for liberals and progressives.

  19. graypanther says:

    Further to last: funny that this should show up just during this discussion, but a contrasting viewpoint is always useful. This site is nonpartisan politically and, if it had any political inclinations, would probably be somewhat to the right of center given that Barron’s and the Wall Street Journal are other members of its network.

    http://www.marketwatch.com/story/the-truth-about-california-2010-11-22?pagenumber=1

  20. Anonymous says:

    I will sleep better now, knowing that California is the model of success.

  21. Gotta love hypocrisy says:

    Obama, get back to me on carbon dioxide, AFTER you quit smoking.

    Philip Morris Inc.
    R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company

    Over 4000 chemical compounds are created by burning a cigarette, many of which are toxic and/or carcinogenic. Carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, hydrogen cyanide and ammonia are all present in cigarette smoke. Forty-three known carcinogens are in mainstream smoke, sidestream smoke, or both.

    It’s chilling to think about not only how smokers poison themselves, but what others are exposed to by breathing in the secondhand smoke. The next time you’re missing your old buddy, the cigarette, take a good long look at this list and see them for what they are: a delivery system for toxic chemicals and carcinogens.

  22. graypanther says:

    hey, staff legal experts, speaking of California, we need an opinion on this, fast. There may be some opinions by the end of the day.

    http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2010/12/prop-8-judges-question-whether-gay-marriage-foes-have-legal-standing.html

    Sounds like from here most of the potential paths go to SCOTUS, and if this goes to SCOTUS, at least this layman’s opinion will be that potential results are broad and unpredictable.

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