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.