Back in November as the Democratic Party was celebrating it’s election win it came to light that Harry Reid, the new Senate majority leader, had a couple of problematic land deals in his past. In particular a deal involving land in Bullhead City, Az. whose value had just been potentially increased by a bridge project Reid had pushed through the Senate.
Senator Reid is currently involved in another land scandal. This one involves 160 acres of property in Arizona whose value will be increased by a bridge to be built over the Colorado River. A bridge earmarked by Senator Reid.
WASHINGTON — Incoming Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid vows to make reform of congressional earmarks a priority of his tenure, arguing that members need to be more transparent when they load pet projects for their districts into federal spending bills.
But last year’s huge $286-billion federal transportation bill included a little-noticed slice of pork pushed by Reid that provided benefits not only for the casino town of Laughlin, Nev., but also, possibly, for the senator himself.
Reid called funding for construction of a bridge over the Colorado River, among other projects, “incredibly good news for Nevada” in a news release after passage of the 2005 transportation bill. He didn’t mention, though, that just across the river in Arizona, he owns 160 acres of land several miles from proposed bridge sites and that the bridge could add value to his real estate investment.
Today’s LA Times carries an article further examining the Bullhead City deal. There is nothing in the article that specifically proves Reid did anything wrong, but there is enough there to make the deal questionable:
BULLHEAD CITY, ARIZ. — It’s hard to buy undeveloped land in booming northern Arizona for $166 an acre. But now-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid effectively did just that when a longtime friend decided to sell property owned by the employee pension fund that he controlled.
In 2002, Reid (D-Nev.) paid $10,000 to a pension fund controlled by Clair Haycock, a Las Vegas lubricants distributor and his friend for 50 years. The payment gave the senator full control of a 160-acre parcel in Bullhead City that Reid and the pension fund had jointly owned. Reid’s price for the equivalent of 60 acres of undeveloped desert was less than one-tenth of the value the assessor placed on it at the time.
Six months after the deal closed, Reid introduced legislation to address the plight of lubricants dealers who had their supplies disrupted by the decisions of big oil companies. It was an issue the Haycock family had brought to Reid’s attention in 1994, according to a source familiar with the events.
If Reid were to sell the property for any of the various estimates of its value, his gain on the $10,000 investment could range from $50,000 to $290,000.
It is a potential violation of congressional ethics standards for a member to accept anything of value — including a real estate discount — from a person with interests before Congress.
Reid’s land in the desert
A 160-acre plot in Bullhead City, Ariz., has been variously valued at $1,000 to $10,000 per acre since Harry Reid and longtime friend Clair Haycock bought it more than 20 years ago. But Sen. Reid effectively paid far less than that in 2002, when he purchased Haycock’s three-eighths interest, the equivalent of 60 acres.
Per-acre valuations of the land over the years
Price Haycock paid in 1982 for his share: $1,500
Approximate price paid in 1990 by buyers who later defaulted: $8,400
Valuation by Reid in 2001 Senate ethics statements: $5,000 to $10,000
2001 private appraisal for Reid: $1,000
Valuation by Mohave County assessor in 2002: $2,144
Price Reid paid for Haycock’s three-eighths share of the land in 2002: $166
Note: The current county valuation of the property, unchanged since 2003, averages $1,748 per acre. Reid’s per-acre valuation on his latest Senate ethics statement is $3,125 to $6,250.
Sources: Los Angeles Times estimates based on U.S. Senate disclosure forms; Mohave County Recorder’s Office; Mohave County assessor; private appraisal records
Boy am I glad we have a new less corrupt congress where even the perception of wrongdoing will not go unpunished
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