Monday, May 29, 2006

AP: Reid Took Free Boxing Tickets

And the story gives them occasion to revisit the 4 letters that Reid wrote on behalf of Abramoff clients, which coincided with donations given him by those clients:

Senate Leader Took Free Boxing Tickets
Associated Press Writer

Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid accepted free ringside tickets from the Nevada Athletic Commission to three professional boxing matches while that state agency was trying to influence him on federal regulation of boxing.

Reid, D-Nev., took the free seats for Las Vegas fights between 2003 and 2005 as he was pressing legislation to increase government oversight of the sport, including the creation of a federal boxing commission that Nevada's agency feared might usurp its authority.

He defended the gifts, saying they would never influence his position on the bill and was simply trying to learn how his legislation might affect an important home state industry. "Anyone from Nevada would say I'm glad he is there taking care of the state's No. 1 businesses," he told The Associated Press.

"I love the fights anyways, so it wasn't like being punished," added the senator, a former boxer and boxing judge.

Senate ethics rules generally allow lawmakers to accept gifts from federal, state or local governments, but specifically warn against taking such gifts _ particularly on multiple occasions _ when they might be connected to efforts to influence official actions.

...Several ethics experts said Reid should have paid for the tickets, which were close to the ring and worth between several hundred and several thousand dollars each, to avoid the appearance he was being influenced by gifts.

Two senators who joined Reid for fights with the complimentary tickets took markedly differently steps.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., insisted on paying $1,400 for the tickets he shared with Reid for a 2004 championship fight. Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., accepted free tickets to another fight with Reid but already had recused himself from Reid's federal boxing legislation because his father was an executive for a Las Vegas hotel that hosts fights.

Well, at least Reid solved this for us. I don't understand why people always get so worried about gifts being tied to policy positions. They can just ask the people involved. Senator Reid says his views would not be affected by the gift. Well, did anyone ask if Bob Ney's, Duke Cunningham's, Alan Mollohan's, or anyone else's positon would be affected by gifts they received? I mean, if they say the gifts did not influence their thinking, well... it would save a lot on ethics investigations, wouldn't it? If on the other hand, you don't think that's a sufficient explanation, then you'd need to investigate Harry Reid's actions wouldn't you?

Oh, and as I noted above, the article brings attention back to the Abramoff donations that Reid refuses to return, and which were linked to letters he wrote on behalf of Abramoff's clients:

In an interview Thursday in his Capitol office, Reid broadly defended his decisions to accept the tickets and to take several actions benefiting disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff's clients and partners as they donated to him.

"I'm not Goodie two shoes. I just feel these events are nothing I did wrong," Reid said.

Reid had separate meetings in June 2003 in his Senate offices with two Abramoff tribal clients and Edward Ayoob, a former staffer who went to work lobbying with Abramoff.

The meetings occurred over a five-day span in which Ayoob also threw a fundraiser for Reid at the firm where Ayoob and Abramoff worked that netted numerous donations from Abramoff's partners, firm and clients.

Reid said he viewed the two official meetings and the fundraiser as a single event. "I think it all was one, the way I look at it," he said.

One of the tribes, the Saginaw Chippewa of Michigan, donated $9,000 to Reid at the fundraiser and the next morning met briefly with Reid and Ayoob at Reid's office to discuss federal programs. Reid and the tribal chairman posed for a picture.

Five days earlier, Reid met with Ayoob and the Sac & Fox tribe of Iowa for about 15 minutes to discuss at least two legislative requests. Reid's office said the senator never acted on those requests.

A few months after the fundraiser, Reid did sponsor a spending bill that targeted $100,000 to another Abramoff tribe, the Chitimacha of Louisiana, to pay for a soil erosion study Ayoob was lobbying for. Reid said he sponsored the provision because Louisiana lawmakers sent him a letter requesting it.

Abramoff, a Republican lobbyist, has pleaded guilty in a widespread corruption probe of Capitol Hill. Reid used that conviction earlier this year to accuse Republicans of fostering a culture of corruption inside Congress.

AP recently reported that Reid also wrote at least four letters favorable to Abramoff's tribal clients around the time Reid collected donations from those clients and Abramoff's partners. Reid has declined to return the donations, unlike other lawmakers, saying his letters were consistent with his beliefs.

How good a salesman does Harry Reid think he is? The letters were consistent with his views, so he doesn't have to return the donations? Raise your hand, every Members of Congress whose letters are not consistent with his views. Oh, no one? Thought not.

If you took money from a crook, you return it. You don't try to dance around it, and act too cute by half. Reid had better return those donations.

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