This article first appeared at The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Monday, March 30, 2015:
Libertarian economist and Cato scholar Donald Boudreaux has little favorable to say about politicians:
It is the rare politician, of whatever party, who reliably puts principle above personal interest. As a rule, politicians are untrustworthy, duplicitous, and cowardly; they are people who have the unusually powerful craving for power and fame; and the successful among them typically possess an unusual talent for camouflaging their craving for power and fame as a saintly calling to “serve the people.”
But what about the “successful among them,” like Nevada Democrat Senator Harry Reid who just announced last Friday that he would be retiring at the end of his present term? What about Reid who, in 30 years as a politician, and a decade as the House Majority Leader, has learned how to game the system, to milk from it every advantage both personal and political, for himself, his family, his friends and those hangers-on who follow after him like pilot fish eating leftovers from their host.
A present observer of the political scene in Nevada (90 percent of which is owned by the federal government) is Jon Ralston, who has been watching Reid learn those political ropes and turn himself into a wealthy man in the process. Ralston calls him “Prince Harry” for the Machiavellian figure from The Prince, associated with deceit, deviousness, ambition, and brutality. As Reid’s tenure is now officially winding down, his legacy is being scrutinized and celebrated or excoriated, depending on the analyst’s worldview. Conservative observers, who still think the Constitution is relevant, liken Reid’s reign to that of LBJ (Lyndon Baines Johnson) who, it is said, “went to Washington intending to do good, and wound up doing very well indeed.”
When Reid arrived in Washington in 1983 he was a relative pauper, reporting a net worth of a million dollars or less. Thirty years later he admits a new worth ten times that, keeping up with inflation and then some, reflecting his abilities to milk the system while appearing to “serve the people.” He has, in fact, served himself very well.
In 1998 Reid joined his partner Jay Brown in investing some $400,000 in real estate just outside Las Vegas. In 2004 the property just happened to be rezoned for a shopping center and Reid cashed out with $1.1 million.
In 2002 Reid invested $10,000 into an investment fund run by another good friend, Clair Haycock, which bought some land in Bullhead City, Arizona, paying just 10 percent of market value (according to the Los Angeles Times). Reid earmarked $18 million of federal funds to build a bridge connecting Bullhead City with Laughlin, Nevada. Reid now carries that $10,000 investment on his financials at “between $250,000 and $500,000.”
His son, Rory, is a chip off the old log, arranging for China’s ENN Energy Group in 2012 to purchase some Nevada property for just $4.5 million. At the time, it appraised between $29.6 million and $38.6 million.
He associated with people of similar morals, including one Harvey Whittemore, who, in 2007, promised to raise $150,000 for Reid’s upcoming reelection campaign. So grateful for the promised help was Reid that he wrote this to Whittemore:
I appreciate the Whittemore family. Over the years they have helped me and I appreciate it very much.
But when Reid’s office was notified that Whittemore had been charged and convicted with making campaign contributions in the name of another person, making excessive personal contributions, and then lying to the FBI and the Federal Election Commission about them, and sentenced to two years in jail and fined $100,000, it told reporters that Reid was “no longer in contact” with Whittemore. Use ’em up, throw ’em out, move on, seems to be Reid’s modus operandi.
Reid bribed reluctant Senators to help him pass ObamaCare, including the Cornhusker Kickback and the Louisiana Purchase. So “persuasive” was Reid that several observers close to the scene at the time wrote that ObamaCare should more accurately have been called ReidCare.
He helped pass the $787 billion stimulus bill and Dodd-Frank. He has been carrying water for the Obama administration since the beginning. When Senate rules became inconvenient, he either overrode them or ignored them altogether, the most egregious being the “nuclear option,” which he employed in 2013. As the Washington Post, hardly an apologist for limited government, noted at the time:
[Reid’s] rule change represents a substantial power shift in a chamber that for more than two centuries has prided itself on affording more rights to the minority party than any other legislative body in the world.
Now, a president whose party holds the majority in the Senate is virtually assured of having his nominees approved….
Reid attacked Mitt Romney in 2012 for not having paid income taxes for ten years, based on information from an “undisclosed” source inside Bain Capital. He repeated the calumny on the Senate floor a few days later. PolitiFact.com looked into the matter, and scored Reid’s accusation as “Pants on Fire!” but by that time the damage was done. Truth didn’t matter. The first person out with the lie won the day.
Reid has attacked the Koch brothers for being “un-American” while accusing them of trying to “buy” America:
It’s too bad that they are trying to buy America. And it’s time that the American people spoke out about this terrible dishonesty of these two brothers, who are about as un-American as anyone that I can imagine.
Reid was a student of one of the masters of milking the system and bilking the American taxpayer: West Virginia Democrat Robert Byrd. Reid sat on his Appropriations Committee, where he learned how to steer hundreds of millions of dollars to pork projects back home. Since then he has refined his craft.
And he will continue to inflict himself onto the Senate and the American people, saying on Friday, “I understand this place. I have quite a bit of power as Minority Leader.” To his detractors Reid warned, “Don’t be too elated. I am going to be here for twenty-two months, and you know what I’m going to be doing? The same thing I’ve done since I first came to the Senate.”
The Weekly Standard: Reid’s Legacy: Liberal Gains and a Damaged Party
Politico: Harry Reid’s legacy: Dogged and smarter than you think
The New York Times: Harry Reid to Retire From Senate in 2016
Bio on Niccolò Machiavelli, author of The Prince
Background on the United States Senate: the world’s greatest deliberative body
The Washington Post: Reid, Democrats trigger ‘nuclear’ option; eliminate most filibusters on nominees