January 15, 2007
PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: More on Harry Reid, the new Trent Lott:
A beaming Harry Reid last week basked in the adoration of the Democratic Party's leading Senate reformers and its nine freshman senators. They extravagantly praised the new majority leader as the exemplar of ethical reform. But within 48 hours, Reid was opposing full transparency of earmarks. This week, Republican reformers will target Reid with an amendment to the Senate ethics package.
Sponsored by Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, the proposal is called the "Reid amendment" because he inadvertently inspired it. Coburn would tighten loose anti-earmark restrictions in the ethics bill by prohibiting senators from requesting earmarks that financially benefit a senator, an immediate family member of a senator or a family member of a senator's staffer.
The proposal follows the revelation that Reid's four sons and his daughter's husband all have been lawyers or lobbyists for special interests. While Reid has declared they are barred from lobbying for their clients in his office, there is little doubt they have taken advantage of their close proximity to a powerful senator.
An example is provided by earmarks that have sent millions of federal dollars to the University of Nevada at Reno. Reid's son-in-law, lawyer Steven Barringer, was a paid lobbyist for the university. In general, Republican reformers see Reid illustrating the nexus between legislators and special interests, in his case mainly real estate, gambling and mining.
Reid is far from the only prominent member of Congress who would be violating Coburn's amendment if it passed.
Pay close attention to developments here. Note that Reid's efforts to derail reform were backed by Lott. I suspect that Reid will prove a similar kind of liability to the Democrats -- like Lott, he's a pretty good behind-the-scenes guy who must now serve as a public face, and who isn't well-situated for that role.