The best case for Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) is that he was sloppy about financial disclosure rules in accounting for a real estate deal on which he made a $700,000 profit. The more unattractive case is that the senator's inaccurate description of the investment was an effort to disguise his partnership with a Las Vegas lawyer who's never been charged with wrongdoing but whose name has surfaced in federal investigations involving organized crime, casinos and political bribery since the 1980s. As of now, the evidence points toward sloppiness; Mr. Reid's friendship with Jay Brown isn't exactly a secret in the state. But either way, an Associated Press report about Mr. Reid's dealings doesn't cast the senator in an attractive light. Neither does his response to the AP story, which indicates a casual disregard for the importance of accurate reporting of lawmakers' financial affairs....Meanwhile, Friday’s Las Vegas Review-Journal has a story detailing Reid’s comments yesterday that he will work with the Senate Ethics Committee, and his pointing the finger at Claude Zobell as the lawyer who prepared his Senate disclosure forms. An excerpt of Steve Tetreault’s story, which carried a Washington, D.C. dateline:
Mr. Reid's professions of transparency and full disclosure are transparently wrong. His investment was not reported in a manner that made clear his partnership with Mr. Brown. It's true — under the inadequate financial disclosure rules — that even if Mr. Reid had listed the newly formed corporation, Patrick Lane LLC, that wouldn't have by itself demonstrated Mr. Brown's involvement. Nonetheless, that Mr. Reid no longer owned the land, but instead had sold it for an interest in the Patrick Lane corporation, was not some mere "technical change," as the senator would like to brush it off. It's an essential element of financial disclosure rules, the purpose of which is to know how and with whom public officials are financially entwined.
Reid, who served on the Senate Select Committee on Ethics at the time, continued to maintain that the transfer was "technical" and did not change his ownership of the land.
He said he did nothing improper, "but if the ethics committee wants me to file a technical correction, then I will be happy to do it."
Besides the additional paper, "nothing will change," he said.
Reid said he did not consult with the ethics committee at the time but perhaps should have. He said his financial disclosures have been prepared for 24 years by Claude Zobell, an attorney who was his first congressional chief of staff, in 1983.
"Claude being a good lawyer, probably he should have known more, maybe I should have known more, but I didn't do it," Reid said of checking with the Senate. "There was never any change of ownership.
"I don't want to try to be flippant about this. I don't mean to be," he said. "I will do whatever is necessary, but it doesn't change anything. It doesn't change the taxes that were paid. I've done everything legally."
Zobell could not be reached Thursday at his office in Memphis, Tenn., or at his home, where his wife said he was traveling. He is the brother of Charles Zobell, managing editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal.