The consensus is in: Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV) is in serious trouble in her Senate race against Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV). That’s because yesterday, the House Ethics Committee voted unanimously to open an investigation into Berkley’s support for subsidies and tax breaks for the kidney health care industry, which directly benefitted her husband, a nephrologist who runs a kidney health center. Politico says it’s a “major blow” to Berkley. The Washington Post calls it a “blow to her candidacy.” The New York Times said that Berkley’s race would remain “under an ethics cloud through Election Day.”
But there was one person who wasn’t too concerned about Berkley’s investigation: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). At least not publicly. While Reid’s Senate Majority Leader status could ride on the Berkley-Heller race, as Politico reports, Reid is playing it cool:
“No, I really don’t think so,” Reid told reporters Tuesday when asked whether the ethics probe would influence the results of Berkley’s close race for the Senate seat occupied by GOP Sen. Dean Heller.
Reid also defended Berkley’s involvement in the episode that triggered the ethics allegations – that she used her official position to help avert a shutdown of a kidney transplant center in Las Vegas, in which her husband has a business interest. Berkley has denied any conflict of interest.
“I and the entire rest of the Nevada delegation did whatever we could to keep that program going. Why? Because it saved lives,” Reid said. “And that is why I helped with it, all the other members of the delegation did, and it should have absolutely no bearing on Shelley Berkley. She did the right thing, as I think I did.”
There are a myriad of problems with Reid’s response here. First off, any decent House investigation into Berkley should now extend into Reid’s office – Berkley should turn over any and all correspondence between herself and Reid regarding their joint support for the kidney health care industry. If Berkley was exerting pressure on Reid, or called in friendship, or lobbying Reid to leverage pressure with her, he could be implicated too. Reid’s support of Berkley doesn’t exonerate her – it implicates him.
Second, if the entire Nevada delegation supported this legislation regardless of Berkley’s support, shouldn’t she have recused herself to avoid a conflict of interest? Any successful action has to have a bunch of legislators supporting it. That doesn’t eliminate conflict of interest. Recusal was the proper action here. Reid’s suggestion that Berkley “saved lives” here is both disingenuous – the kidney center’s funding was originally cut for killing too many people, apparently – and fails to justify Berkley participating.
Third, the kidney transplant center is not the only issue with Berkley. As Breitbart News has covered, Berkley was involved in a cornucopia of suspicious activities, including killing a tax that would have hit her husband’s industry.
Reid should be concerned. So should the House Ethics Committee, which should now call Reid and the rest of the Nevada delegation on the carpet to get the full truth on this matter.