WASHINGTON – Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid has been using campaign donations instead of his personal money to pay Christmas bonuses for the support staff at the Ritz-Carlton, where he lives in an upscale condominium.
Federal election law bars candidates from converting political donations for personal use.
Questioned about the campaign expenditures by the Associated Press, Reid’s office said Monday his lawyers had approved them but he nonetheless was personally reimbursing his campaign for the $3,300 he had directed to the staff holiday fund at his residence.
Reid also announced he was amending his ethics reports to Congress to more fully account for a Las Vegas land deal, highlighted in an AP story last week, that allowed him to collect $1.1 million in 2004 for property he hadn’t personally owned in three years.
In that matter, the senator hadn’t disclosed to Congress that he first sold land to a friend’s limited liability company back in 2001 and took an ownership stake in the company. He collected the seven-figure payout when the company sold the land again in 2004 to others.
Reid portrayed the 2004 sale as a personal sale of land, making no mention of the company’s ownership or its role in the sale.
Reid said his amended ethics reports would list the 2001 sale and the company, called Patrick Lane LLC. He said the amended reports would also divulge two other smaller land deals he had failed to report to Congress.
“I directed my staff to file amended financial disclosure forms noting that in 2001, I transferred title to the land to a Limited Liability Corporation,” Reid said in a statement issued by his office.
He said he believed the 2001 sale did not alter his ownership of the land but that he agreed to file the amended reports because “I believe in ensuring all facts come to light.”
Reid labeled the AP story as the “latest attempt” by Republicans to affect the election. The AP reported last week that it learned of the land deal from a former Reid adviser who had concerns about the way the deal was reported to Congress.
On the Ritz-Carlton holiday donations, Reid gave $600 in 2002, then $1,200 in 2004 and $1,500 in 2005 from his re-election campaign to an entity listed as the REC Employee Holiday Fund. His campaign listed the expenses as campaign “salary” for two of the years and as a “contribution” one year.
Reid’s office said the listing as salary was a “clerical error.”
Residents and workers at the Ritz said the fund’s full name is the Residents Executive Committee Holiday Fund and that it collects money each year from the condominium residents to help provide Christmas gifts, bonuses and a party for the support staff.
Federal election law permits campaigns to provide “gifts of nominal value” but prohibits candidates from using political donations for personal expenses, such as mortgage, rent or utilities for “any part of any personal residence.”