Reid decides to amend ethics reports over land deal

Monday, October 16th 2006, 12:38 pm
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid announced Monday he is amending his ethics reports to Congress to more fully account for a land deal that allowed him to collect $1.1 million for property he hadn't personally owned for three years.

Reid acted several days after The Associated Press reported the senator didn't disclose to Congress that he first sold the land to a friend's company back in 2001 and took an ownership stake in the company. He didn't collect the seven-figure payout until the company sold the land again in 2004 to others.

Reid said his amended ethics reports will list the 2001 sale.

``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.

Reid 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 blamed the AP story as the ``latest attempt'' by Republicans to affect the election. 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.

Reid also announced he failed to disclose two other land transactions on his prior ethics reports and would account for those on his amended reports.

The first, he said, involved the sale in 2004 of about one-third acre of land in 2004 he owned in his hometown of Searchlight, Nev. And, he said he had not reported his ownership since 1985 of a quarter acre of land his brother gave him in 1985.

Reid blamed the failure to disclose those transactions previously as ``some clerical errors and two minor matters that were inadvertently left off my original disclosure forms.''

Reid had asked the Senate Ethics Committee last Wednesday _ after the story broke _ for an opinion on the 2001 land sale but decided to amend the forms prior to the committee acting.

Reid's announcement came after numerous newspapers nationwide published editorials criticizing both his initial failure to disclose the full details of his Las Vegas land deal and his response to the AP story.

The $1.1 million windfall was engineered by Jay Brown, a longtime friend and former casino lawyer whose name surfaced in a major political bribery trial this summer and in other prior organized crime investigations. Brown has never been charged with wrongdoing, except for a 1981 federal securities complaint that was settled out of court.

Ethics experts told AP that Reid's inaccurate accounting of the deal to Congress appeared to violate Senate ethics rules and raised other issues concerning taxes and potential gifts.

Land deeds obtained by AP during a review of Reid's business dealings showed:

_The deal began in 1998 when Reid bought undeveloped residential property on Las Vegas' booming outskirts for about $400,000. Reid bought one lot outright, and a second parcel jointly with Brown. One of the sellers was a developer who was benefiting from a government land swap that Reid supported. The seller never talked to Reid.

_In 2001, Reid sold the land for the same price to a limited liability corporation created by Brown. The senator didn't disclose the sale on his annual public ethics report or tell Congress he had any stake in Brown's company. He continued to report to Congress that he personally owned the land.

_After getting local officials to rezone the property for a shopping center, Brown's company sold the land in 2004 to other developers and Reid took $1.1 million of the proceeds, nearly tripling the senator's investment. Reid reported it to Congress as a personal land sale.

The complex dealings allowed Reid to transfer ownership, legal liability and some tax consequences to Brown's company without public knowledge, but still collect the payoff three years later.