Just how Harry Reid became a wealthy man during a lifetime in politics is the subject of a Wall Street Journal
editorial that questions the Democratic Senate majority leader's ethics.
"[Reid] attributes it to shrewd investing, and we wonder if that includes the sweetheart retirement deal he's trying to score with some $600,000 in campaign and political action committee funds," the Journal writes.
"Federal Election Commission regulations allow former Members of Congress to use leftover campaign funds for things like organizing their congressional papers, but spending campaign cash for personal use has long been prohibited."
The Journal says Reid, who isn't seeking re-election, argues his long career in public service creates retirement costs requiring a personal assistant and he initially sought FEC approval "consistent with the agency's precedents."
The newspaper says Reid cited a 2001 advisory opinion allowing former Sen. Bob Kerrey to pay a public relations company to handle media questions about his Vietnam service because "issues had arisen during his time in public office.
"Two Democratic-leaning FEC Commissioners had to recuse themselves because of conflicts, and Mr. Reid may have decided his request didn't stand a chance without them," The Journal says.
"Last week, Reid's lawyer Marc Elias withdrew the request for approval and announcing his client would use the $600,000 anyway based on his own reading of the Kerrey case."
In his letter to the FEC, Elias writes:
"Applying this standard, there is no question that Leader Reid could use campaign funds here. After all, each of the proposed activities results from his tenure in office.
"Had he not been in office, he would not need an assistant to manage correspondence, draft materials, or schedule appearances pertaining to his tenure in office. As a result, we now believe that no further opinion is needed."
The Journal is skeptical of that opinion.
"Let's see. Sen. Reid is a champion of campaign-finance regulation who complains the FEC doesn't do enough to purge money from politics. Yet, he now wants to use campaign funds for personal use," The Journal writes.
"This is supposedly kosher because if Mr. Reid had not served as a federal officeholder for 34 years, he would 'bear no responsibility' to 'appear before audiences to discuss his tenure in office' (read: give speeches for money). And if he can't get a favorable opinion from the FEC, he'll simply do what he wants anyway.
"Mr. Reid seems to think that holding a powerful political office has its privileges even if he's no longer in office. If you want to know why Americans loathe politics, Mr. Reid's behavior is a prime exhibit."
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