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THE SENATORS' SONS

In Nevada, the Name to Know is Reid

Members of one lawmaker's family represent nearly every major industry in their home state. And their clients rely on his goodwill.

June 23, 2003|Chuck Neubauer and Richard T. Cooper | Times Staff Writers

Rory Reid is a partner in the firm and was a Nevada lobbyist before his election to the Clark County Board of Commissioners in November. Leif Reid is a litigator who has represented mining and resort industry associations in Nevada.

Key Reid was hired to open the firm's Washington office in 2002 and help lead its federal lobbying effort with former Sen. Richard H. Bryan (D-Nev.), who splits his time between the capital and Nevada.

Barringer, 47 and married to the senator's daughter, Lana, is a lawyer, federal lobbyist and partner in the small Washington-based lobbying firm of McClure, Gerard and Neuenschwander.

Barringer and Reid's sons declined to be interviewed by the Los Angeles Times.

Washington lobbying firms must file reports twice a year that disclose their clients and the names of the people representing them. Those reports show that, between them, Barringer and Key Reid have represented nearly every major industry in Nevada, from mining and real estate development to tourism and gambling to the city of Las Vegas. All of those clients rely on the senator's goodwill on Capitol Hill.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Friday June 27, 2003 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 58 words Type of Material: Correction
Lobbyists -- A graphic accompanying an article in Monday's Section A on Nevada Sen. Harry Reid's lobbyist relatives incorrectly said that the University of Nevada at Reno paid $10,000 a month to the Lionel Sawyer & Collins law firm. In fact, the university paid the firm $40,000 in the last half of 2002, according to federal lobbyist reports.

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Ethics Enforcer

Reid is the Senate's minority whip, the chamber's second-highest Democratic leader. He is also a senior member of the Appropriations Committee and the Environment and Public Works Committee.

During 16 years in the Senate, Reid has worked tirelessly to help his state.

The University of Nevada at Reno named a building after him as a thank-you for securing "tens of millions of dollars in federal funds for scientific research at the university," including $8.25 million for earthquake studies, the school said.

The Nevada Mining Assn. gave Reid a lifetime achievement award. Throughout his career, the senator has fought tenaciously against hard-rock-mining reforms opposed by the industry. And the American Gaming Assn. honored Reid as one of "America's Gaming Greats." Again, Reid has consistently represented the industry's positions, including opposition to a nationwide ban on college-sports betting.

"I've been proud to help educate America about the contributions gaming entertainment makes to Nevada and across the country," Reid said upon receiving the award.

One of Reid's relatives has represented each of those interests as a lawyer or lobbyist, according to lobbyist reports and court records.

Frank Fahrenkopf Jr., the president of the American Gaming Assn., understood the possible sensitivity involved in hiring a member of Reid's family. He said he called the senator before retaining his son-in-law, Barringer.

"I told him I was thinking of hiring Steve and asked if that was a problem for him. Sen. Reid said, 'If you need him, hire him,' " Fahrenkopf said. "I wouldn't hire any senator's son or son-in-law without checking first."

Reid said he has never used his position to steer business to his family members.

The senator has special standing when it comes to questions of propriety. He is vice chairman -- and former chairman -- of the Ethics Committee, which has almost total discretion in setting the standards for senators' conduct.

Reid said in an interview that he sees no problem with lobbying by relatives, because lobbyists' activities are "very transparent." That is, the law requires them to publicly report their clients and fees.

In September 2001, Reid sent a letter to his staff telling them that he had sought guidance from the Senate Ethics Committee and had been advised that there was no restriction on lobbying by a relative of a senator. He told his staff to treat his family members who were lobbyists no better or worse than any other lobbyist.

Soon after The Times interviewed him about his children's activities last fall, the senator decided to ban relatives from lobbying his office entirely.

The ban applies to members of Reid's family but not to colleagues at the firms where they work, such as former Sen. Bryan.

"Sen. Reid has long held that elected leaders must take steps to prevent even the appearance of impropriety, and it has become clear this ban is necessary for that reason," his chief of staff, McCue, said in a memo.

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Public Lands Go Private

As a senator, Reid exerts a degree of power over local affairs that is unknown in most states.

That is because the federal government owns 87% of Nevada's land; to a large extent, Washington decides whether cities and businesses can expand and where economic growth may occur. Even local zoning may become a federal matter.

Over the years, Reid has used legislation to move federal land into private hands and private land into the public realm. He says he has done so to preserve scenic and environmentally sensitive areas while freeing up more land for urban growth.

Such was the case with the Clark County legislation. It was co-sponsored by Nevada's junior senator, Republican John Ensign, and the House version was introduced by Rep. James A. Gibbons (R-Nev.). President Bush signed it in November.

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