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A deal in the desert for Senator Reid?

A bill he wrote could have affected the friend who sold him the land.

January 28, 2007|Chuck Neubauer and Tom Hamburger | Times Staff Writers

At that time, the Haycocks went to Reid for help, according to a former employee of the lubricants industry trade group, Petroleum Marketers Assn. of America, who was involved in the events. The employee asked that his name be withheld because his current job involves congressional contacts.

The Haycocks had lost business in 1994 when Mobil Oil Co. canceled the family's distributorship, costing the firm a lucrative contract with the Las Vegas-area General Motors dealers, which had to use Mobil products.

The family was "incensed that this had happened and there was nothing they could do about it," said the former trade group employee.

Reid mentions constituent

The Haycocks -- who were considered industry leaders -- say they do not recall discussing the matter with Reid. But the former trade group employee said the Haycocks convinced Reid to take action.

Reid "did it because John or Clair asked him to do it," said the former employee.

With the legislative session coming to a close, Reid brought the issue to the Senate floor on Oct. 5, 1994. He described a Nevada constituent whose "franchise agreement to sell lubricating oils to car dealers in Las Vegas was arbitrarily canceled with 30 days' notice," adding: "This seems grossly unfair."

A Washington lawyer who represented the Haycocks in their dispute with Mobil recalls that dealers turned to Reid after other avenues of redress had been exhausted.

"The Haycocks provided access to Sen. Reid," said Al Alfano, the attorney, who still represents distributor interests. However, Alfano said, Reid's efforts brought no relief to the Haycocks. Although the issue remains a concern for many distributors, he said, the Haycocks lost interest after the mid-1990s.

Nonetheless, Reid cited the same constituent example almost word-for-word in 2002, soon after the land sale, and again in 2003 when he introduced legislation, cosponsored by Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.), to protect lubricants distributors.

John Haycock said Reid's actions provided no benefit to his company. "I am not aware of any action taken by the senator, relative to lubricants, that has had a financial benefit to our company," Haycock wrote. "At one point I believe Sen. Reid pushed for legislation ... but that legislation was never passed and therefore could not have had any impact....

"To my best recollection, I didn't even know Sen. Reid had introduced the legislation," John Haycock said, referring to the legislation in 2002 and 2003.

Reid's spokesman said: "In any event, the Haycocks are Sen. Reid's constituents, and there is absolutely nothing improper about Sen. Reid working to advance good policy on matters of concern to Nevadans and businesses in Nevada."

chuck.neubauer@latimes.com

tom.hamburger@latimes.com

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Reid's land in the desert

A 160-acre plot in Bullhead City, Ariz., has been variously valued at $1,000 to $10,000 per acre since Harry Reid and longtime friend Clair Haycock bought it more than 20 years ago. But Sen. Reid effectively paid far less than that in 2002, when he purchased Haycock's three-eighths interest, the equivalent of 60 acres.

Per-acre valuations of the land over the years

Price Haycock paid in 1982 for his share: $1,500

Approximate price paid in 1990 by buyers who later defaulted: $8,400

Valuation by Reid in 2001 Senate ethics statements: $5,000 to $10,000

2001 private appraisal for Reid: $1,000

Valuation by Mohave County assessor in 2002: $2,144

Price Reid paid for Haycock's three-eighths share of the land in 2002: $166

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Note: The current county valuation of the property, unchanged since 2003, averages $1,748 per acre. Reid's per-acre valuation on his latest Senate ethics statement is $3,125 to $6,250.

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Sources: Los Angeles Times estimates based on U.S. Senate disclosure forms; Mohave County Recorder's Office; Mohave County assessor; private appraisal records

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