After ignoring Hastert land deal, Time highlighted Reid real estate controversy

››› ››› JOSH KALVEN

Time reported that Democrats "got an unwelcome distraction this week when Senate minority leader Harry Reid ... found himself embroiled in a real estate scandal," but the magazine has ignored reports from June that House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert made almost $2 million on the sale of land in Illinois after reportedly taking an active role in the inclusion in a transportation spending bill of an earmark for a highway project near the property.

In an October 13 online article on Republicans' recent decision to "concentrate on defending their 10-seat majority" in the Senate, Time staff writer Massimo Calabresi reported that Democrats "got an unwelcome distraction this week when Senate minority leader Harry Reid [D-NV] ... found himself embroiled in a real estate scandal." An October 11 Associated Press article first reported on the story, asserting that Reid made $700,000 "on a Las Vegas land sale even though he hadn't personally owned the property for three years" and that "Reid did not disclose to Congress an earlier sale in which he transferred his land to a company created by a friend and took a financial stake in that company." But while Calabresi devoted the second half of his article to the Reid land deal, Time has altogether ignored reports from June that House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-IL) made almost $2 million on the sale of land in Illinois after reportedly taking an active role in the inclusion in a transportation spending bill of an earmark for a highway project near the property. By contrast, there are no allegations that Reid used his office in any way that might have affected the value of his land.

On June 15, the Chicago Sun-Times reported:

House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert pocketed almost $2 million from real estate deals adjacent to his Plano home in booming Kendall County, one of the fastest growing areas in the nation.

The transactions prompted questions Wednesday from the Sunlight Foundation, a new watchdog group, about whether Hastert, who earmarked $207 million in federal dollars for the proposed Prairie Parkway, had his profits swollen because of the highway.

In an October 6 column for The New Republic Online, American Enterprise Institute resident scholar Norman Ornstein and Center for American Progress senior fellow Scott Lilly wrote that Hastert "played an unusually active role in shepherding" the 2005 transportation bill, to which he earmarked the funds for the Prairie Parkway, "a more aggressive role than he played at any other point in his speakership."

But in the five months since the story first broke, Time has yet to mention the Hastert land deal. Nonetheless, in a six-paragraph article on Republicans' "increasingly defensive stance" three weeks prior to the midterm elections, Calabresi devoted three paragraphs to the fact that Reid has "found himself embroiled in a real estate scandal."

From Calabresi's article, posted October 13 on Time.com:

Democrats in the Senate, meanwhile, got an unwelcome distraction this week when Senate minority leader Harry Reid, who would take charge of the Senate if Democrats win, found himself embroiled in a real estate scandal. On Wednesday, the Associated Press reported that Reid had failed properly to report a land deal in his home state of Nevada that nearly tripled his initial investment in six years. Reid has asked the Senate ethics committee for review.

The profit came out of an unusual collaboration with a former casino lawyer, Jay Brown. Reid and Brown initially bought adjoining plots in Las Vegas' booming suburbs in 1998. They transferred the land to a company called Patrick Lane in 2001; Reid's share was valued at the same amount, $400,000, as he had originally paid for the property. Three years later, he was paid $1.1 million when Patrick Lane sold the land to a shopping mall developer. Though Reid and Brown claim they were joint owners of the company, they say no documents exist to prove Reid's position in it, since it was an informal relationship based on the two men's 35-year friendship. Reid's office says the Senator's annual payments of real estate taxes are evidence of his continued interest in the company.

"Obviously, Republicans are in danger of losing the House and the Senate and are desperate to push out any story that takes their troubles off the front page," Reid's spokesman, Jim Manley, said in a statement. "The fact is Senator Reid owned the land from 1998 to 2004 and he fully disclosed that fact. If the Ethics Committee requests a technical correction to Senator Reid's disclosure forms we are happy to provide one."

Posted In
Government, Ethics
Network/Outlet
Time Magazine
We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.