The Battle for America 2010: DISCLOSE-ing Harry Reid's Pay-to-Play Habit

While Democrats in the Senate pressed for DISCLOSE Act legislation that they claimed would stop corporations from spending their cash to influence elections -- especially those corporations that have received federal stimulus money -- their leader may have become a poster child for the corrupt backroom bargaining known as “pay-to-play.”

On at least eight occasions, Senator Harry Reid made budget requests on behalf of donors to his re-election campaign. On three other occasions, he made requests on behalf of clients of a lobbying firm that contributed heavily to his campaign.

Meanwhile, Senate Democrats postponed a vote on the DISCLOSE Act -- which they say is aimed at reining in corporate contributions -- because, as Ben Smith of Politico wrote, there was "something else going on: A big New York fundraiser for the Senate Democrats.” Smith says that prices for the glitzy affair which featured President Obama went as high as “$15,200, but a mere $2,500 contributed or raised buys you access to a ‘VIP reception with members of Congress.’"

Harry Reid’s reception in Nevada recently hasn’t been as rich. He has come under fire for earmarking funds for a program that the Department of Defense has already rejected -- a Las Vegas defense contractor, Arcata Associates, ran the program.

Reid’s earmark requests were part of the U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services authorizations. Commonly known as “pork-barrel” spending, the practice of earmarks has fallen into disfavor with voters because of rising concerns about reckless government spending, even though the practice brings money and jobs back to the states.

We crosschecked Senator Reid’s earmark requests with publicly disclosed campaign contribution records. That check reveals that about one-third of the corporate requests were made by employees and associates of companies which contributed to Reid’s campaign. One contributor, Sierra Nevada Corp, is a top-twenty contributor to Reid’s campaign; and another hired a lobbying firm for $100,000, which then contributed over $13,000 to the campaign. The contributions total at least $93,000. When counting in associated contributions from friends and relatives of the companies, the sum could be well over $200,000.