Skip to comments.The Aviator's Droppings: Harry Reid, Steven Barringer, and Howard Hughes' Legacy
Posted on 02/14/2006 11:41:08 AM PST by Fedora
The Aviators Droppings: Harry Reid, Steven Barringer, and Howard Hughes Legacy
Harry Reids Mob Money, Part 3
Part 1: Mr. Cleanfaces Dirty Laundry
Part 2: Harrys Henchman Rory Reid
As Part 1 mentioned, during Harry Reids first Senate run in 1974, he attacked his opponent Paul Laxalt for profiting from association with billionaire Howard Hughes, who had moved into the Las Vegas gambling scene in 1967 with the assistance of Chicago Mafia representative Johnny Rosselli. In the process of criticizing Laxalt, Reid failed to mention that he himself, along with his mentor Donal Mike OCallaghan, had also taken contributions from Hughes. Commenting on his relationship to Hughes later, Reid said, People thought that Howard Hughes was behind my organization, and I never lied to anybody and said he was, but I never said he wasn't, either.
Hughes died in 1976, but Reid has continued to profit by his familys lobbying in areas which Hughes had staked out as part of his empire. Hughes move into Nevada brought together the old political bribery machine he had designed for attracting government aviation contracts with his new interest in the gambling industry. His gambling interests also required him to expand into the land acquisition and development ventures that underpin casino development. These three areas--which for the sake of summary might be called land grabs, gambling, and graft--also characterize the dealings of the Reid family, as exemplified by Reids relationship to his son-in-law Steven Barringer.
Reids daughter Lana is married to lobbyist Steven Glenn Barringer. After graduating from the J. Reuben Clark Law School at Brigham Young University, Barringer practiced natural resources and environmental law at the Las Vegas law firm of Singer, Brown & Barringer (now Singer & Brown) from January 1996 to April 1999. Meanwhile in February 1998, he became a director at American Vantage Companies. He worked for the law firm Dickstein Shapiro Morin & Oshinksy (Dickstein Shapiro) from April 1999 to October 2000, before becoming a principal in the lobbying firm McClure, Gerard & Neuenschwander (MGN) in November 2000. Since November 2000 he has also maintained his own law practice in Washington, DC, Steven G. Barringer, PLLC.
(It should be emphasized that the background discussion here and below is by no means intended as a general indictment of the companies mentioned, but is provided to put Barringers activities and their relationship to Reid in context.)
Barringers involvement with Singer, Brown & Barringer is worth a closer look. As discussed in Part 1 and Part 2, the firms senior partner Jay H. Brown has had a history of activity involving the Reid family. In 1981 when Brown was attorney for the Tropicana casino and Reid was Nevada Gaming Commissioner, FBI informants accused Brown of funneling bribes to Reid from Mafia members under investigation for fund skimming at the Tropicana. Questioned by a grand jury about the allegation, Brown took the Fifth and was threatened with civil contempt proceedings for refusing to turn over casino financial records. Blocked by Browns obstruction, a Justice Department probe failed to substantiate the allegation of payoffs to Reid. Brown subsequently became a regular contributor to Reids campaigns from 1982 on, and also acquired a large share of stock in a company called American Enterprises, Inc. at the same time Reids son Rory acquired American Enterprises stock. When the American Enterprises deal attracted publicity in December 1991, Rory quickly announced he was divesting his share, while his father told the press he did not own any stock in American Enterprises and distanced himself from his sons dealings, saying, My son is 30 years old, he is a lawyer and his practice is almost totally in gaming. I don't control where he lives, who he marries, or what he buys. Despite the Senators expressed lack of interest in his sons business, officers of American Enterprises successor American Casino Enterprises retained an evident interest in the Senator, donating $8,000 to him in July 1995. Meanwhile from 1994 to 1996 American Casino Enterprises was a defendant in a legal dispute involving Table Mountain Casino, located on an Indian reservation near Fresno, California. The dispute ended in February 1996 with American Casino agreeing to pay a $500,000 civil fine for violating the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.
Barringer joined Browns law firm in January 1996 and remained there until April 1999. While there, he worked in areas related to the mining industry. He acted as attorney for a number of gold mining companies, and research he did in this area contributed to a volume called Hardrock Mining on Federal Lands. Other research he did was published by the National Mining Association (NMA), a lobbying group representing the mining industry.
While at Browns law firm, in February 1998 Barringer joined Brown on the board of American Vantage Companies, a successor to American Casino Enterprises formed in 1997. Barringer has remained on American Vantage Companies board of directors alongside Brown since 1998.
In April 1999 Barringer left Browns law firm to join Dickstein Shapiro. Founded in 1953, Dickstein Shapiro has offices in Washington, DC, New York, and Los Angeles. The firm is organized into five core practice groups which include an Energy Group and a Legislative & Regulatory Affairs Group. The firms clients have included companies in the energy industry as well as the American Gaming Association (AGA), which represents the gambling industrys interests. Howard Schiffman of Dickstein Shapiro contributed $500 to Harry Reid in November 1998. Between 1998 and 2004 the AGA paid Dickstein Shapiro $30,000 for lobbying services from Barringer and others. Barringer remained with Dickstein Shapiro until October 2000.
Upon leaving Dickstein Shapiro, Barringer went to MGN in November 2000. MGN was founded by former Idaho Senator James McClure, McClures former legislative director Jack Gerard, and his former administrative assistant Tod Neuenschwander following his 1991 retirement. McClure had been Chairman of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources as well as the Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior. Accordingly, he and his partners put their experience to use by consulting for clients in the mining industry. Gerard himself became President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Mining Association from 2001 to 2005. MGNs services have been employed by the NMA as well as the AGA and the Howard Hughes Corporation. MGN founding partner Jack Gerard contributed $1,900 to Reid in December 1996. His fellow founder Tod Neuenschwander contributed $670 to Reid in March 1998.
Such contributions are not in themselves necessarily scandalous, since companies may be expected to contribute to politicians they perceive as representing their best interests. But what invites scrutiny is the fact that while Barringer has been lobbying for his employers interests, his father-in-law has supported legislative activity favorable to his lobbying efforts. Researchers have identified a number of examples of this, involving lobbying for the AGA, NMA, Howard Hughes Corporation, and other interest groups in real estate, mining, gambling, and other areas. Here a case involving Hughes will be used as an example.
In early 2002, the Howard Hughes Corporation wanted 998 acres of federal land south of Tropicana Avenue and west of Fort Apache Road to expand its Summerlin residential gambling community to the south. Also seeking to expand into the Summerlin area was Station Casinos, whose controlling Fertitta family had contributed $16,000 to Reid since 1989, as well as at least $268,269 to the campaigns of past and present Clark County Commissioners since 1994. By July 2002 Hughes and Station had reached a deal giving Station the option to build a hotel-casino near the interchange of Charleston Boulevard and the Las Vegas Beltway, to be called the Red Rock Station casino.
To lobby Congressional support for its desired expansion, Hughes paid $300,000 to MGN. Forms on file with the US Senate Office of Public Records signed by Steven Barringer list him as one of the MGN lobbyists involved. (A law firm employing four of Reids sons, Lionel Sawyer & Collins, has also consulted for the Howard Hughes Corporation in tariff-related proceedings involving electric and natural gas utilities.)
In April 2002, Nevada Congressman Jim Gibbons introduced the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area Protection and Enhancement Act of 2002 (H.R. 4141), which would allow Hughes to swap 1,071 acres with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in exchange for the desired land. Parallel legislation was introduced to the Senate in June by Harry Reid (then Senate Majority Whip) and John Ensign as part of the Clark County Conservation of Public Land and Natural Resources (PLAN) Act of 2002 (S. 2612).
After negotiating a final draft of the legislation in September 2002, Gibbons, Reid, and Ensign put the bill on a fast track, over the objections of Congressional critics who complained it was cutting corners and not in compliance with the Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act of 1998, passed after federal investigations into land exchanges in Southern Nevada in the early 1990s and charges that the BLM was being shortchanged. With Gibbons assurance that Hughes would reimburse BLM for any cost differential, Reid recruited Nevada Congresswoman Shelley Berkley to join him in calling House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt to allow the bill to go through. The bill passed through the House without a vote late on October 16, 2002. By the next evening the bill had passed the Senate, just before the Senate adjourned until a lame duck session scheduled to begin November 12. Afterwards, Reid said, I'm not sure we would have passed this bill if we hadn't done it tonight.
Apparently when a bill is backed by the Howard Hughes Corporations money and a lobbyist whose father-in-law is Senate Majority Whip, anything is possible.
Questioned about the ethics of his relation to his son-in-laws lobbying, Reid denied his influence had any impact on Barringers business, saying, Steve Barringer has been a lawyer for more than 20 years. . .They are not hiring some doofus.
This seems to be only half-true: for while Barringer may be an experienced lawyer, it appears that when someone hires him, they are also hiring the doofus who is his father-in-law.
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Harry Reid, more crooked than a snake.
Mmmmm-----impressive facts. How this guy ever got elected, I'll never know.
He's like The Shadow---able to cloud men's minds.
LOL! Except the Shadow only pretended to be a criminal.
Oh, yeah, forgot about that. Reid and company are real criminals.
Exactly: the Shadow pretends to be a bad guy, whereas Reid pretends to be a good guy :-) Also Reid's version of the show ends like this: "Crime does too pay: Harry Reid knows. . .bwahahahahaha!"