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Tags: Reid | ethics | Senate | casino | visas

Watchdog Group: Senators Ignored Ethics Complaint Against Reid

By    |   Wednesday, 22 October 2014 10:12 AM

A nonprofit government oversight group alleges a Senate committee did not act on an ethics complaint filed against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

In a letter sent Tuesday to the Senate Ethics Committee, Cause of Action asserts that a Dec. 16, 2013, complaint it filed, which charged that Reid applied political pressure to get immigrant investor visas, was ignored by the committee.

"For over 300 days to pass since our complaint was received with no reasoned notice of the Committee’s determination is unacceptable," Dan Epstein, the group's executive director, said in a statement.

"The Committee appears to have dismissed Cause of Action’s complaint without engaging in a preliminary inquiry and without explanation, where independent evidence unearthed by the media supports the allegations of misconduct," Epstein wrote.

The initial 2013 complaint involves allegations that the Nevada senator violated Senate ethics rules by intervening on behalf of SLS Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas to lobby senior immigration officials to reconsider and approve immigrant investor visa petitions.

"The American public, who elected their Senators, deserve an ethics committee that takes its role seriously, and our hope is that the public receives an explanation for this delay in oversight," Epstein wrote.

The group's letter to committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer, D-California, and ranking member Johnny Isakson, R-Georgia, seeks an explanation as to "what happened to Cause of Action’s complaint (and all of the other complaints reviewed since May, 2012, for that matter) to protect public faith and confidence in the integrity of the Senate ethics process."

It also asks for an explanation as to why the complaint did not lead to a preliminary inquiry.

Reid allegedly applied political pressure on officials from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to overturn their decision to reject SLS' application, despite concerns about “suspicious financial activity” involving some of the visa applicants from Asia, according to The Washington Times.

Reid reportedly reached out to Alejandro Mayorkas, a DHS official, which set in motion a process that ultimately granted expedited status to the investor visas for the SLS Hotel.

"The intervention from Mr. Reid’s staff was so intense at one point a year ago that a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) official reported that it prompted a phone shouting match, turning a normally bureaucratic review process inside the Homeland Security Department into a politically charged drama that worried career officials," the Times reported in 2013.

Staff from Reid's office continued to lobby for an expedited review despite the fact that the DHS' decision, issued in December 2013, stated, "there is no appeal or reconsideration of this decision."

At the time the allegations were raised, Reid's Senate office released a statement defending his actions, saying that Reid "has supported and will continue to support the SLS Las Vegas project in any way he can" and that "he makes no apologies for helping to bring jobs to Nevada," according to Fox News.

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A government oversight group is accusing the Senate Ethics Committee of failing to act on a 2013 complaint it filed accusing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of applying pressure to expedite visas for a casino project.
Reid, ethics, Senate, casino, visas
Wednesday, 22 October 2014 10:12 AM
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