Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, who led congressional Democrats in announcing an ethics reform package Wednesday, found himself rebutting renewed Republicans attacks over his ties to disgraced ex-lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
Reid said he'd never met Abramoff and insisted "My conscience
"I don't know the man, I've never seen him," Reid, D-Nev.,
told a news conference. "As far as I know I've never been in the
same building as him."
"This is a Republican scandal and they can try to spin-doctor
it," he said.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee released a 24-page
report Wednesday titled "Harry's Hypocrisy - The Reid Record on
Ethics" with chapter titles including "Harry's Hypocrisy and Jack
Abramoff" and "Harry's Hypocrisy and Edward Ayoob." Ayoob is a
former Reid aide who went to work at Abramoff's lobbying firm.
Reid "has conveniently ignored his own ties to Jack Abramoff,
calling the scandal a Republican problem," the document asserts.
Reid dismissed the report as "nothing," and said it rehashed
Among Reid's ties to Abramoff:
-Reid has received $30,500 in contributions from American Indian
tribes Abramoff represented, according to the Center for Responsive
Politics. Unlike some other politicians, he's refused to return the
money, saying it was legally received. Reid has emphasized his
history of support for the tribes and his involvement in gambling
issues that affect them.
-Reid and Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., sent a letter to Interior
Secretary Gale Norton on March 5, 2002, opposing an off-reservation
tribal casino that some of Abramoff's client tribes wanted blocked.
The next day, the Louisiana Coushattas issued a $5,000 check to
Reid's political action committee, the Searchlight Leadership Fund.
Reid on Wednesday said the letter was in keeping with his
long-held opposition to off-reservation casinos.
-Ayoob, who worked for Reid from 1997 to 2002 in jobs including
legislative counsel, was hired from Reid's office by the Greenberg
Traurig LLP lobbying firm, where he lobbied for Abramoff's clients.
He left Greenberg Traurig last year and now works as a senior
lobbyist at Barnes & Thornburg LLP, where several of Abramoff's
former associates landed.
Reid downplayed Ayoob's connections to Abramoff.
"Eddie Ayoob didn't work for Jack Abramoff, he worked for a
1,000-member law firm," Reid said.