Berkley: Senate Race Won't Hinge on Ethics Probe

By: AP Email
By: AP Email

LAS VEGAS (AP) - U.S. Rep. Shelley Berkley says she doesn't think her U.S. Senate campaign will hinge on an ethics complaint that questions whether she used her office to help her husband's medical practice.

Berkley, D-Nev., said she was motivated by protecting patient care when she joined in 2008 with then-Reps. Dean Heller and Jon Porter to lobby to keep the kidney transplant program open at University Medical Center in Las Vegas.

Her husband, Dr. Larry Lehrner, is a kidney doctor whose medical
partnership provides kidney care at UMC.

After the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services threatened to revoke the UMC certification of the kidney center in 2008, Berkley and Republicans Heller and Porter signed a letter in support of the hospital's appeal.

"I think it was the right thing to do to work together to keep that center open," Berkley told the Las Vegas Review-Journal and Las Vegas Sun on Saturday at the Nevada Democratic Party Convention in Las Vegas. "My only concern was patient care in Nevada."

She said it never occurred to her to stay out of the matter because her husband might benefit. At the time, she didn't fully disclose her spouse's relationship to the facility, but later said she thought it was well-known.

"I wasn't thinking at all about myself," Berkley said, adding Nevadans would have been forced to travel to California at higher cost and greater inconvenience had the center closed.

Heller has since gone on to the Senate, and his race against Berkley is expected to be one of the closest in the country. Most recent polls show the race in a dead heat.

Asked whether she thinks the ethics complaint will be a factor in the Senate race, Berkley replied, "The campaign isn't going to pivot on that. (The campaign will be about) what are we going to do to get people back to work."

The House Ethics Committee is reviewing allegations made by the Nevada Republican Party that Berkley tried to influence federal reimbursement rates for dialysis providers and lobbied to save the kidney transplant program to help her husband.

Committee Chairman Jo Bonner, R-Ala., has said the panel will determine its next step by July 9. It could range from dismissal of the complaint to convening of a full investigation.

Berkley declined to speculate on the outcome.

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