Nevada Republican Dean Heller still has his primo Russell Senate Office Building space — for now. But the longer he stays put, the more fun the Nevada State Democratic Party is having at his expense.
In the days since it was learned that Heller’s staff had taken unusual steps to protect the office from being claimed by more senior senators during the biannual office lottery process, the Nevada Democrats have sent out a flurry of news releases dubbing the incident a “bribery scandal” and questioning Heller’s ethics.
A sampling of subject lines includes:
Unanswered Questions in Dean Heller Office Bribery Scandal
Reno Gazette-Journal: Heller office bribery scandal “an embarrassment for NV”
LV Sun: “Dean Heller is deflecting personal responsibility” in office bribery scandal
KRNV TV: Dean Heller “Using bribery to keep office space?”
VIDEO: Republican Says Heller is a “Prima Donna” & “Not Following the Rules” Over Office Bribery Scandal
As first reported by CQ Roll Call, Heller’s aides have repeatedly tried to keep more senior senators’ staffers from inspecting Heller’s larger-than-average member office.
According to two people familiar with the incident, Heller’s chief of staff offered $10,000 in campaign contributions from the senator’s PAC if Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., declined to take the suite.
Heller’s office disputes this claim, saying any comment of that nature was made in jest.
Experts say it’s unlikely Heller violated ethics rules, given how specific and egregious ethics violations must be in order for a lawmaker to be found guilty. It’s also hard to imagine the offer of money was serious when the PAC being referred to has only $20,000 in cash on hand, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Heller inherited the office after he was appointed to fill the seat of Republican John Ensign, who resigned in 2011. Chambliss’ staff asked to see the suite earlier this year, before Chambliss decided not to run for re-election in 2014. Chambliss’ office has declined to comment about the incident, but sources say Chambliss was so troubled by the incident that he personally spoke to Heller about it.
In an interview with the Las Vegas Sun, Heller blamed “petty politics,” “petty politicians” and “petty reporting” for the story itself and the attention it has been getting since.
Meanwhile, Heller’s aides must continue to show his space to more senior senators and staffs for a few more weeks.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.