Reid’s Son Aims to Keep Soft-Money Role

Posted April 4, 2003 at 4:47pm

Like all federal lawmakers, Senate Minority Whip Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is out of the soft-money game — but Reid’s son, Clark County Commissioner Rory Reid, wants to ensure that the new campaign finance law hasn’t locked him out of the process too.

Last week, the younger Reid’s attorney wrote to the Federal Election Commission to get confirmation that he can still raise soft money for Nevada Democrats — regardless of fundraising activities he might have been involved in on his father’s behalf in the past, or may be involved in down the road.

“As a prominent local official, Commissioner Reid expects to support, as he has in the past, the Party’s nonfederal efforts,” Marc Elias, an attorney with the D.C.-based law firm Perkins Coie, wrote in a letter to the watchdog agency last week.

Rory Reid, Sen. Reid’s eldest son, is a lawyer by trade and was elected to the Clark County Commission last fall, but has been active in Democratic politics and party fundraising activities for years. He was also a delegate to the Democratic National Convention from Nevada in 2000 and is a former chairman of the Nevada Democratic Party.

The letter goes on to say that the Nevada State Democratic Party plans to feature the younger Reid “prominently” in its soft-money appeals and use him “as a draw” to nonfederal fundraising events, placing his name on invitations and solicitations.

“Commissioner Reid will conduct these activities exclusively on behalf of the party and not on the authority of any other person, including Senator Reid,” the letter, dated March 31, explains.

The new law, as interpreted by the FEC, specifically prohibits federal candidates and officeholders and “agents” acting on their behalf from soliciting, receiving, directing, transferring or spending soft-money funds — and Reid wants to be sure he isn’t perceived as an agent.

“The requestors would like to confirm their understanding that Commissioner Reid is not an ‘agent’ of Senator Reid for the purposes of [the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act], and therefore prohibited from raising nonfederal funds for the Party solely because he is Senator Reid’s son,” the request states.

In February 2000, the Las Vegas Review-Journal described the activities of Sen. Reid’s leadership political action committee, the Searchlight Leadership Fund, and Rory Reid’s involvement in those fundraising efforts.

Specifically, the article states that the soft-money PAC, while “not registered to make contributions in Nevada,” was planning to “funnel large amounts of money into the state later this year through the state Democratic Party led by Reid’s son, Rory.”

Reid’s lawyers, however, are arguing that such activities should have no bearing on the commissioner’s ability to legally raise soft-money funds for Nevada state and local election activity.

“The fact that Commissioner Reid may have, at times in the past, had the authority to conduct fundraising activity on Senator Reid’s behalf does not mean that he is Senator Reid’s ‘agent’ under BCRA at all times, even when acting on behalf of others,” the letter states. “In order for Senator Reid to be liable for Commissioner Reid’s acts, Commissioner Reid must carry out specific acts pursuant to Senator Reid’s actual authority.”

The letter goes on to assert that even if Sen. Reid instructs his son to raise federally permissible hard money “in certain circumstances or at certain events in connection with an election on Senator Reid’s behalf,” Rory Reid may still legally raise soft money back home in Nevada.

In response to Reid’s request, the FEC’s general counsel’s office will write an advisory opinion, which will then face a vote by the agency’s six commissioners.