WASHINGTON - The top-ranking Democrat on the Senate Ethics Committee has requested a formal review of lobbying practices in the chamber to determine whether tighter restrictions are needed.
"I believe a Senate-wide review of policies that relate to all current lobbying practices is in order and have conveyed that to the chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee," Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada said in a statement yesterday.
Reid has repeatedly sponsored legislation and taken other action to help real estate developers, mining companies and other large economic interests in Nevada. At the same time, three of his four sons, as well as his son-in-law were paid as lobbyists, lawyers or consultants by those interest groups.
Reid said his family members did not receive special treatment from his office. He said he supported legislation that benefited Nevada, regardless of the interest groups' relationship with his family.
His sons Rory and Leif Reid work in Nevada for the state's largest law firm. Key Reid, another son, also worked in Washington as a lobbyist for the firm until late last year, when he moved back to his home state to work for a leading real estate developer. Reid's son-in-law, Steven Barringer, continues to be a Washington lobbyist in another consulting firm.
Reid voluntarily banned his family members from directly lobbying his office after articles in the Los Angeles Times raised questions about his push for federal land trades and other provisions benefiting Nevada interests that hired his sons and son-in-law.
Reid said he made the changes in his office policy "to prevent any appearance of impropriety."
His call for an ethics review follows that of Sen. Ted Stevens, an Alaska Republican, who was the subject of a Times article in December that detailed how he helped businessmen with whom he was involved financially. Stevens' brother-in-law, an Anchorage lawyer and lobbyist, played a pivotal role in many of the deals.
"As a former chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee, I believe we should review our rules and ethical concepts" to adjust for changing conditions, Stevens said in December, noting that he had conducted such a review while heading the panel in the 1980s. Stevens and Reid said they had not been influenced by relatives, or in Stevens' case by personal business relationships.
A spokeswoman for the current Ethics Committee chairman, Sen. George V. Voinovich, an Ohio Republican, declined to comment on either request.
In the House of Representatives, the chairman of the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct is also still interested in a wide-ranging examination of the lower chamber's rules, including a look at whether family members' lobbying should be regulated, a spokeswoman said. Rep. Joel Hefley, a Colorado Republican, said previously that the increasing number of congressional relatives who lobby is "something that concerns me."
The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.