Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Sucker Punch

Whoo, big scandal brewing here. The AP’s John Solomon reports that Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) accepted free tickets to a boxing match.

Senate Democratic Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.) accepted free ringside tickets from the Nevada Athletic Commission to three professional boxing matches while that state agency was trying to influence him on federal regulation of boxing.

Reid took the free seats for Las Vegas fights between 2003 and 2005 as he was pressing legislation to increase government oversight of the sport, including the creation of a federal boxing commission that Nevada’s agency feared might usurp its authority.

He defended the gifts, saying that they would never influence his position on the bill and he was simply trying to learn how his legislation might affect an important home state industry. “Anyone from Nevada would say I’m glad he is there taking care of the state’s number one businesses,” he said. “I love the fights anyways, so it wasn’t like being punished,” added the senator, a former boxer and boxing judge.

Senate ethics rules generally allow lawmakers to accept gifts from federal, state or local governments, but specifically warn against taking such gifts — particularly on multiple occasions — when they might be connected to efforts to influence official actions.

Sounds like a big deal, eh? The only problem is that, as Josh Marshall notes, Mr. Reid voted against the state boxing commission.

Mr. Solomon seems to have issues with Sen. Reid. As Paul Kiel notes, this is the second time he has breathlessly reported that the Senate Minority Leader is connected with shady dealings only to have it fizzle out like a popcorn fart.

Solomon’s foil for Reid’s alleged ethical shortcoming is Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who “insisted on paying $1,400 for the tickets he shared with Reid for a 2004 championship fight.” He’s the hero of Solomon’s piece, the one who went the extra distance to make sure there was no appearance of impropriety. That’s commendable, but it’s by no means apparent that it was a step McCain was obligated to take. I for one can’t muster up even a puff of indigation over the fact that a former boxer and boxing judge, former head of the Nevada Gaming Commission, and current Senator from Nevada accepted free tickets to boxing matches in Las Vegas.

Solomon is so dead-set on illustrating bipartisan parity on corruption that he’s blind to the weakness of the arguments he’s making. If this is the best that he can come up with after several months, I have to say that Reid seems remarkably incorruptible.

And it sounds like both the Nevada state boxing commission and Mr. Solomon are losers.