By Drew MacKenzie
NEVADA – Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is at the center of a growing political controversy after it was revealed Thursday that more payments from his campaign funds had been made to his granddaughter than previously reported.
The Nevada Democrat promised earlier this week to reimburse $16,787 his campaign gave to Ryan Elisabeth Reid in 2013 for what was described as payments for “holiday gifts.” Those payments were reportedly made to purchase items from Ryan Elisabeth Reid, who has her own line of jewelry. Reid defended the payments, saying they complied with Federal Election Commission standards that allow the purchase of goods from relatives if those goods are sold at fair market value.
Jahan Wilcox, a Republican National Committee spokesman, decried Harry Reid’s use of campaign monies as a “personal slush fund.”
Things got worse for Reid when the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported Thursday that federal disclosures show the campaign paid another $14,481 to Reid’s granddaughter in 2012, bringing to $31,268 the total paid to Ryan Elisabeth in 2012 and 2013 to purchase gifts for Reid’s support staff.
Reid told the newspaper that 23-year-old Ryan has been the target of “harassing” phone calls and “negative unwanted attention on the Internet.”
In a statement, Reid said, “This has gone too far and it needs to stop now. I deeply regret any role I had in creating this situation but now, as a grandparent, I say enough is enough.
“Landra [Reid’s wife] and I are extremely proud of our granddaughter, we love her very much and we regret any unwanted attention that these stories have brought to her.”
The scandal came to light earlier this week after Las Vegas journalist Jon Ralston investigated campaign payments made to a “Ryan Elisabeth.”
The Federal Election Commission asked Reid’s campaign, Friends for Harry Reid, to provide more information about the gift money, and was informed about that the payments were, in fact, made to Reid’s granddaughter.
Ryan, the daughter of former Clark County Commissioner Rory Reid, designs jewelry and a gift line and is also the creative director of a New York theater company. Ryan Elisabeth is the name of her jewelry company, and the “holiday gifts” were trinkets — coasters, picture frames, jewelry — for Reid’s staff.
Reid maintained that the gifts were in full compliance with FEC regulation, but he vowed on Wednesday to pay back his campaign for the full amount.
Before the additional payments were revealed, Reid said, “I thought it would be nice to give supporters and staff thank-you gifts that had a personal connection.”
But the Review-Journal said that “the potential appearance” Reid was using funds from political donors to enrich a family member prompted his decision to reimburse the campaign.
Republicans have slammed Reid for what they called improper spending by turning donor contributions into a slush fund.
“It’s pretty brazen for Sen. Harry Reid to funnel…campaign funds to his granddaughter for ‘holiday gifts,'” Wilcox said. “One of these days Reid will learn that Nevadans don’t appreciate him using campaign money as his personal slush fund.”