Is the Democratic senator untouchable?
There are allegations that outgoing U.S. Senator Harry Reid, D-Nev. (F, 2%) may have accepted a massive bribe to push a bill legalizing online poker nationwide in 2010. And the federal government has reportedly “stymied” the investigation into those allegations.
Tom Harvey and Jennifer Dobner report for The Salt Lake Tribune that Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings is investigating the origins of a $2 million cashier’s check with connections to an online poker company that was laundered through “Mail Media LTD” — an outfit for laundering online-gambling funds — and may have landed in a Marshall Islands bank account in the name of a holding company “to benefit, or even bribe, Harry Reid, the once-powerful majority leader.”
The $2 million dollar cashier’s check was drawn at a St. George Bank on November 5, 2010. From there it was sent via Fedex to Los Angeles.
According to their reporting, “state and federal investigations, court filings and public records requests — including audio recordings of interviews and thousands of pages of transcripts, summaries by investigators, emails, requests for evidence and other materials — show that the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the FBI failed to pursue a vigorous investigation of this money and any potential tie to Reid.”
The matter was brought to Rawlings’ attention when “disgraced” businessman Jeremy Johnson confessed that the money came out from a now-defunct business where Johnson and his cohorts illegally processed payments for poker companies. Johnson told FBI agents and Rawlings that Sen. Reid was going to get “a little something extra” in exchange for political help.
Rawlings’ investigation into the route of the $2 million check picked up the trail from two former Utah attorneys general of interest, with the officials’ suspicious actions motivating Rawlings to further pursue the case. Harvey and Dobner of the Tribune report:
The available evidence contains no direct connection between the money and the Nevada Democrat, only that Rawlings wants to dig into that possibility.
Federal authorities have stymied his effort, leaving Rawlings to wonder why. Were agents ordered to steer clear of that money trail? And, if so, by whom? In short, was there a cover-up? […]
Even at the state level, though, Rawlings’ push for funding for a grand jury also has stalled. Attorney General Sean Reyes’ office has not turned over any funds for such an inquiry despite months of negotiations.
Johnson had claimed to authorities at the time of Reid’s contentious 2010 reelection bid against Republican Sharon Angle, his company SunFirst was asked to distribute poker funds to Reid through various donors at a July 6, 2010 fundraiser.
The Salt Lake Tribune documents the following events thereafter:
Reid, according to Johnson, told the crowd — including Bitar, Ifrah and Poker Players Alliance Executive Director John Pappas — that he was switching positions and would now support legislation to ensure that online poker was legal at the federal level. Pappas said in an interview that he didn’t remember what Reid said at the meeting.
In his multiple accounts of the meeting, and specifically in a February 2014 interview with two FBI agents, Johnson has said, “Harry Reid is going around meeting people and saying ‘Hi’ and I was standing next to one of Ray’s entourage and I’m like, ‘How did you guys get Harry Reid to go against his own constituents and do this?’ and he’s like, ‘Well, let’s just say he’s getting a little something extra in his retirement fund.'”
Attorney Troy Rawlings has asked federal agencies for evidence linking Reid to this bank account. But while they have been happy to investigate other figures of interest, they have blocked efforts to gain information about the Democratic Senate minority leader: “Rawlings said he has been told by federal authorities to ‘forget Harry Reid.’”
A month after Sen. Reid’s reelection in 2010, he began campaigning in Congress to legalize online poker.
According to Tom Harvey and Jennifer Dobner, “Reid’s spokeswoman did not return emails and a phone message seeking comment for this story. Previously, his office called any bribery allegations “unsubstantiated” and accused Rawlings of grandstanding to advance his political career.”