Harry Reid Personally Intervenes To Reverse Casino Visa Ruling

The big question is whether this violates Senate rules

(Washington Times) The Obama administration overruled career Homeland Security officials and expedited visa applications for about two dozen foreign investors for a politically connected Las Vegas casino hotel after repeated pressure from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and his staff, according to internal government documents obtained by The Washington Times.

The move to overturn what is normally a non-appealable visa decision came despite concerns about “suspicious financial activity” involving some of the visa applicants from Asia, and it ultimately benefited several companies whose executives have donated heavily in recent years to Democrats, the documents show. It also ensnared Mr. Obama’s current nominee to be the No. 2 Homeland Security official, Alejandro “Ali” Mayorkas, whose appointment is to be reviewed by the Senate on Wednesday.

The intervention from Mr. Reid’s staff was so intense at one point a year ago that a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) official reported that it prompted a phone shouting match, turning a normally bureaucratic review process inside the Homeland Security Department into a politically charged drama that worried career officials.

“This one is going to be a major headache for us all because Sen. Reid’s office/staff is pushing hard and I just had a long yelling match on the phone,” USCIS Legislative Affairs official Miguel “Mike” Rodriguez warned in a Dec. 5, 2012, email to Homeland Security Department officials.

SLS Hotels, formerly known as Sahara Casino, wanted visas for foreign investors. They were turned down for expedited review despite the pressure from Reid’s staff. At which point Harry Reid personally became involved and reached out to the top official at USCIS, Alejandro “Ali” Mayorkas, ultimately obtaining the expedited review with a few weeks.

The Washington Times article, well worth the read, doesn’t jump into consideration as to whether any of this violates Senate ethics rules. Of course, there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of rules for elected officials. This could be called influence peddling. And undue influence. Having the top Democrat in the Senate, who is also the Majority Leader, reach out and apparently berate the top official at USCIS, in order to benefit a private entity in this manner sure borders illegal activity. It possibly violates ex parte communications. But, that communication may be allowable in order to urge prompt consideration (same link as “violates”).

The big question is whether Reid will make any money or receive donations from any of the involved entities. The sad part is that this probably happens all the time with members of both political parties, who so often feel that The Rules shouldn’t apply to them or their interests.

Executives for the two main companies involved in the hotel project have donated more than $127,000 to political causes over the last three elections, mostly to Democrats, Federal Election Commission records show.

Senator Dean Heller (R-Nevada) also wrote to obtain expedited review, though he didn’t get into shouting matches nor call up high ranking officials. Many are worried that the E-5B visa program has too much political influence. Pffft. Rules are for The Little People, not federally elected officials.

Crossed at Pirate’s Cove. Follow me on Twitter @WilliamTeach.

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