Did You Happen to Go Home from Work and Miss This AP Exclusive? (Updated)

Did you happen to go home from work this evening and miss this AP Exclusive?

Funny, the following AP story broke this afternoon at 2:13 P.M. on the Forbes website yet it doesn't appear that any of the big mainstream newspapers covered it until well after most people left for home from work.

Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid collected a $1.1 million windfall on a Las Vegas land sale even though he hadn’t personally owned the property for three years, property deeds show.

In the process, Reid did not disclose to Congress an earlier sale in which he transferred his land to a company created by a friend and took a financial stake in that company, according to records and interviews.

The Nevada Democrat’s deal was engineered by Jay Brown, a longtime friend and former casino lawyer whose name surfaced in a major political bribery trial this summer and in other prior organized crime investigations. He’s never been charged with wrongdoing — except for a 1981 federal securities complaint that was settled out of court.

Land deeds obtained by The Associated Press during a review of Reid’s business dealings show:

–The deal began in 1998 when Reid bought undeveloped residential property on Las Vegas’ booming outskirts for about $400,000. Reid bought one lot outright, and a second parcel jointly with Brown. One of the sellers was a developer who was benefiting from a government land swap that Reid supported. The seller never talked to Reid.

–In 2001, Reid sold the land for the same price to a limited liability corporation created by Brown. The senator didn’t disclose the sale on his annual public ethics report or tell Congress he had any stake in Brown’s company. He continued to report to Congress that he personally owned the land.

–After getting local officials to rezone the property for a shopping center, Brown’s company sold the land in 2004 to other developers and Reid took $1.1 million of the proceeds, nearly tripling the senator’s investment. Reid reported it to Congress as a personal land sale.

The complex dealings allowed Reid to transfer ownership, legal liability and some tax consequences to Brown’s company without public knowledge, but still collect a seven-figure payoff nearly three years later.

Reid hung up the phone when questioned about the deal during an AP interview last week.

To be sure, it could simply be a function of the AP news cycle. The story appears to have been pushed at 7:17 P.M. ET for Yahoo and 6:20 P.M. ET for the New York Times according to their filed at time stamp in the article.

Not too surprisingly the exclusive AP story didn’t make its way onto the front page of the New York Times or Washington Post web editions yet (at the time of this posting). You can search for it however. It appears that the powers that be in our lib friendly newsrooms are too busy pushing speculative studies with inflated numbers of deaths for the war in Iraq.

According to the AP report Senator Reid violated Senate rules by failing to disclose aspects of the deal. I mention this because it will be interesting to see if the MSM covers this as judiciously as it did the Sen. George Allen stock option deal.

The AP is reporting the Senate ethics rules on the Harry Reid story as follows:

Senate ethics rules require lawmakers to disclose on their annual ethics report all transactions involving investment properties — regardless of profit or loss — and to report any ownership stake in companies.

Kent Cooper, a former Federal Election Commission official who oversaw government disclosure reports for federal candidates for two decades, said Reid’s failure to report the 2001 sale and his ties to Brown’s company violated Senate rules.

“This is very, very clear,” Cooper said. “Whether you make a profit or a loss you’ve got to put that transaction down so the public, voters, can see exactly what kind of money is moving to or from a member of Congress.”

“It is especially disconcerting when you have a member of the leadership, of either party, not putting in the effort to make sure this is a complete and accurate report,” said Cooper. “That says something to other members. It says something to the Ethics Committee.”

Other parts of the deal — such as the informal handling of property taxes — raise questions about possible gifts or income reportable to Congress and the IRS, ethics experts said.

I am keeping my eyes on this one to see how the MSM covers the story. This one may be too big for them to ignore.

I reported on this story earlier on Webloggin.

Update by Terry Trippany at 10:16 cst : You may note that the time stamp of the New York Times article now reads "filed at 10:00". I saw the time stamp change earlier from 6:14 to 6:20 and I thought I had made a simple mistake. However that assumption appears to have been wrong.

It appears that the AP is amending the story to include new statements made by Senator Reid in his own defense. There is no mention of this update on the site; it just happens.

Among some grammar and spelling changes the new 10:00 updated version added the following 2 paragraph justification in a statement made by Senator Reid.

But in a news conference Wednesday in Las Vegas, the senator said he believed he did nothing wrong but was willing to change his ethics report's account of the sale if the Senate Ethics Committee ordered him to do so.

''Everything I did was transparent,'' Reid said. ''I paid all the taxes. Everything is fully disclosed to the ethics committee and everyone else. As I said, if there is some technical change that the ethics committee wants, I'll be happy to do that.''

You can compare the Forbes version with the current NY Times version to see the differences in real time. (unless Forbes updates at a later time)

I save NY Times articles by default when I write about them because I have seen this sort of update appear in the past. (see Webloggin : Quiet Swap: NY Times Changed Late Edition of Swift Bank Story to Appear More Objective)

Note: I want to be clear about how AP stories update. Often what seems like something that could be done by a person back at a computer is automatically updated by back end systems such (such as timestamps). The emphasis of my last update should be on the new text that was added to the article. The time stamp change is merely what drew it to my attention.

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