Harry Reid’s Red Solar Project

Senator Harry Reid publicly banned relatives from lobbying him or his staff after several 2003 news reports showed Nevada’s industries and institutions routinely turned to Reid’s sons or son-in-law for representation. Now, questions surrounding those family ties are coming up again about the Senate majority leader’s influence.

Reid and his oldest son, Rory, are both involved in an effort by Chinese energy giant, ENN Energy Group, to build a $5 billion solar farm and panel manufacturing plant in southern Nevada. The Chinese company hopes it will be the largest solar energy complex in the U.S.

Solar panel prices have plunged globally, leading to the bankruptcy of equipment maker’s like Solyndra, with $535 million in U.S. government loan guarantees, and job cuts at other solar manufacturers. Pressured to curb Chinese trade practices, the Obama administration imposed duties as high as 4.73 percent on solar equipment imported from China.

This prompted more Chinese companies to move their manufacturing facilities to the U.S. It also helped Harry and son’s in their quest to secure the Chinese company for Nevada.

Senator Reid recruited the company during a 2011 trip to China and has been quietly applying his political muscle on behalf of the project ever since. Headed by Chinese energy tycoon Wang Yusuo, who took Reid and nine other U.S. senators on a tour of the ENN’s operations.

Reid reciprocated by introducing Wang as a speaker at his 4th annual National Clean Energy Summit in Las Vegas. Then ENN retained the state’s largest  law firm, Lionel Sawyer & Collins, where Rory works.

From there, Rory helped ENN find a 9,000-acre desert site in Laughlin, Nevada, buying it well below the appraised value made by Clark County, where Rory formerly chaired the commission. Public records show Harry owns some “fairly worthless” land near Laughlin as well as Bullhead City in Arizona.

Then there’s the fact Lionel Sawyer & Collins gave $40,650 individually and through its political action committee to Senator Reid over the past three election cycles. Its political action committee also contributed $2,000 in 2010 and $5,000 in 2008 to the Searchlight Leadership Fund, a political action committee that lists Reid as an affiliate.

After the controversy over the number of lawmaker relatives engaged in lobbying, in 2007 Congress passed the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act, sharply restricting the lobbying activities of close relatives of members of Congress. The law only applies to registered lobbyists and Rory Reid is not registered as a federal lobbyist in Washington or a state lobbyist in Nevada.

Whether the business is successful or fails, it’s the taxpayer who’ll end up taking the loss where the sun-doesn’t-shine.

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