Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Harry Reid Realty, The Saga Continues
... for ANOTHER QUESTIONABLE LAND DEAL:
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid purchased 60 acres of land in northern Arizona from a pension fund at a price experts say constituted an extremely good deal.
The land was sold to Reid, D-Nev., for $10,000 in 2002 by Las Vegas lubricants distributor Clair Haycock, a friend who controlled the employee pension fund that owed it, The Los Angeles Times reported.
The purchase put Reid in full control of a 160-acre parcel in Bullhead City, Ariz.
Six months after the deal closed, Reid introduced legislation to address the plight of lubricants dealers who had their supplies disrupted by the decisions of big oil companies, the Times said.
Records and interviews show that beginning in the mid-1990s, Reid tried several times to push legislation that would have protected lubricants distributors from abrupt cancellations by their suppliers. Though unsuccessful, the legislation sent a clear message to the oil firms that there was congressional interest in the matter, according to Sarah Dodge, then-legislative director for an industry group that worked on the bill.
Because an employee pension fund had owned the land Reid purchased, labor law experts contacted by The Times said, a below-market sale would raise additional questions. Pension fund trustees like Clair Haycock have a duty in most cases to sell assets for their market value, the experts said.
"I think this would have been considered a potentially serious issue" at the time, said Ian D. Lanoff, who led the Labor Department's pension division during the Carter administration and was provided basic details of the case - though not the identity of the lawmaker - by The Times.
"Theoretically it's a serious issue for the trustee who sold the property, though practically it may not be" because the pension plan is now closed and its obligations were met, Lanoff said.
Reid's interest in the barren parcel dates back to the period of 1979 through 1982, when he and Clair Haycock bought the 160 acres. Haycock bought a three-eighths interest, equivalent to 60 acres, for $90,000 - $1,500 an acre. Reid, then a Nevada lawyer and political figure, bought the other five-eighths, the equivalent of 100 acres. They did not divide the parcel.
The property has sweeping mountain and mesa views and now abuts a housing development, which could make it attractive to developers. But there are some limitations. The land has a steep wash, or desert streambed, and the adjacent land has a gravel pit.
In the early 1990s, California investors bought the entire 160 acres from Reid and Haycock for a little over $1.34 million - Â around $8,400 an acre. The new owners obtained approval to develop a mobile home and recreational vehicle park. But a few years later they defaulted, and Reid and the pension fund were once again the land's joint owners.
How good a deal did Reid get? Paying $166 an acre for Mohave County land is "a super deal," said the county assessor, Ron Nicholson. But the precise answer in this case, Nicholson said, is complicated by the fact that only a minority portion of a partnership was for sale; minority shares can be difficult to sell. Other experts who reviewed the transaction for The Times acknowledged the complexity of the deal but said the senator appeared to have acquired valuable property for a fraction of its value.
At least twice, Reid appealed to the Mohave County assessor to lower the land valuation and decrease his taxes, in 2002 presenting a 2001 appraisal that valued the land at $1,000 an acre. The assessor's office made a downward adjustment for 2003 but still places the value at about $1,748 an acre.
Reid has long been known as a champion of Nevada interests, particularly gambling and mining. But he seemed an unlikely choice to advocate for the beleaguered lubricants industry when he took up the issue in 1994. He did not sit on the Energy Committee.
At that time, the Haycocks went to Reid for help, according to a former employee of the lubricants industry trade group, Petroleum Marketers Assn. of America, who was involved in the events. The employee asked that his name be withheld because his current job involves congressional contacts.
The Haycocks had lost business in 1994 when Mobil Oil Co. canceled the family's distributorship, costing the firm a lucrative contract with the Las Vegas-area General Motors dealers, which had to use Mobil products.
The family was "incensed that this had happened and there was nothing they could do about it," said the former trade group employee.
Reid mentions constituent
The Haycocks - who were considered industry leaders - say they do not recall discussing the matter with Reid. But the former trade group employee said the Haycocks convinced Reid to take action.
Reid "did it because John or Clair asked him to do it," said the former employee.
With the legislative session coming to a close, Reid brought the issue to the Senate floor on Oct. 5, 1994. He described a Nevada constituent whose "franchise agreement to sell lubricating oils to car dealers in Las Vegas was arbitrarily canceled with 30 days' notice," adding: "This seems grossly unfair."
A Washington lawyer who represented the Haycocks in their dispute with Mobil recalls that dealers turned to Reid after other avenues of redress had been exhausted.
"The Haycocks provided access to Sen. Reid," said Al Alfano, the attorney, who still represents distributor interests. However, Alfano said, Reid's efforts brought no relief to the Haycocks. Although the issue remains a concern for many distributors, he said, the Haycocks lost interest after the mid-1990s.
Nonetheless, Reid cited the same constituent example almost word-for-word in 2002, soon after the land sale, and again in 2003 when he introduced legislation...
Folks, if you're looking for land in Nevada, wanting to quash any innovation or competition in the Dairy Industry or have a hankerin' to cozy up to a Lubricant Mogul, look no further than Harry Reid!
Why...legend says he even finds times to be a Senator!
accordance and compliance with Fair Use Section 107 U.S. Copyright Code.
All other images and content © 2005-2009 David Drake.
Not responsible for content contained at linked sites.
Policy on commenting:
- Anonymous comments have little chance of being published.
- Comments made on posts 60 days old or older have little chance of being published.
- Published comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this blog author.
- Discretion of publishing or rejecting submitted comments rests solely with the owner and creator of this blog.
- Comments that egregiously "plug" (i.e. advertise or promote) another site or blog will be rejected. This doesn't mean you cannot include a link to your story, blog or to another site, but don't go overboard.
- Profanity is not a disqualifying factor, but profane rants solely for purposes of profanity are unlikely to be published.
- The owner and creator of this blog is not liable or responsible for the opinions of those who comment.