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Ethics complaint targets Harry Reid over casino investors

CONFLICT OF INTEREST: A conservative group says Sen. Harry Reid meddled in visa-investor cases involving his son's Las Vegas law firm.
Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is the target of an ethics and conflict-of-interest complaint over his involvement in a visa-investor venture, Watchdog.org reported Tuesday.

The complaint, filed by the activist group Cause of Action, asserts that the Nevada Democrat intervened with top immigration officials to benefit EB-5 visa seekers. The applicants were law clients of Reid’s son.

Among the officials contacted by Reid was Alejandro Mayorkas, then director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

“Despite the fact that these applications were ineligible for appeal, Sen. Reid’s efforts to lobby USCIS resulted in the reconsideration and approval of these applications, as well as the subsequent securing of millions of dollars in foreign and domestic funds for the (Las Vegas) SLS Hotel & Casino and American Dream Fund EB-5 Regional Center — both of which are major contributors to the Democratic Party,” Cause of Action Executive Director Daniel Epstein wrote.

Mayorkas, recently confirmed by the Senate to be deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, remains under investigation by the DHS Inspector General’s Office over his handling of EB-5 cases. Approved without Republican votes, Mayorkas benefited from Reid’s newly instituted “nuclear option,” which effectively blocks filibusters on confirmations.

The EB-5 program enables foreign nationals to receive green cards in exchange for $500,000 to $1-million investments in participating U.S. companies.

Cause of Action’s letter references a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement memo detailing how the EB-5 program “inherently creates an opportunity for fraud.”

Michael Gibson, managing director of USAdvisors.org, which consults on EB-5 projects, said he did not find Cause of Action’s claims about Reid “surprising or shocking.”

“It seems like business as usual for D.C.,” he told Watchdog.

“I can understand the users’ and politicians’ frustration with USCIS. They have been slow to add resources to alleviate the backlog, which has been persistent for several years now,” he said.

“What is unfortunate is that it appears that certain groups who are politically connected appear to have a strong influence on the decision making within the agency, especially with the director, and that is not fair to the others who have been waiting longer but are less politically connected.”

Epstein maintains that Reid went beyond the U.S. Senate Code of Official Conduct.

“Urging the expedited approval of a specific set of visa applications that are flagged for ‘suspicious financial activity’ goes beyond ‘urg(ing) prompt consideration,’” stated the complaint filed with the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Ethics.

See the full story here.

RELATED: An audit of the EB-5 program criticized loose congressional direction and found USCIS cannot demonstrate the benefits of foreign investment into the U.S. economy.

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