Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D.-Nev.), below, reeled around like a punch-drunk fighter last week, grasping for an alibi that could explain why he accepted free tickets to three boxing matches from an organization trying to influence boxing legislation Reid was pushing in the Senate.
The Associated Press revealed that Reid had accepted ringside seats from the Nevada Athletic Commission that were worth between several hundred and several thousand dollars a piece — even though Senate ethics rules say senators "should be wary of accepting any gifts where it appears that the gift is motivated by a desire to reward, influence or elicit favorable official action."
Sen. John McCain (R.-Ariz.) also attended one of the fights, but later sent a $1,400 check for his ticket to the promoter. Sen. John Ensign (R.-Nev.) attended a fight, too, but recused himself from dealing with the boxing issue because his father worked for a Las Vegas hotel where fights take place.
Reid initially claimed it was his duty to attend fights for free. "Anyone from Nevada would say I’m glad he’s there taking care of the state’s No. 1 business," he told the Associated Press.
The next day, he tried to explain why he went for free, but McCain paid. "Sen. McCain is from Arizona," Reid told reporters. "He’s not supposed to get free tickets in Nevada."
On the third day, Reid gave up. "Sen. Reid will not accept these kinds of credentials in the future in order to avoid even the faintest appearance of impropriety," Reid spokesman Jim Manley told AP.
Melanie Sloan of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics scoffed at Reid’s initial rationalizations. "He is no more obligated to go to boxing matches than he is to attend a Celine Dion concert in Vegas," she said.