Drudge misrepresented as “sweetheart land deal” a business transaction by Sen. Reid, described in an article by AP's Solomon

A Drudge Report headline, which linked to an Associated Press article by John Solomon and Kathleen Hennessey, misrepresented a business transaction involving Sen. Harry Reid as a “sweetheart land deal.” Rush Limbaugh read the AP report on his radio program, praising Solomon as “an AP writer that I have trusted. John Solomon's stuff is good.” However, as Media Matters for America has documented, Solomon has a history of misleading reporting on Senate Democrats.

In an October 11 headline on the Drudge Report, Internet gossip Matt Drudge misrepresented as a “sweetheart land deal” a business transaction involving Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (NV), as described in a report that day by Associated Press writers John Solomon and Kathleen Hennessey. In fact, far from establishing that Reid benefited from a “sweetheart” deal, the article charges Reid with “complex dealings” and improper reporting of a land transaction in Clark County, Nevada, but acknowledges that Reid paid market value for the land in question in 1998 and sold it to developers in 2004. Additionally, nationally syndicated radio host Rush Limbaugh read portions of the AP article on the October 11 broadcast of The Rush Limbaugh Show, pointing to it as evidence of a “culture of corruption.”

Limbaugh's identification of Solomon as “an AP writer that I have trusted” notwithstanding, Media Matters for America has previously identified misleading reports by Solomon about Senate Democrats:

  • In a May 29 article, Solomon suggested that Reid had acted improperly by attending Las Vegas boxing matches as the guest of the Nevada Athletic Commission “while that state agency was trying to influence him on federal regulation of boxing.” But Solomon left out important details, as Media Matters noted here and here.
  • In February, Solomon wrote an article alleging ties between Reid and disgraced former GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff that similarly came under fire, from Media Matters and others, for omitting crucial facts regarding the actions in question. Shortly thereafter, more details came to light undermining Solomon's allegations. But rather than acknowledge the flaws in his article, Solomon wrote a follow-up piece that misleadingly offered the new information as support for his original case.
  • In November 2005, Solomon similarly alleged connections between Abramoff and Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND), but ignored evidence undermining his claim that the lobbyist had directed contributions to Dorgan after the senator aided his clients. When Dorgan later returned the contributions he had received from Abramoff's clients, Solomon wrote an article in which he took credit for this development, but ignored the evidence undermining the purported ties between Abramoff and Dorgan that Solomon pushed in his first article.

From the October 11 broadcast of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:

LIMBAUGH: An Associated Press story by John Solomon -- he is an AP writer that I have trusted. John Solomon's stuff is good. At the Associated Press: “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” -- this according to property deeds. Culture of corruption, anybody?

“In the process,” Dingy Harry “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. Dingy Harry's [sic] 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" that the deal began in '98, when Dingy Harry “bought undeveloped residential property on Las Vegas' booming outskirts” for about 400 Gs. “Reid bought one lot outright ... a second parcel jointly with Brown. One of the sellers was a developer ... benefiting from a government land swap that Dingy Harry [sic] had supported.” The seller never even talked to Harry Reid.

In 2001, Dingy Harry “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 that he had any stake in Brown's company. He continued to report to Congress he personally owned the land” even after he sold it. After getting local officials to rezone the property for a shopping center, Brown's company sold the land in 2004 to other developers" -- Dingy Harry took $1.1 million of the proceeds, “nearly tripling” his investment of $400,000.

“Reid reported it to Congress as a personal land sale. The complex dealings allowed Dingy Harry [sic] 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. Dingy Harry [sic] hung up the phone when questioned about the deal during an AP interview last week.”

Well. Well, well, well, well, well, well. I can imagine it has not been easy to gather this information, ladies and gentlemen. Dingy Harry, let's -- well, this is the AP. Let's see how far this goes.