Fact Check: Ad Goes After Berkley on Ethics

By Steve Kanigher

Published 08/20 2012 05:36PM

Updated 08/20 2012 06:02PM

Claim: An advertisement airing on KLAS-TV Channel 8 that is endorsed by Crossroads GPS, an issue advocacy group that favors Republican candidates, stated: "The year 1996. Shelley Berkley urges her boss to buy off politicians with favors and cash. 2008: Congresswoman Berkley begs a judge to go easy on her big campaign donor, convicted of wire fraud, attempting bribery. Now Berkley is under investigation for using her office to enrich herself. A lot's changed over the years. But not Shelley Berkley. With Berkley there are always questions of corruption."

Verdict: As with a prior Crossroads ad that attacked Berkley, a Democratic congresswoman challenging Republican Sen. Dean Heller, this one is partly true but mostly misleading. The part about urging her boss was first reported by the Las Vegas Review-Journal in 1998, involving advice she gave to resort owner Sheldon Adelson when she was his vice president of government and legal affairs at Las Vegas Sands. She told the newspaper that her advice to curry favor with judges and politicians reflected how business was conducted in Las Vegas but that she didn't agree with or condone that advice. That disclosure didn't hurt Berkley with voters because they later sent her to Washington with a victory in the November 1998 election and returned her to office in each House race thereafter. The new wrinkle in Crossroad's attack is on target with respect to a letter Berkley wrote on behalf of real estate consultant Donald Davidson, who in July 2007 was convicted of wire fraud for attempting in 2002 to bribe then-Las Vegas City Councilman Michael McDonald. As reported by the Review-Journal in 2008, Berkley wrote to U.S. District Judge Roger Hunt prior to sentencing that Davidson had worked with charities and was devoted to his family. "I believe Mr. Davidson is a good man who behaved badly and I am certain he is extremely remorseful for his activities," the newspaper quoted Berkley as writing. Where Crossroads is off base is by referring to Davidson as "her big campaign donor." The nonpartisan website Campaignmoney.com reported that Davidson contributed only $2,000 combined to Berkley campaigns in 2001 and 2003 and nothing since then, which doesn't qualify him as a big donor. Again, Berkley survived this disclosure with victories in subsequent elections. The final aspect of the ad refers to the ongoing House Ethics Committee investigation of whether she acted in Congress on behalf of her husband's kidney treatment practice. Until the committee issues its findings, it is premature to jump to conclusions.

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