Fact Check: Crossroads GPS Ad Questions Berkley's Ethics

By Steve Kanigher

Published 08/10 2012 11:49AM

Updated 08/10 2012 12:11PM

Claim: An advertisement sponsored by Republican-leaning advocacy organization Crossroads GPS that is airing in Southern Nevada states: "Shelley Berkley, under investigation for abusing her office. And the industry Berkley did favors for is still showering her with cash. It's not surprising. Before she came to Congress Berkley urged her boss at a Vegas casino to buy off judges and politicians with favors and campaign cash. Wrong then. Wrong now. A disturbing pattern of unethical behavior."

Verdict: The ad contains some truth but is mostly misleading. Berkley, a Democratic congresswoman seeking to unseat Republican Sen. Dean Heller, is under investigation by the House Ethics Committee. The investigation was prompted by a complaint from the Nevada Republican Party that followed publication of a New York Times story in September calling attention to influence Berkley reportedly wielded to help her husband's kidney treatment practice. Because the committee hasn't reached a decision on whether Berkley violated any ethics rules, it is premature to render judgment on that score. The claim about Berkley still receiving money from the kidney care industry is sourced to a July 27 story in the Las Vegas Sun. But in the same story, the director of the nonpartisan Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, Melanie Sloan, is quoted as saying she saw no issue with Berkley accepting campaign contributions from the industry. The significance is that this is the same organization that previously placed Berkley on its "Dishonorable Mention" list for 2011 following the Times story. The part about Berkley urging her boss to curry favor with judges and politicians was first reported by the Las Vegas Review-Journal in 1998, when she was running for her first term in Congress. Berkley conceded to the newspaper that she gave that advice to one-time boss Sheldon Adelson when she worked as his vice president of government and legal affairs at Las Vegas Sands. Indeed, the newspaper backed up its reporting by noting that a recorded phone conversation involving Berkley and memos she authored confirmed that advice. She told the newspaper that this was simply how business was conducted in Las Vegas and that "I do not agree with or condone the advice." But the revelation didn't stop voters from electing her to office in November 1998 and sending her back to Washington in each subsequent congressional election.

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