BLM sued for records of Sen. Reid contacts

/ Source: The Associated Press

A conservative group said Tuesday it is suing the Bureau of Land Management for records about any role Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and other Nevada politicians had in a real estate development project in the state.

The group, Judicial Watch, said the BLM had not responded to a Freedom of Information Act request March 8 seeking correspondence with Reid, D-Nev., Republican Sen. John Ensign of Nevada and the state's Republican governor, former Rep. Jim Gibbons, about the Coyote Springs development.

The Los Angeles Times reported in a story last year that Reid and other Nevada politicians intervened with federal officials on behalf of Nevada lobbyist Harvey Whittemore and his 43,000-acre development of homes and golf courses northeast of Las Vegas.

Specifically, the Times reported that Reid and Ensign met with the head of the Environmental Protection Agency to relay developers' concerns about permits being delayed because of potential environmental impacts. One of Reid's sons, Leif, has represented Whittemore as an attorney.

Reid and others in the Nevada congressional delegation have said the development represents economic benefits for the state.

"This is clearly a politically motivated move by a right-wing group attempting to get headlines," Jon Summers, a spokesman for Reid, said in a statement after the suit was announced.

Summers said that because 87 percent of land in Nevada is managed by the federal government, members of Congress work closely with federal agencies on land use issues.

"Every member of Nevada's delegation strongly supports this project, which would create more than half a million jobs and provide more than 150,000 homes when complete," said Summers.

Judicial Watch filed the suit in U.S. District Court in Washington on Sept. 5. The Bureau of Land Management did not respond immediately to a message left after hours with its press office.