When the House Ethics Committee announced Monday it had decided to open a full investigation of Rep. Shelley Berkley‘s votes on matters affecting her husband’s medical practice, Sen. Dean Heller had no comment. Journalists assumed that he was following the truism that one should not interfere when one’s opponent was drowning. But really, he was busy posting this:
Some points in reply, which don’t really blunt the impact of this ad:
- The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) didn’t actually put Berkley on its “most corrupt” list. She’s on the “dishonorable mention” list.
- The ad cleverly tries to imply Berkley enriched her husband by $250 million a year, but if you listen closely, you’ll hear the actual charge is that she saved her husband’s industry $250 million per year. And since the benefits that accrued to her husband’s medical practice were no different than those that accrued to every other similar practice in America, House ethics rules permit her to vote.
- “Shelley Berkley took care of herself, and she got caught,” says the ad. This points up why — at the very least — Berkley should have disclosed the facts of her husband’s practice each and every time she took any vote that could possibly benefit him, and thus her. Whether making a phone call, writing a letter, calling a colleague on a bill, she should have been upfront about any potential conflicts. Then, when accused of unethical behavior, she could honestly have said, “Nobody was in the dark about my husband’s business.”
- The ad doesn’t mention the House Ethics Committee’s Monday action, and it was posted Monday, which indicates this is something Heller had ready to go when a decision came down. (The committee had indicated it planned to announce a decision in the case on Monday.)
The ad isn’t surprising, and you can expect to see a lot more of them between now and Election Day. What is surprising is that Heller, who on Monday had nothing to say to journalists, posted a ad slamming Berkley on YouTube that very same day which proudly tells us “I’m Dean Heller and I support this message.” Why not go for the jugular in live print interviews on Monday? Or at the very least, point journalists to this ad?
Now, I don’t think this issue is the death knell to Berkley’s campaign, but nor do I think — as Sen. Harry Reid has said — that it won’t really have an impact. This ad won’t sway Berkley’s core loyalists, or independents who are persuaded by her refutation to one of the two main charges, that she acted in concert with GOP congressmen to help save the UMC kidney-transplant program (which is overseen by her husband’s practice). But for people who don’t know Berkley well, or who are inclined to be skeptical and suspicious of members of Congress for manipulating the system to their benefit, this issue could well be persuasive. And it will not be the last, guaranteed.