Angle offers no evidence for claim

In their debate last week, Republican U.S. Senate nominee Sharron Angle suggested—without providing any substantiation—that her opponent, Democrat Harry Reid, has as a senator corruptly acquired a personal fortune. Angle: “Not only that, you came from Searchlight to the Senate with very little. Now you’re one of the richest men in the U.S. Senate. On behalf of Nevada taxpayers, I’d like to know, we’d like to know—how did you become so wealthy on a government payroll?”

Reid responded, “Mitch [Fox, the moderator], that’s really a kind of a low blow. I think most everyone knows I was a very successful lawyer. I did a very good job in investing. I have been on a fixed income since I went to Washington. I’ve lived off of what I made in the private sector. I put my five kids through a hundred semesters of school, and I paid for every penny of it. So her suggestion that I made money being a senator is simply false, and I’m really disappointed that she would suggest that.”

As Reid mentioned, his deftness with money has been known in Nevada politics for decades. His saving and investing after he returned to Nevada from college is legendary. Shortly after he first arrived in the U.S. House in 1983, a PBS program of the period that analyzed the finances of actual people and advised them on how to handle their future investing decided to profile a member of Congress. They chose Harry Reid of Nevada, and reported that he was already a millionaire.

In his first congressional financial disclosure of May 1983, Rep. Reid reported assets of $1.13 million (that is the equivalent of having $2,402,302.61 in 2009).

Going back nine years, as lieutenant governor, Reid declared a net worth in April 1974 of $305,292 ($1,313,371.07 in 2009 dollars).

Interestingly, Angle in the debate was repeating a charge previously made by her pastor, John Reed, in our interview with him last month. (That portion of our interview is now posted on our Newsview blog). The pastor said he believed Reid went from being “a dirt farmer” to the Senate, where he became a multi-millionaire “because of the people’s money.”