Packing money to South Dakota

The defeat of U.S. Senator Tom Daschle of South Dakota has opened the way for Nevada’s Sen. Harry Reid to become the new Democratic floor leader.

Daschle’s defeat was assisted in no small measure by Reid’s Republican pal John Ensign. Reid and Ensign were opponents in the 1998 Senate race but have since become fast friends and adopted a mutual non-aggression pact.

Reid donated $10,000 from his Searchlight Leadership Fund political-action committee (PAC) to Daschle’s campaign.

But Ensign was able to do more for Daschle’s opponent John Thune (and thus, intentionally or otherwise, helped remove Daschle from Reid’s path to the top Democratic post of Senate Minority Leader).

Ensign’s Battle Born Fund PAC gave $10,000 to Thune. And the political-action committee for Mandalay Bay Resort gave $10,017—number 14 on Thune’s list of largest contributions.

Ensign’s father, Michael, owns 70 percent of Mandalay Bay Resort and serves as its CEO.

By contrast, closer to home, Ensign did little for Nevada’s own GOP Senate candidate Richard Ziser, Reid’s alleged opponent. Ensign performed the minimum party duties for Ziser, such as cutting a radio spot, but he gave no money, at least according to the latest disclosure filings. Certainly, there was no early Ensign money for Ziser. But Ensign’s PAC gave $10,000 to Republican U.S. House candidate Jon Porter of Las Vegas.

Ziser’s largest contributions came from PACs for Fresh Express ($18,000), Nevada Holding Services ($10,000), Hamelmann Communications ($6,273), Ahern Rentals ($5,000) and the Nevada Business Journal ($3,000).

The Mandalay Resort Group contributed $83,350 to Reid’s campaign.