Berkley casino ethics flap revived in new GOP attack


It was only a matter of time before Republicans rolled this out but Crossroads GPS is on the air today with a commercial that resurrects a Shelley Berkley ethics run-in from her days as a Las Vegas casino attorney.

The superPAC's 30-second spot (video below) says the current House investigation of the Las Vegas congresswoman over allegations of health care conflicts "is not surprising," as it aims to pencil in a straight line back 14 years.

That's when Berkley served as a vice president for legal and governmental affairs at Las Vegas Sands Inc., working for chairman Sheldon Adelson as the casino magnate was building his flagship Venetian resort on the Strip.

"Before she came to Congress, Berkley urged her boss at a Vegas casino to buy off judges and politicians with favors and campaign cash," the ad's narrator says over visuals of glitzy neon and bright colors edited in the breezy style of the "Ocean's Eleven" remake.

"Wrong then, wrong now. A disturbing pattern of unethical behavior," the ad states.

The attack has its roots in a Berkley-Adelson relationship that went sour and has gotten only more so between the Democratic lawmaker and the Republican mogul who, in this campaign year, has become the most generous campaign donor to GOP candidates. Adelson has suggested he is willing to spend up to $100 million to elect Republicans.

Back in 1997 Berkley was fired by Adelson. As she was running in her first race for Congress, Adelson spent heavily to defeat her.

In June 1998, old Sands memos surfaced as well as a taped phone call in which Berkley was recorded saying she recommended Adelson offer favors to then-Clark County commissioners Erin Kenny and Yvonne Atkinson Gates to help complete the Venetian.

One Berkley memo to Adelson from September 1996 recommended making campaign contributions to Las Vegas judges because "they tend to help those who have helped them."

"If we want to be able to continue contacting the judges when we need to, I strongly urge that we donate to the judges I recommended," the memo said in part.

At the time Berkley confirmed what was contained in the leaks and defended her reputation for honesty. She said she was advising Adelson on the way business was conducted in Las Vegas.

"I gave him the best advice I could under the circumstances," Berkley told reporter Jane Ann Morrison of the Review-Journal. "I do not agree with or condone the advice."

Berkley also told Morrison her relationship with Adelson was fraying at that time and suspected he was trying to set her up.

Candidate Berkley was ripped by Republicans after the disclosures but she maintained leads in her race for Congress from a Democrat-leaning district.

Then-District Attorney Stewart Bell said he saw no crime in Berkley's advice to Adelson and there were no legal repercussions. Berkley's black eye healed in time to win election that November to a House seat she has held until now. She is giving it up to run for the U.S. Senate.

Berkley's response today to the Crossroads GPS ad was that the episode was old news and has been overshadowed by Berkley winning re-election six times.

"Leave it to George W. Bush's political director, Karl Rove, to dredge up something from two decades ago that voters made a judgment on during Shelley's very first campaign for Congress," said campaign spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa.

"Just like when they elected Shelley then, Nevadans know now that Shelley's a tenacious fighter for the middle-class."

Rove was a founder of the American Crossroads organization that has become a top contributor to political races on behalf of Republicans. Among its donors is Adelson, whom the New York Times said last month has committed at least $10 million to the group.