Heller takes gloves off


Dean Heller takes the gloves off in a new television ad (below) keyed to Shelley Berkley's ethics problems.

The commercial began running today in the Reno television market. It may just be a quick-hitter as the Heller campaign had not yet decided how long to keep it on the air or whether to run it in Las Vegas.

Still, the 30-second spot linked to allegations of wrongdoing that have spiraled around Berkley doesn't make it any easier for the Las Vegas congresswoman to make inroads in the key Northern Nevada battleground.

The ad also defies the conventional wisdom that the incumbent senator would seek to remain above the fray, allowing Republican surrogate groups to broadcast allegations that became more difficult this week for the Democratic congresswoman.

It's the second ad that Heller has put on the air, and contrasts to the initial positive spot in which he promotes his "No Budget, No Pay" congressional accountability bill.

The Berkley commercial was in the can and ready to go before Monday, when the House ethics committee announced it would  investigate accusations that she used her official position to benefit the business interests of her husband,  Las Vegas nephrologist Dr. Larry Lehrner.

Among allegations reported initially by the New York Times last September: Berkley lobbied a friend,  House subcommittee chairman Rep. Pete Stark, D-Calif., on behalf of preserving Medicare payments to kidney doctors.

Also being examined is Berkley's advocacy to rescue for the kidney transplant unit at University Medical Center where Lehrner is a partner in the company that provides kidney health services

In rebuttal,  Berkley has pointed out the effort to save the UMC unit, whose government certification was being revoked, was a joint effort by Nevada lawmakers.

Berkley has maintained her actions on health issues have been motivated by concerns about Nevada patients, not her husband's business interests.

Heller's commercial points to a report last year by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, an ethics watchdog group that, based on the allegations, gave Berkley a "dishonorable mention" in a report on "most corrupt" members of Congress.

"Shelley Berkley took care of herself. She got caught," says the male narrator of the Heller commercial.

Xochitl Hinojosa of Berkley's campaign responds: “Shelley Berkley’s one and only concern is Nevada patients, which is why she fought to prevent Nevada’s only kidney transplant program from being shut down by Washington bureaucrats and why she has worked to ensure Medicare recipients continue to receive the care they need."