It didn't take long for politics to enter the dispute between U.S. Sen. Harry Reid's biggest campaign contributor, MGM Mirage, and a contractor that built the CityCenter project Reid helped save.
On Tuesday, Sue Lowden, the Republican front-runner in the U.S. Senate race, accused Reid of doing nothing to help resolve a near $500 million disagreement between MGM Mirage and Perini Building Co., the general contractor that went public with complaints it wasn't getting paid for completed work.
"Where is Harry now?" Lowden asked in a statement.
The Reid campaign responded by noting that Lowden has no room to talk since contractors who built her $4 million Las Vegas home in the early 1990s had to go to court to get paid.
"Lowden's attack represents the height of hypocrisy, given that it took a court order for her to pay her bills in the construction of her lavish, 13,000 square-foot estate -- even though she's worth more than $50 million," said Reid campaign spokesman Kelly Steele.
Lowden's campaign said there wasn't an official court order since there wasn't any trial involving her and the home building contractors and all financial claims for work done were satisfied.
On the CityCenter dispute, Sen. Reid's office said Perini didn't call the senator and ask for his help when the disagreement over paying the final construction bills came up and he won't get involved now because Perini has filed a lawsuit in Clark County District Court against MGM Mirage.
"Sen. Reid has a long standing rule about staying out of cases once they are in the court's hands," said Jon Summers, spokesman for Reid, the Democratic Party incumbent who is in a tough race for re-election. "He hopes the two parties will resolve their differences as quickly as possible."
Reid's involvement with the CityCenter project is deep as is his support from MGM Mirage, which has given the senator more than $315,000 in campaign contributions over the past two decades.
Last year, Reid intervened to help MGM Mirage complete its $8.5 billion CityCenter hotel-casino development by calling banks to keep funding flowing. Last fall, Reid campaign ads touted his help, including one in which MGM Mirage Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jim Murren thanked him for saving jobs: for 10,000 construction workers and 12,000 CityCenter employees, according to Reid.
"Thousands of people are working today because of his efforts," Summers said of Reid. "The difference between that situation and the Perini case is that MGM asked Sen. Reid for help."
Perini did ask for help from Gov. Jim Gibbons, a Republican also in a tough re-election race. The governor scheduled a meeting May 21 with the building company, but it's unclear what he can do to help.
The May 21 meeting is in response to a nine-page letter sent May 3 by Perini, asking Gibbons to investigate why MGM Mirage is not paying nearly $500 million the general contractor claims it and nearly 600 subcontractors are owed. Many of those subcontractors are minority-owned businesses.
Alan Feldman, MGM Mirage's senior vice president of public affairs, said Tuesday that Perini delivered the disputed final billing only last week and MGM Mirage is auditing it to determine how much to pay since the gaming company isn't satisfied with some work at the Harmon Tower.
"This is a business dispute between us and Perini and we have a different view over the final numbers that are owed to them," Feldman said. "There's a process that has begun in court and we hope to resolve it very quickly," he added, although he couldn't say how long that might take.
Perini Building Chief Executive Officer Craig Shaw has said MGM Mirage has not been negotiating in "good faith" for payment of work completed on time, which is why the company decided to fight.
Contact Laura Myers at email@example.com or 702-387-2919.