WASHINGTON — In Sen. Harry Reid’s view, the Republican billionaire and politically active free-spending industrialist Koch brothers are evil. But he’s OK with Republican billionaire and politically active free-spending Las Vegas casino owner Sheldon Adelson.
Reid, the Senate majority leader from Nevada, drew a distinction between the moneyed GOPers during an interview recorded for airing Thursday and Friday.
“I know Sheldon Adelson. He’s not in this for the money,” Reid said on MSNBC’s “Daily Rundown” show when host Chuck Todd asked what makes the Kochs worse than Adelson, or politically active Democratic billionaires George Soros or Tom Steyer.
Adelson spent about $150 million in support of Republican candidates and causes during the 2012 elections. At present he is financing an extensive lobbying campaign in Washington and in various states seeking a ban on gambling over the Internet.
Adelson, chairman and chief executive of the Las Vegas Sands Corp., also is a leading and vocal supporter of Israel. He also has spent millions on health research and charitable causes in Las Vegas, including more than $25 million on the Adelson Educational Campus.
“He’s in it because he has certain ideological views,” Reid said, referring to Adelson. “Now, Sheldon Adelson’s social views are in keeping with the Democrats. On choice, on all kinds of things. So, Sheldon Adelson, don’t pick on him. He’s not in it to make money.”
In an October interview, Reid said he and Adelson were friends even though they differ politically.
“Some of my friends have spent a lot of money trying to defeat me, defeat my senators. Honestly I haven’t let it affect our friendship. Sheldon Adelson and I still meet and have conversations. He has a problem, I try to help him,” Reid told MSNBC host Rachel Maddow.
By contrast, Reid for several months has launched full-throated attacks on Charles and David Koch, industrialists whose contributions have propelled Americans For Prosperity, a conservative political organization that spent $122 million in 2012 and has spent more than $30 million on advertising against Democratic Senate candidates so far this year.
This week, Reid said the Koch brothers are “one of the main causes” of climate change
“They are in it to make money,” Reid said of the Kochs, who head the Kansas-based Koch Industries, a multinational corporation involved in a broad range of industries including refining, chemicals, fertilizers, forestry and consumer products.
“That’s their whole goal here, is to add zeros to their billions,” Reid said. “On climate change, for example, University of Massachusetts determined they’re one of the worst polluters in America. In fact, they pollute more than — Exxon — General Electric, Dow Chemical, and on and on.”
Reid’s comments drew a response from Michael Steele, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee. He said the Nevadan’s comments on Adelson were “a disingenuous load of crap.”
“The fact that you’ve got Harry Reid, who all of a sudden now doesn’t seem to have a problem with Sheldon Adelson but before was screaming holy hell about the guy, along with the Koch brothers, is just such a disingenuous load of crap,” Steele said on “Morning Joe.”
On other topics:
Reid said Republicans are to blame for gridlock in the Senate. “Unless they change, we can’t — we can’t get things done, things that the American people want: minimum wage, pay equity, those kind of things.”
Reid said he was willing to negotiate with Republicans on a minimum wage bill, but would not budge on setting the new minimum at $10.10 an hour. “There are lots of other things we can negotiate on,” he said.
Reid offered criticism of the news media, saying it was not reporting on Republican obstructionism.
“One of the problems that press has in modern day journalism is everything you do is a tit for tat,” Reid said. “You won’t call things the way they actually exist. What’s happening here is the Republicans have stopped everything from happening.”
Reid repeated his defense of Veterans Administration Secretary Eric Shinseki, who has come under fire as the agency continues to struggle with processing disability claims and amid allegations of mismanagement in Phoenix that might have contributed to patient deaths.
“It’s a hard job he has,” Reid said of the Cabinet member. “It’s easy in Washington, this kind of Washington talk, firing — things will get better. Try to find somebody better than this man to run the department. Firing this good man is not going to make it any better. “
Reid said, “I don’t see anybody out there now” among Republican presidential contenders that he would fear Democrats running against in 2016.
As for Democratic contenders, “everybody knows I love the Clintons, I don’t need to say more. Including Chelsea.”
Asked then if he wanted Hillary Clinton to be the party’s nominee or if he wanted contested primaries, Reid switched tacks. He said the 2008 Democratic presidential primary between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama “was an extremely healthy process. I think it was wonderful. And I think it — people learned about these two people that they didn’t — things they didn’t know about.”
Contact Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at STetreault@stephensmedia.com or 202-783-1760. Find him on Twitter: @STetreaultDC.