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Treatment of Whittemore a bit heavy-handed

Two thoughts bounce around about lobbyist Harvey Whittemore’s court appearance Thursday in Reno.

First, the real stunner. Federal marshals brought him in wearing shackles on his ankles, meaning instead of striding in like a power broker, he shuffled in like a well-dressed Hells Angel.

Whittemore is accused of illegally pouring money into Sen. Harry Reid’s campaign in 2007, certainly not a violent crime. Shackles? Really? It’s not like he’s a stone-cold killer.

Because there was an arrest warrant out for him, that’s how it’s done. If the government prosecutors had simply issued a summons, he could have walked in free of shackles.

I don’t think prosecutors flipped a coin. It was a conscious decision to opt for the arrest warrant.

Hmmmm. Choices, choices. Do we arrest him, embarrass him and humiliate him? We didn’t do that for the corrupt county commissioners in Las Vegas. But yes, let’s do it to Harvey, an attorney.

Today, he could start a PAC and write a personal check for $150,000 to help Reid’s campaign, no questions asked. But if he used conduits in 2007 and provided people money to donate, that’s a campaign violation, and, yes, people have been prosecuted for that in Nevada.

Second, for all those who hope Reid is going to be dragged down by Whittemore’s indictment, think again. All the Democratic majority leader has to say is: “Whittemore said he would raise $150,000 for me. He didn’t say he was going to do it illegally.” Case closed.

Whittemore never would have told the senator he would be raising campaign dollars for him by hook or by crook, especially by crook. For those of you hoping this indictment will bring Reid down, that’s not going to happen. Quit dreaming.

REDISCOVERING DOWNTOWN: Been downtown lately?

I go there all the time, usually to grab lunch with someone who works downtown, a quick in and out. It had been a long time since I actually strolled Fremont Street for enjoyment.

In all likelihood, some locals haven’t been downtown in years, perhaps decades. Nor do they want to.

I spent some time just looking around in March, trying to get a sense of the downtown that has struggled for so long to reinvent itself.

I discovered a real sense of fun on Fremont Street.

Watching tourists on the zip line was a hoot. So was this carnival-style basketball game where people paid $1 to throw a ball into a hoop. That’s $1 per throw, mind you. The line to try it and the enthusiastic crowd watching it made it worth watching, especially when so many men failed and a mom succeeded, cheered on by her husband and baby while shooting underhand.

Sure it was carney-like and a little cheesy, but then, I like carnivals and cheese. People were definitely having a grand time.

It didn’t seem as dirty or smelly to me, and I didn’t miss that.

I did miss the personalities of yesteryear, when anyone could go to Binion’s coffee shop and see Benny Binion hold court. But there’s nothing stopping me from going to the El Cortez and watching that notable gaming guy Jackie Gaughan play poker at 91, so the legendary characters are not all gone.

Recently, a news release urging the public to “Rediscover Downtown” landed in my in-box. I already had. But now there is a nonprofit group’s website www
.downtownlasvegasalliance
.com pointing the way to other downtown possibilities.

Many people say Fremont Street holds no allure for them. But I have plenty of great memories about downtown, dating back in the mid-’70s when you could listen to Willie Nelson for a two-drink minimum at the Golden Nugget.

It’s time to create some new memories, and that zip line is calling. Not for me, but for my dad.

Jane Ann Morrison’s column appears Monday, Thursday and Saturday. Email her at Jane@reviewjournal.com or call her at 702-383-0275. She also blogs at lvrj.com/blogs/Morrison

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