Rep. Shelley Berkley did cross the ethics line. She used her office to work for the exclusive financial well-being of her husband’s medical practice.
No doubt, Rep. Berkley will try to put the House Ethics Committee ruling in the best possible light. She may force a smile and flash a victory sign.
But make no mistake — this was no victory. The panel ruled, according to the Review-Journal, thus:
"It found Lehrner on four occasions between 2008 and 2010 contacted Berkley’s office to help his practice, Kidney Specialists of Southern Nevada, collect late payments from Medicare, Medicaid and the Department of Veterans Affairs.
"’Representative Berkley and her staff took actions in response to these issues to assist in KSSN (Kidney Specialists of Southern Nevada) obtaining payment," the committee said.
"The committee concluded that Lehrner was treated as no ordinary constituent, having direct access to her staff on matters as broad as medicine in general and as specific as ‘pertaining specifically to his business.’
In contrast to her general approach to most constituent requests being handled by her Las Vegas staff, ‘Rep. Berkley’s policy staff (in Washington) worked directly on KSSN’s payment issue.’
"The committee also found Berkley had no policy guiding her staff’s interactions with her spouse on official matters.
"In the absence of one, ‘Dr. Lehrner was free to contact Representative Berkley’s office as he saw fit.’"
And that puts an ugly stain on presumably the end of Rep. Berkley’s career. This is not to say that Rep. Berkley didn’t do some good during her public life. She did. But in the end she spoiled it by crossing this ethical line. It is a line she saw and knowingly crossed, I believe. It is a line that had it been crossed by a political opponent she would have used it fully against him or her with great fury.
Shelley Berkley screwed up. And she has no one to blame but herself.