Harry Reid is a former United States Senator who served as a Democratic politician from Nevada for over 40 years. Most notably, from 2005 through 2017, Reid served as the Senate Democratic Leader, with stints as both Senate Majority Leader and Senate Minority Leader.
Reid was originally seen as a conservative Democrat, however he “grew more liberal over the years as he became more closely aligned with the national Democratic Party.” Politifact awarded him a “full flop” for his position changes in favor of expansionist immigration policies, and he similarly reversed his opinion on same-sex marriage, abortion,  and the Iraq War.
As the leader of the Democratic Party in the U.S. Senate, Reid raised tens of millions of dollars for the Democrats and was known for using aggressive tactics to push the Party’s liberal agenda. He was one of President Barack Obama’s earliest supporters and served as Obama’s “muscle man” to push the stimulus bill and Obamacare through the Senate. Reid also used a controversial procedural tactic known as the “nuclear option” to force through President Obama’s judicial nominations.
Reid’s career has been marked by an array of ethically questionable deals that benefited him or his family members financially. He “used his influence” in to help Nevada super-lobbyist Harvey Whittemore clear obstacles for a controversial large-scale housing development known as Coyote Springs. Whittemore was later sentenced to federal prison for “using family and employees to funnel illegal campaign contributions to Reid.” Reid also took part in multiple legislatively entwined lucrative real estate ventures. In 2005, he secured an $18 million earmark to build a bridge in Nevada that would make land that he owned more profitable. 
Harry Reid was born in Searchlight, Nevada, in 1939. He was the third of four sons to Harry Reid, Sr., a gold-miner, and Inez Orena Reid, a bordello laundress.
Reid attended public high school in Henderson, Nevada. During high school, Reid met future Nevada Governor Donald (Mike) O’Callaghan (D). O’Callaghan would become a mentor to Reid, teaching Reid’s history class and coaching him in boxing. 
In 1959, Reid married Landra Gould. The couple converted to Mormonism while Reid was in college.
O’Callaghan arranged for Reid to receive a scholarship to Southern Utah University. Reid eventually graduated from Utah State University in 1961. He then went on to George Washington University Law School, graduating in 1964. During law school, O’Callaghan again helped Reid by “demand[ing] that then-Congressman Walter Baring [D-Nevada] give Reid a patronage job as a Capitol police officer.”
After law school, Reid moved back to Las Vegas to practice law.
In 1966, Reid ran for and was elected to a local hospital board. Shortly thereafter Reid sought retribution by ensuring the termination of the board’s chairman, with whom he had previously sparred. 
In 1968, Reid won a seat in the Nevada State Assembly. He served in this position for two years and set the Nevada state record for most bills introduced in a session.
In 1970, Reid ran for Lieutenant Governor of Nevada alongside his long-time friend turned politician Mike O’Callaghan (D) who was then a candidate for Nevada Governor. Their ticket won, and Reid became the youngest Lieutenant Governor in Nevada’s history. 
Four years later, 1974, Reid lost his first campaign for U.S. Senate by less than 700 votes. The following year “he ran for mayor of Las Vegas and again lost by a bigger margin.”
Then in 1977, Gov. O’Callaghan appointed Reid to the Nevada Gaming Commission, which oversees the state’s casinos. In 1981, Reid’s Gaming Commission appointment expired and he returned to private law practice as a trial attorney. 
In 1982, Reid ran for and won election to a new seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Reid served in the U.S. House for two terms.
Then in 1986, Reid was elected to the United States Senate from Nevada, a position he held for over 30 years. He was re-elected in 1992, 1998, 2004, and 2010. 
Reid has held numerous leadership positions in the Senate, from 1999 to 2005 Reid served as the Senate’s Democratic whip. In 2005, after Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) lost his re-election bid, Reid was elected Senate Minority Leader. In 2007, Democrats took control of the Senate and Reid served as Senate Majority Leader from January 2007 through January 2015.
Reid advanced a notably left-wing environmental agenda. He spearheaded a number of bills that prohibited development on thousands of acres of land across Nevada. Reid successfully pushed for President Obama to designate a 300,000-acre national monument in Gold Butte Nevada. According to the Las Vegas Review Journal, “there were 64,000 acres of wilderness in Nevada when Reid entered Congress. Today there are 3.37 million acres.” Additionally, Reid “almost singlehandedly discouraged the construction of new coal-fired power plants in the state” while at the same time pushing costly experimental environmentalist supported energy sources.
Reid has also been a strong ally of labor unions. He sided with unions to oppose President Obama’s trade liberalization policies, and supported the labor unions’ priority “card check” legislation.
In 2016, Reid signed on to the “Ready for Boldness” campaign launched by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, which called upon call for Hillary Clinton or any other Democratic White House candidate to make a liberal political platform central to their campaign.
Reid began his career as a social conservative Democrat who differed with Democrats on social issues. However as a U.S. Senator “Reid’s politics grew more liberal, moving to the left on issues like gun control, abortion rights and immigration.”
As he became more liberal Reid changed his position on a number of policies. Reid “renounced his once-tough stance toward illegal immigration.” In 2010 Reid chastised Republican plans to do away with birthright citizenship for children of illegal immigrants. The left-leaning Politifact awarded Reid a “full flop” for this criticism, because in 1993, Reid had introduced a bill that would have eliminated birthright citizenship.
Similarly, Reid originally claimed to be a pro-life Democrat who opposed Roe v. Wade. However, the National Right to Life Committee said that Reid “impersonates a pro-life senator” due to his role in the creation of Obamacare. In his later years fought to maintain federal funding for Planned Parenthood” and opposed a late-term abortion ban. In 2012, Reid reversed his stated opposition to same-sex marriage.
Reid also changed his position on the Iraq War. Having previously voted in favor of the war, Reid “eventually became a forceful critic of it.”
Harry Reid’s signature local policy was opposition to the creation of a nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain, Nevada. In 2010, President Barack Obama halted the Yucca Mountain plans “citing safety concerns.” But as the Chicago Tribune editorial board pointed out, what Obama really meant was that he had “Harry Reid concerns.” A subsequent study by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission found that “the Yucca Mountain project would be environmentally safe.”
The decision to halt the Yucca Mountain plan was criticized by a number of major editorial boards across the country, including the left-leaning Los Angeles Times and Boston Globe. The Chicago Tribune blasted the “shortsighted decision” to halt the Yucca Mountain plan for leaving “72,000 metric tons of spent nuclear fuel at 74 sites scattered in 34 states” and for costing taxpayers tens of billions of dollars for on-site storage of nuclear waste. According to the Wall Street Journal, the Department of Energy has been forced to pay more than $4 billion in verdicts related to breach of contract cases stemming from Yucca Mountain, and that the credit for these legal bills “goes to Mr. Reid” for his efforts to block the waste storage facility.
Reid rated extremely high with liberal organizations. The AFL-CIO and American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) gave Reid a 91 lifetime score;  Planned Parenthood gave him a 94% rating; the League of Conservation Voters gave him a 100% score in 2016; NARAL Pro-Choice America also gave Reid a 100% rating in 2016; and Americans for Democratic Action gave Reid a 95% rating in 2016.
As the Senate’s leader, “Reid developed a no-nonsense, hard-ball style that came to define his stewardship.” Reid often used his power and aggressive tactics to advance the Democrats’ left-of-center political agenda.
During the 2013 government shutdown, the New York Times wrote that Reid’s tactics were “unapologetically aggressive,” even when measured against the bitterly partisan backdrop of Washington, D.C. According to the Times, Reid was not only “the public face of the no-compromise posture of Democrats” but was also “the power behind the scenes driving a hard-line strategy that the White House and Congressional Democrats are hoping will force Republicans to crack.”
Reid used his power to serve as President Barack Obama’s “muscle man” to push the stimulus bill and Obamacare through the Senate. According to Politico, Reid “muscled through Senate passage of the Affordable Care Act on Christmas Eve in 2009 on a straight party-line vote, when his party controlled 60 seats, enough to overcome a GOP filibuster.”  Reid labeled passing Obamacare his favorite fight in the Senate and according to the Las Vegas Sun, he said that his ultimate goal was to move Obamacare toward a government-run single-payer system.
Reid also “took the unprecedented step of invoking the so-called “nuclear option,” a move that gutted filibuster rules for presidential nominations” to force the confirmation of President Barack Obama’s liberal judicial nominations.
Democratic Party Infrastructure
Harry Reid was a vaunted Democratic Party leader. He was touted as a unifying force in the Senate who ensured that Democrats remained steadfast in support of the party’s liberal agenda.
Reid was also a prolific fundraiser. During his career, Reid’s campaign accounts raised and spent over $45 million. Moreover Reid was the main fundraiser for the Senate Majority PAC, which was led by his former chief of staff, Susan McCue. In total, the PAC raised over $200 million to support Democratic Senators from 2010-2016.
In 2014, the Washington Post noted that Senate Majority PAC “fueled by billionaires and labor unions,” was “the biggest-spending super PAC of the 2014 midterm contests.”
Reid has sharply criticized the right-leaning Koch brothers for spending millions of dollars to support their center-right policy preferences. But the Washington Post notes that at the same time Senate Majority PAC “run by his [Reid’s] longtime advisers” raised millions of dollars from liberal billionaires such as Tom Steyer, Fred Eychaner, Michael Bloomberg, Eli Broad, George Soros, and film producer Jeffrey Katzenberg.
Reid is credited with creating the Democratic political machine in Nevada, which has been dubbed the “Reid machine.” The “Reid machine” has been credited with making Nevada a contentious battleground state by delivering a number of Democratic victories in competitive races while Democrats nationwide faltered.  In 2016, while Republicans made large gains across the country, the Reid Machine helped Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton win in Nevada. It also helped Democrats pick up two House seats from Republicans, replaced Reid with his handpicked successor Catherine Cortez Masto, and delivered control of both houses in the state legislature to the Democratic Party.
In 1998, Reid purchased $400,000 worth of real estate just outside Las Vegas as part of a development deal engineered by his long-time friend Jay Brown. In 2004, the property was controversially rezoned for a shopping center over the objection of local city zoning officials, and thereafter Reid sold his interest in the property for $1.1 million. During the rezoning hearings, the development project’s consultant reportedly used Harry Reid’s partnership in the project as part of his re-zoning negotiating pitch.
In 2005, Reid supported a $286-billion federal transportation bill, which he boasted included $300 million of pork-barrel earmarks. Among those earmarks was $18 million to build a bridge that connected 160 acres of land he owned to a nearby city, thereby adding significant value to his real estate investment.
From 2002 through 2006, Reid “used his influence in Washington to help the developer, Nevada super-lobbyist [Harvey] Whittemore, clear obstacles” toward building a controversial large-scale housing development known as Coyote Springs. At the time, Whittemore was reportedly one of Reid’s “closest friends” and employed one of Reid’s sons as his personal lawyer. In 2007, Whittemore promised to raise $150,000 for Reid’s re-election bid. Five years later, Whittemore was convicted and sentenced to two years in federal prison for “using family and employees to funnel illegal campaign contributions to Reid.”
Reid’s family members have also benefited from his position of power. The Los Angeles Times reported that from 1993 through 2003, while Reid was Senate Democratic Whip, one of his sons and his son-in-law “collected more than $2 million in lobbying fees from special interests that were represented by the kids and helped by the senator in Washington.” In one instance, Reid praised a 440,000-acre federal land privatization transfer that “benefited at least five clients of Reid family lobbyists” and that “contained a provision potentially worth millions of dollars to a senior partner of the law firm that employs Reid’s four sons.” The L.A. Times article concluded, “So pervasive are the ties among Reid, members of his family and Nevada’s leading industries and institutions that it’s difficult to find a significant field in which such a relationship does not exist.”
Untrue and Controversial Statements
On multiple occasions Harry Reid has been exposed for making untrue or erroneous statements. On at least eight occasions, the left-leaning Politifact has rated Reid’s statements either false or “pants on fire.”
In 2012 Reid stated on the Senate floor (statements on the floor of a House of Congress are immune from lawsuits) that then-Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney had not paid any taxes in 10 years. PolitiFact gave Reid’s claim a “pants on fire” rating, and the Washington Post’s fact-checker gave it “four Pinocchios.” When asked about his deception by CNN, Reid’s response was, “he didn’t win, did he?”
Similarly, in 2015, Reid was given a “pants on fire” rating when he claimed that that 30% of women rely only on Planned Parenthood for healthcare; according to Politifact, that number was at most 2% and likely far lower.
During the 2008 Presidential campaign, Reid said that then-Senator Barack Obama was a “light-skinned” African American “with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.” He later apologized after the remark was made public.