(Sean Whaley/Nevada News Bureau) – A new ad released by the Dean Heller for Senate campaign this week documents what it describes as an established pattern of Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., using her office for personal gain.
“Berkley pushed legislation and twisted the arms of federal regulators, advocating policies for financial gain, saving her husband’s industry millions,” the ad says. “Shelley Berkley took care of herself, and she got caught.”
Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., addresses the Nevada Legislature in 2011. / Nevada News Bureau file photo.
The ad comes just as the House Ethics Committee voted unanimously late last month to establish an investigative subcommittee to determine whether she inappropriately furthered the business interests of her husband, Dr. Larry Lehrner.
In a new development today, Las Vegas Sun columnist Jon Ralston is reporting that the National Republican Senatorial Committee has asked Secretary of State Ross Miller to confirm that Nevada law mandates that Berkley must stay on the ballot even if she withdraws because of ethics problems.
In a statement in response to the Heller ad, the Berkley campaign said: “Shelley Berkley’s one and only concern is Nevada patients, which is why she fought to prevent Nevada’s only kidney transplant program from being shut down by Washington bureaucrats and why she has worked to ensure Medicare recipients continue to receive the care they need.
“While Shelley Berkley won’t stop fighting for Nevada’s patients, middle-class families and seniors, Senator Dean Heller is pulling the rug out from under them by voting twice to end Medicare by turning it over to private insurance companies, protecting taxpayer giveaways to Big Oil companies and defending tax breaks for Wall Street corporations that ship American jobs overseas,” the statement concluded.
The Heller campaign expanded on the brief ad in a press release issued today, citing a report from Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) from 2011 identifying Berkley as one of the most corrupt members of Congress.
The report said in part: “The congresswoman vocally advocates for Washington policies that financially benefit her kidney surgeon husband. In turn, she has become a major recipient of campaign donations from those in the kidney care industry.”
The release also cites the New York Times report published in September 2011 detailing her efforts in 2008 to preserve a Nevada kidney transplant program at the University Medical Center in Las Vegas.
Berkley and other members of Nevada’s Congressional delegation were able to preserve the program. But the New York Times said her efforts, “also benefited her husband, a physician whose nephrology practice directs medical services at the hospital’s kidney care department — an arrangement that expanded after her intervention and is now reflected in a $738,000-a-year contract with the hospital.”
Berkley has defended her efforts to preserve the transplant program and said her only concerns were for the patients waiting for transplants.
“The reality is I’ve never done anything, or never advocated for anything that wasn’t in the best interest of patients and patient care,” she said in a recent interview on the Face To Face television program.
The ethics review announced Monday is expected to be an ongoing campaign issue for Berkley, who is seeking Heller’s Senate seat. Heller was appointed to the seat by Gov. Brian Sandoval in April 2011.
The race is considered to be critical for both Republicans and Democrats seeking control of the Senate in the 2012 election.
The Heller ad is the latest in what is expected to be a barrage of attacks by the two candidates over the next four months. An ad criticizing Heller for his votes in support of changes to the Medicare program, paid for by the Political Action Committee Patriot Majority, was in turn criticized by the Heller campaign this week for being false and misleading.