Traverse City Record-Eagle

Opinion

April 26, 2014

Fact Check: Did Reid gain from the standoff?

The furor over Cliven Bundy’s cows in Nevada has churned up some powerful speculation about the murky forces at play. A long-running effort by the federal Bureau of Land Management to stop Bundy from letting his cattle forage without paying any grazing fees (on land that was off-limits to grazing in any event) turned into a standoff between federal agents and Bundy’s supporters, both well armed.

Out of that drama came the assertion that Nevada Democratic Sen. Harry Reid was behind it all and the goal was personal gain. Reid publicly endorsed federal action against Bundy.

A tea party website Republic Broadcasting Network out of Texas put it succinctly.

“It’s very simple. Harry Reid, senator from Nevada, is using federal violence to take people’s land in his state so he can package it to re-sell it to the Chinese. That’s what the Bundy Ranch deal is all about.”

This claim and its cousins have been debunked before (a tip of the hat to Snopes). Here’s the gist of its flaws:

The government had no interest in Bundy’s property. It wanted his cattle off government land.

Reid’s son had represented a Chinese firm that had been interested in developing a solar energy array, but the deal involved land far from the Bundy property and collapsed a year ago.

The Bureau of Land Management has identified a desert area for solar power development, but it is about 50 miles away from both the Bundy ranch and the federal land where he likes to graze his cattle.

The habitat protections on the land Bundy wants to use were put in place in 1994, long before there was any hint of Chinese interest.

Reid’s accusers posted an interview with Fabian Calvo, a Los Angeles real estate agent, as evidence to back up their inaccurate claim. Calvo connected the dots between Reid, his son Rory and the Bureau of Land Management.

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