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April 21, 2014

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Heller to local, national media: Please, please, please notice Berkley’s ethics problems

In a striking memo sent to local and national reporters, Sen. Dean Heller's campaign manager issued what amounts to a plea for more coverage of Rep. Shelley Berkley's troubles with the House Ethics Committee.

"....it appears that some journalists are only looking at the cover of this story and have not yet read the book," Mac Abrams wrote to the Fourth Estate, signing the missive, hilariously, "Fondly." I'm still not sure whether that is patronizing or sarcastic.

It seems clear Team Heller is fretting that some of us don't "get" what's really happening here, that we don't understand this is worse than Watergate and Teapot Dome combined. (For the record, I have always considered it serious and still do. But, seriously?)

Generally, I have found the media react well when being told they are not doing their job. They/we don't often come away with -- what word shall I use? -- fond feelings.

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Memo

To: Nevada and National Media

From: Mac Abrams, Heller for Senate Campaign Manager

Date: July 19, 2012

Re: Shelley Berkley Ethics Investigation

As expected and obviously no surprise to any of us, the Democratic spin machine has been whirring since the bipartisan House Ethics Committee unanimously decided to create a subcommittee to further investigate Congresswoman Shelley Berkley. While the Democrats have been desperate to explain actions and investments that led the Las Vegas Sun to call Shelley Berkley “a dialysis magnate,” it appears that some journalists are only looking at the cover of this story and have not yet read the book.

There is much more to this story than the distractions, distortions, attacks, and outright lies of the State Democratic Party and Shelley Berkley that, in my view, deserve greater attention. And, while the UMC contract may be a component of this investigation, it is far from being the only one.

So, in a good faith attempt to cut directly to the point of the matter, please consider the following as you continue to cover this story and the race:

Fact 1: The House Ethics Committee is comprised of five Democrats and five Republicans. The Committee unanimously decided to create an investigative subcommittee on the basis of a non-partisan report from the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE). The Committee decided to move forward on the basis of this report for the first time since 2009.

Fact 2: To be clear, that means two separate groups have decided that this case merited further investigation. First, the Office of Congressional Ethics recommended further action. Second, the House Ethics Committee created a subcommittee to continue to investigate. These two groups have not agreed to do that since 2009.

Fact 3: “The House Ethics Committee has not officially punished the vast majority of lawmakers it has investigated as a result of referrals from an independent ethics panel,” The Hill reported this week. The Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) has sent 32 known cases to the House Ethics Committee. The panel has launched only eight formal investigations, according to the Hill report. (Jordy Yager,“Ethics panel has track record of leniency,” The Hill, July 18, 2012)

Fact 4: This ethics investigation has to do, only in part, with Shelley Berkley’s work to secure a UMC contract that benefited her husband and her household. It is true that Dean Heller signed the letter about that UMC contract. It is also true that Dean Heller did not know that Congresswoman Berkley’s husband was a kidney doctor or stood to profit from the contract. In fact, to my knowledge, only one reporter has ever actually asked that question of Heller or his office.

Fact 5: The New York Times reported that Shelley Berkley wrote a letter to Rep. Pete Stark, the chairman of the subcommittee with jurisdiction over Medicare “warning him to move carefully in considering changes in compensating doctors who provided dialysis treatments.” Shelley Berkley lobbied singlehandedly to protect her husband’s industry. (Eric Lipton, “A Congresswoman’s Cause Is Often Her Husband’s Gain,” The New York Times, 9/5/11)

Fact 6: “Shelley Berkley’s husband helped build a political action committee that has regularly turned to Berkley to champion its causes,” The New York Times reported. Meanwhile, Congresswoman Berkley “co-sponsored at least five House bills that would expand federal reimbursements or other assistance for kidney care, written letters to regulators to block enforcing rules or ease the flow of money to kidney care centers and appeared regularly at fund-raising events sponsored by a professional organization her husband has helped run.” Shelley Berkley’s husband’s actions over the years have come dangerously close to the line defining what a lobbyist is and what it is not.

Fact 7: “In addition to the hospital contract, Dr. Lehrner operates a dozen dialysis centers in Nevada and has played a central role in an industry campaign to lobby members of Congress — including his wife — on behalf of kidney care providers,” The New York Times reported. According to the Las Vegas Sun, “Berkley’s wealth is mostly found in investment accounts, and the various buildings and companies related to her husband’s medical practice. But she’s also got millions in what she itemizes as ‘dialysis units.’ In fact, it’s about $1.6 million to $6.3 million in dialysis units.” These investments led the Sun to name Shelley Berkley, “a dialysis magnate.” (Karoun Demirjian, “Our congressional leaders: What they’re worth and where they invest,” Las Vegas Sun, June 16, 2011)

Fact 8: Shelley Berkley’s Democratic talking points completely ignore the complexity and weight of the situation. Not to mention, there may have been additional violations uncovered by the Office of Congressional Ethics.

Fact 9: Shelley Berkley’s comments and actions after the House Ethics Committee announced its investigations have been flippant and casual. As a lawyer and a Congresswoman who has sworn to adhere to and uphold the law of this country, and respect and honor the rules of the House, is Shelley Berkley suggesting that the end (the contract for the hospital) justifies the means (not properly disclosing that she and her husband could benefit financially)?

This investigation is a very serious matter as are all of the activities that Shelley Berkley has been accused of. While some of the reporting on this issue has been very insightful and thorough, some of it has glossed over the very actions that could be at the center of this investigation. For Shelley Berkley or her campaign to simply dismiss these charges as trivial, or attempt to rewrite history, greatly understates the gravity of the accusations that have been levied against her.

Thank you for taking the time to read this e-mail. I and my staff look forward to working with you on this and other important issues as the campaign progresses.

Fondly,

Mac Abrams

Campaign Manager

Heller for Senate

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