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March 6, 2015

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Harry Reid’s call for brothel ban a real showstopper


AP Photo/Cathleen Allison

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid speaks to a joint session of the Nevada Legislature on Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2011 at the Legislature in Carson City.

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Brothel ban

KSNV coverage of Harry Reid's proposal to ban legalized prostitution in Nevada, Feb. 22, 2011.

Reid Seeks Prostitution Ban

Moonlite Bunny Ranch brothel owner Dennis Hof answers the media questions on Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2011 at the Legislature in Carson City following a speech from U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in which he proposed banning legal prostitution in the state. Hof and a number of his prostitutes and other brothel supporters attended the speech and called the idea Launch slideshow »

Nye County Brothels

A sign for the Shady Lady Ranch brothel in Nye County. The Shady Lady, off U.S. Highway 95 about 30 miles north of Beatty, was the first brothel to hire a male prostitute. Nye County is one of 11 Nevada counties where prostitution is legal. Launch slideshow »

In 2009, with the state hurting for money, the brothel industry went to the Legislature almost begging to be taxed by the state.

It would help Nevada at a time of financial need, its lobbyist said. Unsaid was that for the legal prostitution business, contributing to state coffers would legitimize it.

Then-Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley shot down the idea. With pressing issues such as unemployment and foreclosures facing the state, bringing up prostitution during the 120-day legislative session would be a distraction, she told a lobbyist.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid proved that Tuesday, when he said in an address to the Legislature that Nevada should outlaw brothels, allowed in rural counties.

The Legislature was engulfed by a sideshow of beefy pimps and short-skirted prostitutes, with joking comparisons to lobbyists and legislators being for sale and many asking: “Why take the time out now to bring up the issue.”

Guy Rocha, a state historian who was in the packed house, said, “I don’t see how brothels undermine our economic development interests, other than I’ve heard of a few instances of businesses being uncomfortable.”

A few businesses, or at least one unidentified businessman, was enough to prompt Reid to mention it in his speech. His remarks prompted national coverage and drew the kind of attention to the brothels that Reid says hurts Nevada.

Reid talked about some businessmen who considered moving to Storey County. “One of the businessmen in that meeting told me he simply couldn’t believe that one of the biggest businesses in the county he was considering for his new home is legal prostitution.”

Reid’s staff would not identify the businessman.

When he said “Nevada needs to be known as the first place for innovation and investment — not the last place where prostitution is still legal,” there was a scattering of applause.

When he said, “the time has come for us to outlaw prostitution,” the crowd in the Assembly chambers was silent.

Reid paused for an awkward three seconds before he seemed to realize no ovation was coming.

Asked about it later, he said, “Well, I guess ... I was happy to get applause sometime.”

His bringing up the subject irritated many Democrat and Republican lawmakers, who are trying to balance a state budget that’s $2.2 billion short of maintaining current services.

Those involved in economic development called prostitution a distraction and a nonissue in conversations they’ve had with business leaders.

Gov. Brian Sandoval has made attracting businesses to Nevada a centerpiece of his agenda. He said no business he has talked to has raised the issue. Republican Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki, chairman of the Nevada Economic Development Commission, had a similar response.

“This country is facing an extraordinary array of historic issues,” he said. “I had hoped to hear more on those critical topics of the day.”

In fact, the bulk of Reid’s speech got lost in the media melee over working girls and brothel owners. His defense of the federal stimulus and bailouts of banks and automotive industry got drowned out in the waft of perfume from the north end of the Assembly chambers. His call to end voter-approved term limits was almost forgotten. His call for a stronger education system and clean energy were just footnotes.

The prostitution remarks were four paragraphs in his eight-page speech. But with news of his remarks leaking out beforehand, brothel owner Dennis Hof, featured in an HBO series, brought working girls, and the media trained their eyes and cameras as much on his ladies as the second most powerful Democrat in the country.

After the speech, Reid sat down for an interview with Nevada reporters.

“Did I say anything you can ask questions about?” he said to laughter from reporters.

Asked whether Nevada has bigger image problems — the legal, highly visible adult businesses on the Strip, provocative ad campaigns by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority — he said he was just focused on the legal brothels.

Many in the Legislature questioned Reid’s timing, and few of Reid’s confidants could say why he chose to pick a fight now against an industry that was one of the economic engines of his hometown.

Two close advisers to Reid said he sincerely believes prostitution is an impediment to Nevada being taken seriously. One source said his staff tried to talk him out of including it in the speech, and there is little indication he or his staff will work to push legislation outlawing prostitution.

Indeed, few seemed poised to take on the fight for Reid. Rather, legislative leaders weren’t thrilled the Senate majority leader would use his bully pulpit to put them on the spot about legalized prostitution.

“Why does he put us in this position?” one lawmaker said.

Assembly Speaker John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, indicated taking on prostitution is low on his list of priorities.

“I share Sen. Reid’s concern, and I understand where he is coming from,” Oceguera said in a statement. “Once we have addressed this budget crisis and the Nevada economy, we will take a close look at the issue and its effect on our state.”

Reid’s was almost a lone voice arguing that brothels are one of Nevada’s biggest hurdles to economic development.

“I’ve toured 100 businesses and talked with a lot of people, and it did not come up in any conversation that I had in regard to Nevada’s ability to attract businesses here,” Sandoval said.

The governor said it’s up to the counties to decide prostitution’s legality.

He noted that the country’s largest industrial park, Tahoe Reno Industrial Center, attracts businesses despite owner Lance Gilman’s ownership of a nearby brothel.

(Reid’s son Leif Reid, a Reno lawyer, represented one of that park’s largest tenants in a bitter and unsuccessful legal fight to close Gilman’s brothel in 2002.)

At a news conference after his speech, Reid parried reporters’ questions about why he had raised the issue.

“Why now? It has to be more than one experience with folks in Storey County?” a reporter said.

“My answer is, if not now, when?” Reid said. “It was really focused on my mind when the gentleman said that to me. It boils down to economic viability of our state. We are going to have to look for every option we have to encourage businesses to come to our state. It’s pretty clear having legalized prostitution doesn’t bring new business here.”

He was asked if legal adult businesses in Las Vegas or prevalent gaming also stop businesses moving to Las Vegas or Reno.

“Gaming is something that has been accepted nationwide,” he said. “Prostitution has not.”

Another question: “But the LVCVA has promoted Las Vegas as an adult playground using a provocative ad campaign. Does that hurt?”

Reid: “Let me just say this. I appreciate all these questions about probably 7 or 8 percent of my speech. This speech talked about educating our children. Talked about renewable energy. My speech talked about term limits. It talked about things that would bring new business to our state. I’m glad that you’re interested and piqued by prostitution. But it seems that you guys should all get a new life.”

“But Senator,” a reporter said. “You knew when you brought this into the speech this would be the focus.”

“I did? I didn’t know that.”

“You didn’t know that?”

“I didn’t know that.”

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  1. The only ban we should consider is one on Harry the Red! We need less interference from bureaucrats, not more! Does that moron believe banning brothels will actually have any effect on prostitution? About as much as Prohibition did on booze, which is virtually none. Why is it Harry the Red's business as to what two adults do in private? He's has no problem with homos screwing each other, so why interfere in what normal people do?

  2. Well maybe he being the most famous prostitue will be banned. What a marvelous thought.

  3. Holy Cow!!!

    All of this hand wringing and name calling by the right-wing kooks...
    You'd think Harry had proposed a ban on Baseball, Hot Dogs, & Apple Pie.

    While the the banning of LEGAL prostitution is hardly going to stop the world's oldest profession, it's ALL ABOUT PERCEPTION. It's one more reason on a laundry list of reasons why Big Business doesn't want anything to do with Nevada, USA.
    Gambin', Boozin', & whorin';
    Not exacty "the big 3" for attracting business & industry to our state.
    All it really attracts is people who are interested in gamblin', boozin' & whorin'.

  4. This comment is not a dig at markup but what does Europe,France,And Holland all have in common they have a National health system for there people.
    which was also provided by taxes collected from all Industry not just a select few yes I think it should be taxed along with all the other Industries as well.
    Everyone should be treated as an equal and equally taxed.

  5. markp... speaking of folks "clearly not well educated"...

    "I notice Harry Reid is mentioned on the reuters website as hoping for the government to go into shutdown for his own political gain"

    What ARE you talking about?

    "With a government shutdown looming on March 4, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid today said he will try to pass a clean bill to extend federal funding for 30 days when the Senate reconvenes next week, something House Speaker John Boehner flatly stated his party would not agree to."

  6. Mr. John Boehner

    Where is the jobs bill?

  7. Harry Harry Harry,...your already WEAK,...lets not be STUPID too.

  8. If they wanted to build their public and National images, they should give out a specified fraction of free samples, just like the Review Journal does with it's newspapers on the driveways.

  9. Harry Reid - So out of touch with reality, yet you bozos keep reelecting him. What does that say about where your heads are?

  10. A failed politician grasping at straws. If the Republicans had ran anybody else but Angle, this pathetic character would be history.

  11. If they want to ban anything it should be the card flippers that are on the strip, forcing those cards on everybody that is walking by. What the hell does he think they are selling, the nearest legal prostitution to Vegas is 60 miles away. Put a stop to the illegal prostitution that is happening in Vegas, tax the legal prostitution, that someone has to go out of their way just to find it.

    You have way more problems than that happening right now, don't grandstand, get on with the things that will help the state, like fixing what is wrong with our school system, taxing the mining industry, and taxing the casino industry more.

    Then work on the state budget, to fix what is wrong with it, get our dumb governor to work on a new tax base, that will work for all of us living here in NV, stop all the money that the foreign mining industry is taking out of the state without paying taxes on. Right now they have a license to steal, and that is what they are doing stealing billions from our state every year.

  12. "I didn't know that." - H. Reid

    "I didn't do it." - B. Simpson

  13. Yes, let's talk about TERM LIMITS. It's a good idea so morons like Harry don't get too complacent with their lobbyists (which are also whores).

  14. Now, if we could only encourage Harry to be as outraged over the human sex trafficing that supplies Las Vegas massage parlors and escort services with young Asian women, we could really encourage new industry to Nevada.

  15. Let's merge the idea of the "data hub" with the sex industry, let's make Nevada the sex-talk and internet sex capital of the world!

  16. airweare thanks for pointing out that tidbit I was merely trying to say and I should have said the European nations, Thanks

  17. come on Harry, the main reason people don't want to bring their business to Nevada is the weather report. When its 115 in the shade and there's no shade no one wants to be in Nevada. To try and blame it on legalized prostitution is just plain stupid

  18. I would like a statement from the company that wouldn't move to Nevada because of legal prostitution.

    Does the news still investigate? Don't give Harry anymore publicity (which is all this is) until we find out first hand what the issue was and how often this comes up.

    Was that really the only reason they decided not to move their business here? Or were other reasons 98% of their decision.

  19. I have never once been to a brothel, but Harry you are out of line. When did you become the moral voice of conscience of Nevada?

    Las Vegas is known as sin city. Jobs come because of economic opportunity. You want more companies to move here, give them cash incentives.

  20. Hey folks, let's look at reality here. Members of the LDS Church turned out and voted for their fellow Mormon, Senator Harry Reid. He was re-elected.

    The LDS Church's teachings are severely disapproving of prostitution. So are the teachings of almost every other Christian religion in the United States.

    So Senator Reid has to do his once or twice a term pay back to the high level LDS Church officials, and push the more rational, mainstream part of their agenda.

    While Nevadans may think Sen. Reid's stance against legal prostitution is weird or old fashioned, he's in step with mainstream Christian thought in both Salt Lake and every other Christian religion's headquarters state throughout the US as well.

    So chill folks. He's just paying some constituents back for their votes. The sleazy little counties in Nevada will still get their tax money from these out-of-the-mainstream businesses, regardless of what Sen. Reid says.

  21. This is nothing but Harry giving in to the Mormon church pressure, It's not big business Harrys' referring to it's big churches period.