CARSON CITY – U.S. Sen. Dean Heller today said online gaming legislation critical to the future of Nevada’s economy should be removed from the world of politics so partisan fights don’t “poison the water” for the bill’s future in Congress.
Heller, interviewed on the Nevada NewsMakers television program, said the legislation is too important to be subjected to political fights between himself and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid between now and the Nov. 6 general election.
Reid earlier this month blamed Heller for failing to line up Republican support in the Senate for the measure.
Heller, R-Nev., is locked in a fierce battle with Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., to retain his Senate seat.
“So I believe at the end of the day, we’ll have the 10-15 (GOP) votes that we’re going to need in order to get a bill like this passed,” Heller said. “But we don’t need the politics playing in it today. And we don’t need to poison the water on this also.
“Let’s get the politics out of this,” he said. “Let’s put an important issue like Internet poker to the sidelines during this campaign because it isn’t helping the process. And unfortunately in this case, the process is just as important as the bill itself.”
Heller predicted that after the election, he and Reid will again work together on the Internet poker bill.
“The Internet poker bill was never going to pass before the election,” he said. “It’s going to happen. And I’m still committed, as is Sen. Reid, to get a bill passed.
“When this is all said and done, both sides are going to come together and say, ‘OK, let’s do what’s best for Nevada,’ ” Heller said.
Berkley also criticized Heller on the online gaming issue in a statement released earlier this month: “Once again, Senator Dean Heller has failed to deliver for Nevada’s hardworking families who were counting on online poker legislation to boost the state’s struggling economy and to create thousands of good paying jobs.
“Perhaps Senator Heller shouldn’t have spent so much time cozying up to Wall Street special interests by protecting tax breaks for corporations that ship American jobs overseas and more time doing what Nevada families expect of their elected leaders: putting people back to work,” she said.
During the interview, Heller also criticized Berkley for not spending more time in Northern Nevada in her Senate race, including failing to make any recent appearances on the NewsMakers program. Her last appearance was on Feb. 1, 2011.
“Well, as much time as I spend in Southern Nevada I think she should be spending some time up here in Northern Nevada,” he said.
Berkley has made several campaign appearances in Northern and rural Nevada, including stops in Churchill County over the Labor Day weekend. She also attended an event in Reno on Saturday.
When asked about Berkley’s ongoing ethics problems regarding the preservation of a kidney transplant program in Southern Nevada and whether her actions inappropriately benefited her physician husband, Heller did not hesitate to weigh in.
“She was ethically challenged before,” he said. “She was counsel, she was a lawyer, and she told her boss at this point that you’ve got to buy off county commissioners, you’ve got to buy off judges, you’ve got to hire their children into your business in order to get favorable treatment from those judges and from those county commissioners.
“Now she’s in the United States Congress and her activity hasn’t changed,” Heller said.
Heller was referencing a memo written by Berkley to her then Las Vegas Sands Inc. boss Sheldon Adelson that first surfaced in 1998 during her first bid for Congress. The memo has been the subject of a political ad critical of Berkley in her Senate race.
In response to the Crossroads GPS ad, the Berkley campaign told the Las Vegas Review-Journal in August that the episode was old news and has been overshadowed by Berkley winning re-election six times.
“Leave it to George W. Bush’s political director, Karl Rove, to dredge up something from two decades ago that voters made a judgment on during Shelley’s very first campaign for Congress,” campaign spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa, told the newspaper.
Heller was asked why he accepted $10,000 from Republican Sen. David Vitter, R-La., who is on Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington’s annual list of the “most corrupt members” of Congress as is Berkley with a “dishonorable mention” for a second year in a row.
Heller sidestepped the question, responding by saying, “how hard do you have to work to be on the most corrupt list two years in a row?”