Whittemore was the president of a land-development company called Coyote Springs. The LLC proposed a controversial $30 billion planned golf course community of 160,000 homes on 43,000 acres in the rural dry Nevada desert near Las Vegas. Whittemore had a close relationship with Senator Harry Reid. Both of them were criticized because of perceived legislative manipulation, political pressure and personal favors called in by Reid, allowing Coyote Springs to overcome regulatory problems.
One of those regulatory problems was obtaining ground water rights regulated by the State of Nevada and groundwater held by Indian tribes in the south for the project. One plan was an exchange of surface water rights from the Colorado River for ground water rights in central Nevada. Senator Reid has years of experience dealing with the BIA (Bureau of Indian Affairs) on tribal water issues. Both Reid and Whittemore knew that water runs uphill to money and power — which they both have.
Reid had an inside connection with Whittemore, the Southern Nevada Water Authority and the Clark County Commission. His son Rory worked for Whittemore’s law firm, was vice-chairman of the Water Authority and also served as a Clark County commissioner. It should be noted: At one time or another, all four of Reid’s sons have been employed by Whittemore’s law firm. According to the Los Angeles Times, Whittemore hired Leif Reid as his personal attorney. At the time, it looked like Whittemore hit the political jackpot.
Whittemore was also a gaming lobbyist. He and Reid knew how to expand gaming revenue for corporate gamblers. For years, gamers unsuccessfully attempted to legalize gambling nationwide and failed. Reid came to their rescue. He worked with the BIA to legalize gambling on tribal territory. Casinos were managed by large gaming corporations, which took a percentage cut off the top of the take before taxes. States began noticing the success and revenue they could earn if they also legalized gaming and taxed it. The rest is history. The gamers have their casinos and their money. We have Senator Reid and Whittemore who allowed gaming to expand at the expense of local casinos in Nevada.
Whittemore said he will tell his side of the story after the sentencing. Evidently, it is the side he didn’t tell the judge or jury. We know he promised to raise $150,000 for Sen. Reid’s campaign. He gave his friends and family members money to contribute to Reid, which is illegal, causing Reid to file a fraudulent campaign report to the Senate. Whittemore had to know what he was doing. But what did Reid know?
If Whittemore gets off the hook with probation, we may never know what Reid did or didn’t know. If he is the sacraficial lamb and goes to prison to protect Reid, the whole world will know what Reid knew or didn’t know — maybe.
David Farside is a Sparks resident and political activist.