Harry Reid's long, steady accretion of wealth and power

Harry Reid has spent more than 40 years in government, starting as a small city’s attorney and eventually becoming the most powerful senator in the country. He has raised tens of millions of dollars in political contributions, established himself as an institution in Nevada politics along the way, and made himself a very wealthy man. His humble roots — from growing up in a remote desert town to working six days a week as a Capitol police officer while in law school — are legend in Washington and Nevada. Reid exhibits the toughness of a once destitute boy who completely transformed his life through determination, hard work — and good luck.

Some who have watched Reid closely over the years, however, say that his political and economic ascendance has made him increasingly willing to use his power (and apparent electoral resilience) in ways that appear unsavory or nepotistic. The jewelry purchases are only the latest example.

David Damore — a University of Nevada, Las Vegas professor whose research focuses on Silver State politics — has closely followed Reid for years. He said that the balance between helping family and constituents is a common tension for powerful politicians. “I’m going to put this politely: Their personal interests, they seem to see, represent the common good. They don’t differentiate those two.”

Another longtime Reid-watcher believes that the latest string of incidents, stretching over the last decade, is just a result of more coverage of Reid — and not a product of him changing his style.