Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is sitting on a gold mine — literally.
The Nevada Democrat announced Monday that he sold his longtime home in the dusty town of Searchlight for $1.7 million to Nevada Milling and Mining, which plans to develop a gold mine on the property.
Mr. Reid, 74, said he’s selling the homestead of 110 acres that he’s cobbled together over the last 25 years so that he and his wife, Landra Reid, can move to Las Vegas to be closer to their children and grandchildren.
“Landra and I love Searchlight, the place of my birth, and the memories we have had there, but the time came to sell and do something different,” said Mr. Reid. “We want to be closer to our 16 grandchildren who live in southern Nevada, and be able to spend time with them.”
“Searchlight will always remain my home, my favorite spot in the world where I can look at the quiet desert for miles at end,” he said.
But the windfall rekindled concerns about Mr. Reid’s cozy relationship with the mining industry and his history of having the “Midas touch” in real estate deals.
The son of a miner, Mr. Reid grew up poor in Searchlight, about 60 miles south of Las Vegas. But as a lawmaker he managed to accumulate a personal fortune estimated at $5 million even before his home turned into a gold mine.
He pocketed $1.1 million in a Las Vegas land sale in 2004 with property he did not own.
In that deal, Mr. Reid bought two parcels for $400,000 in cooperation with friend and casino lawyer Jay Brown. He sold the properties for the same price to a limited liability corporation created by Mr. Brown. Three years later, Mr. Reid nearly tripled his money from his stake in the corporation when the property was sold to another developer.
Mr. Reid reported the transaction to Congress as a personal land sale.
In 2005, Mr. Reid secured an $18 million earmark in a federal transportation bill to build a bridge spanning the Colorado River, which connected to 160 acres of undeveloped land on the Arizona side of the border that were owned by Mr. Reid and likely increased in value because of the project.
Mr. Reid also often has bucked the Democratic Party’s environmentalist base to push pro-mining legislation. His son-in-law, Steven Barringer, is a D.C. lobbyist who has made millions of dollars representing large mining companies, though he reportedly never directly lobbied Mr. Reid.
The fact that the Senate majority leader lives in an apartment at the upscale Ritz-Carlton in the West End neighborhood while carrying out his Washington duties has even emerged as a campaign issue. Nevada Republicans ran ads highlighting the fact in the senator’s 2010 reelection bid.
According to Mr. Reid’s office, Nevada Milling and Mining first approached the senator and his wife last year about selling the property.
The hardscrabble town of Searchlight has seen a resurgence of gold mining in recent years, including mining operations that Mr. Reid said were “too close” to his home.
He said the company claimed that the mining operation on his former property will create about 60 new jobs in Searchlight and bring economic development to the region.
Mr. Reid, who is up for re-election in 2016, also said in a video released by his office that he was relocating in part because of the rigors of the coming campaign. “I’ve been through a few elections commuting from Searchlight, and it’s hard,” he said.