Talk about the 2012 election is already becoming heated, and predictions as to which state will vote which way are already underway. Swing states are always coveted territory, and this year one of the “swingiest” swing states is Nevada. This might be bad news for Member of the Week Shelley Berkley, who is currently under investigation for ethics violations. The investigation is unfortunately timed—in less than four months, she will be on the ballot for an open Senate seat in Nevada.
Born Rochelle Levine on January 20, 1951, Berkley grew up in Las Vegas, Nevada. She became the first person in her family to attend college, and graduated from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in 1972 with a B.A. in Political Science. She then earned her law degree from the University of San Diego in 1976 and after graduating returned to Las Vegas to launch her career. Early on in her career, she worked as a legal counsel for many of the Las Vegas casinos and worked as the national director for the American Hotel-Motel Association.
Shelly Berkley’s political career began in the 1980s, when she was elected to the Nevada Assembly. From 1990 to 1998, she served on the Nevada University and Community College System’s board of regents. In 1998, she decided to get back in the political ring and ran for the House seat left by John Ensign. She won the primary with 81% of the vote, and then went on to defeat Republican Don Chairez to win the seat. She has subsequently been reelected in 2000, 2004, 2006, 2008, and 2010, obtaining more than 60% of the vote in each election cycle.
As a U.S. Representative, Berkley is a member of the New Democrat Coalition and she serves on the House Committee on Ways and Means, which is the main tax-writing committee. Berkley is devoted to issues facing members of her home state and she remains strongly opposed to building a nuclear waste repository in Yucca Mountain, Nevada. She is also a known supporter of regulating online gambling, and she was one of the only members to oppose 2006’s Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act.
Although the ethics investigation is unfortunately timed, Berkley’s ethics are no stranger to criticism. In 2011, the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington released its annual Most Corrupt Members of Congress report, giving Berkley a “dishonorable mention.” John Ensign, whose Senate seat Berkley is hoping to fill, is leaving amidst his own ethics investigation. One thing is becoming clear about the 2012 election; ethics investigations can only hurt your campaign.
– Ms. Gardzalla