CARSON CITY, Nev.—Progressives have had ample cause over the past four years to be unhappy with the performance of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). For instance, he thinks Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided, and that abortion should only be legal in cases of rape, incest or when the life of the mother is at stake. He voted in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage strictly in heterosexual terms, though he voted against a constitutional amendment to that effect. In 2009, he brought a healthcare bill to the Senate floor that was significantly inferior to the one already passed by the House. Recently, he voted in favor of extending the Bush tax cuts to the richest Americans. He voted against closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay. He's also failed to use his influence as Majority Leader to get rid of the Senate's rule allowing filibusters.
And now there's one more reason to be unhappy with Reid: He wants prostitution outlawed in his home state.
"Nevada needs to be known as the first place for innovation and investment—not as the last place where prostitution is still legal," Reid told the Nevada legislature on Tuesday. "When the nation thinks about Nevada, it should think about the world’s newest ideas and newest careers–not about its oldest profession... If we want to attract business to Nevada that puts people back to work, the time has come for us to outlaw prostitution."
Strange words for a man who was born and raised in a town that once was home to 14 brothels, and reputedly got its name—Searchlight—from the searchlights that used to guide travelers to those very institutions.
"The reality is this," stated Dennis Hof, owner of the world famous Moonlite Bunnyranch and several other brothels, in an interview with AVN. "After 40 years of being a supporter of the brothels, Harry Reid turned against us, and said that he felt like the brothels prohibited development in Nevada; that people didn't take Nevada seriously. Well, Harry grew up swimming in a swimming pool at a cathouse; his mother fed him with money she earned from the cathouse. She was a maid; she took in laundry. And so, now he's got a problem with it?"
Reid's speech, of which the brothel issue was only a small part, touched on several key areas, including the need to attract visitors ("Tourism will always be our biggest industry"); "clean energy" (which may or may not relate to his deep-sixing of the plan to store nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain); and his opposition to term limits for legislators.
But according to Reid, he "recently met with a group of businessmen who run data centers for technology companies," one of which they were considering locating in Storey County, home to the Wild Horse Adult Resort and Spa.
"But one of the businessmen in that meeting told me he simply couldn’t believe that one of the biggest businesses in the county he was considering for his new home is legal prostitution," Reid, a Mormon who drinks neither alcohol nor coffee, charged. "I’ve talked to families who feel the same way—parents who don't want their children to look out of a school bus and see a brothel. Or to live in a state with the wrong kind of red lights."
That remark drew the ire of prostitute Brooke Taylor, who's also performed in several adult movies.
"His argument, his main purpose is that he wants to destroy viable, actual businesses for hypothetical ones," Taylor assessed. "Brothels aren't anywhere near bus stops; they're tucked in the outskirts of rural Nevada. In fact, what is near bus stops is sex offenders, so why not not allow sex offenders to register in your state if that's what you're really concerned about?"
Indeed, the Wild Horse is located, according to Wikipedia, "in a secluded portion of the Patrick Business Park, in the far northern portion of Storey County... Primary access to the area is via exit 28 off Interstate 80. The nearby settlement of Patrick, from which the Business Park takes its name (and occupants their mailing addresses), is actually found across the Truckee River and thus is located in Washoe County," where prostitution is illegal.
"He says that we are the last state with legal prostitution," Taylor continued. "No, we are the first state doing it right. He says he wants to outlaw prostitution. There is no outlawing prostitution; it's not going to go anywhere. It's just going to go underground. Instead of this state having thousands of both legal and illegal sex workers, you're now going to have tens of thousands of illegal ones all over the country."
"So what does he want to do? He wants to stomp on my right as a woman to do what I do in a safe environment? It's outrageous! I lived in Illinois. I could have stayed in Illinois and worked illegally; I could have gotten on Craigslist, I could have worked my Facebook page. Instead, I chose to come to the good state of Nevada, to become a citizen of Nevada, to contribute to the community in Nevada and do so legally."
But Hof sees darker forces at work in Reid's new-found "moral" stance.
"Of the 15 rural counties [where prostitution is legal], only one of them voted for Harry in the election," Hof noted. "I think this is the payback for not voting for him; he's getting even with them by taking the brothel money away. Without the brothels, there won't be a medical center in Lyon County where I'm at. The doctor will leave Wells, Nevada. All our police cars are paid for by that money. In other counties, the sheriff said today, they won't have an EMT division, emergency division; that's where the money comes from. Brothels pay enormous fees to the counties. Just my county, we pay four hundred and some thousand dollars a year in brothel fees; and that's just in my county. I have two places outside of Las Vegas now, so I'm paying the same kind of money down there."
Hof also has some ideas as to why Nevada is having trouble attracting non-entertainment/gaming-related businesses.
"It's a blatant lie that brothels destroy development in Nevada," he stated. "The number one reason for companies not coming to Nevada is gaming. When people come to Nevada looking to do business here, the big corporations, the economic development people do an exit survey. The exit survey says the number one reason is gaming, because it's a problem; people get caught up in the vice of gaming. The number two reason is the availability of liquor 24 hours a day, and the number three reason is water—there's not enough water—and number four is an uneducated workforce."
"So I think this whole brothel thing is a red herring," he summarized. "His lack of performance and doing anything for Nevada; he's trying to take all of the spotlight off of himself and put it onto us."
Several journalists agree with Hof and the other brothel owners.
"Imagine that, after all these years with Las Vegas being called 'Sin City' which includes an illegal and often violent [sic] sex industry, Reid wants to end part of what makes Nevada truly unique," wrote Las Vegas Democrat Examiner writer David Phillips. "And these brothels are located in rural areas of our State and the women are tested for sexually transmitted diseases on a regular basis... [H]ere’s an idea: since Nevada is going through a budget crisis due to the policies of former President Bush, tax the sex industry."
But if the state does outlaw the oldest profession, "the legal battle is going to be incredible," Hof told the Reno Gazette-Journal. "If they think we are just going to roll over, well, you know me better than that."
Pictured: Dennis Hof and Bunnyranch girls (photo by Lee/EMMreport.com); Sen. Harry Reid