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October 24, 2014

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Harry Reid returns campaign money paid to granddaughter for ‘holiday gifts’

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Steve Marcus

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) talks about Searchlight, Nev. during an interview at his home in Searchlight Monday Jan. 20, 2014.

Updated Tuesday, March 25, 2014 | 7:15 p.m.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has reimbursed his campaign nearly $17,000 paid to his granddaughter for “holiday gifts” in late 2013, after the Federal Election Commission insisted that his campaign clarify why the money was spent.

The FEC sent the treasurer for Friends of Harry Reid a letter insisting that he “must include a brief statement or description … to clarify the following description: ‘holiday gifts.’”

Reid’s campaign operation listed that description on its year-end report for two separate disbursements to Ryan Elisabeth of Berkley, Calif., on Oct. 23 — one for $5,416.93, the other for $11,370.00.

“Ryan Elisabeth” is actually Ryan Elisabeth Reid, the majority leader’s granddaughter, a spokeswoman for Reid confirmed Tuesday.

“I thought it would be nice to give supporters and staff thank-you gifts that had a personal connection and a Searchlight connection,” Reid said in a prepared statement. “But I have decided to reimburse the campaign for the amount of the expenditure.”

Ryan Elisabeth Reid, 23, is the oldest child of Rory Reid, Harry Reid’s oldest son, who ran an unsuccessful race to become Nevada’s governor in 2010. It is unclear whether she currently lives in Berkley, Calif., because her LinkedIn page lists her as being a "performing arts professional" in Brooklyn.

According to an interview on a fan page dedicated to her jewelry, Ryan Elisabeth Reid says she is originally from Las Vegas and began to make jewelry at age 5. Her specialization is a line of pocket-watch lockets that she calls “As Time Goes By.”

“Each watch locket is a pocket watch with the guts taken out. I then fill the watches with a new collage inspired by a woman in history (who inspires me) and each necklace comes with a tag about the woman and a quote by her,” Ryan Elisabeth Reid wrote for the site.

She also has a “more eclectic” line of hats and new jewelry called “The Light City,” inspired by time spent in Paris.

Ryan Elisabeth Reid’s jewelry site, www.ryanelisabeth.com, is defunct, and there does not appear to be any information available about how she priced her items. But a look at her line of jewelry suggests she worked most in basic metals, mixed media and found objects, not precious or semi-precious metal or stones.

A LinkedIn page for Ryan Elisabeth Reid says that the jewelry designer has also been a costume designer for a San Francisco mime troupe, a playwright and director of the Sprat Theater Company in New York, and an assistant to artist Tim Bavington, who is based in Las Vegas.

The Friends of Harry Reid campaign said earlier Tuesday that it complied with the FEC’s rules in filling out the Schedule B form in question, which the FEC has insisted Reid’s team clarify by April 25 — no exceptions, no extensions, unless Friends for Harry Reid wants to risk “an audit or enforcement action.”

“The report is accurate, the expenditure was for holiday gifts,” said Chris Anderson, speaking for Reid’s campaign. “The campaign complied with all FEC rules.”

The FEC keeps a list of "examples of inadequate purposes" as a warning to campaigns of how not to explain disbursements. No. 54 on that list is "gifts."

It is not clear whether Reid’s reimbursement will absolve his campaign of the responsibility to report a more full explanation to the FEC by April 25.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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