Jan 31, 2023

Rob Lauer Political Reporter

On January 25, 2023, I reported

“CNN reported on Congresswoman Shelley Berkley and her husband’s dialysis business fraudulently milking Medicare out of millions of dollars.

I was confused by all the players and circumstances. After speaking with Mrs. Berkley’s representatives, I want to make sure I get it right.

The Truth is way worse

In 2012, then, Congresswoman Shelley Berkley, was running for the U.S. Senate against Dean Heller. Berkley’s husband did not have an ownership stake in the company reported by CNN, DaVita, which operates thousands of dialysis centers across the country, including in Las Vegas. But, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, DaVita did give more than $50,000 to Berkley’s Senate campaign after she was under Congressional investigation for ethics violations.

Back in 2008, Berkley’s husband, Dr. Larry Lehrner, a kidney doctor, was president of Kidney Specialists of Southern Nevada. Lehrner’s practice ran the kidney program at University Medical Center. Due to a high failure rate, the feds threatened to pull the plug on Medicare funds for the program, which would have most certainly killed it. Congresswoman Berkley was accused of intervening on behalf of her husband’s program, lobbying government officials to save it.

A New York Times report dated Sept. 5, 2011,

“The congresswoman’s efforts also benefited her husband, a physician whose nephrology practice directs medical services at the hospital’s kidney care department — an arrangement that expanded after her intervention and is now reflected in a $738,000-a-year contract with the hospital.”

“Ms. Berkley’s actions were among a series over the last five years in which she pushed legislation or twisted the arms of federal regulators to pursue an agenda that is aligned with the business interests of her husband, Dr. Larry Lehrner. In addition to the hospital contract, he operates a dozen dialysis centers in Nevada and has played a central role in an industry campaign to lobby members of Congress — including his wife — on behalf of kidney care providers.”

The New York Times article triggered The House Ethics Committee to launch a formal investigation into whether Berkley violated ethics rules with her work on behalf of husband’s company.

At the time, Steve Sebelius, a political columnist for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, wrote,

Kidney transplants are only one aspect of Lehrner’s UMC contract, which would have continued even if the transplant program was canceled. But the fact remains, Lehrner’s practice was paid about $600,000 annually by UMC, and for that reason alone, Berkley should have abstained from advocating on the issue.”

The Reno Gazette article dated July 14, 2012

“For those who insist Rep. Shelley Berkley had a blatant conflict of interest in advocating for legislation that directly affected her pocketbook, you can’t ask for a better smoking gun than that. Case closed.”

Berkley lost the Senate race to Dean Heller and her Congressional seat in the process. Now Shelly Berkley is planning to run for Las Vegas mayor, triggering a review of her political record.

Here is the Congressional Ethics Report issued December 2012:


The Committee voted unanimously to release this public Report
finding that Representative Berkley violated House Rules and other laws, rules and standards of conduct governing conflicts of interest where she permitted her office to take official action specifically on behalf of her husband’s practice pertaining to monetary
collections by her husband’s practice from government agencies.

The Committee agrees with the findings and the conclusions of the Investigative Subcommittee, which were reached following a thorough five-month investigation. Specifically, the Committee finds that Representative Berkley violated House rules and other laws, rules, and standards of conduct by improperly using her official position for her beneficial interest by permitting her office to take official action specifically on behalf of her husband’s medical practice. 

The Committee also finds that Representative Berkley did
not, however, violate House rules and other laws, rules, and standards of conduct by dispensing special favors or privileges to her
husband, Dr. Lawrence Lehrner, or with respect to her husband’s
contact with her office on behalf of third parties. Finally, the Committee agrees with the ISC that the evidence did not sufficiently
demonstrate a violation of House Rules or other laws, rules, and
standards of conduct related to Representative Berkley’s activities
on behalf of the kidney transplant center at University Medical
Center in Las Vegas, Nevada (UMC).

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