Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader in the Senate, apologized on Thursday to 33 Republican colleagues for a document distributed by his office that listed contributions that some of them received from the lobbyist Jack Abramoff along with critical news media reports on their past actions and statements.
"I am writing to apologize for the tone of this document and the decision to single out individual senators for criticism in it," Reid said after the memorandum, headed "Republican Abuse of Power," drew criticism from some Republicans.
"As you know, I myself have been the subject of similar personal attacks from Republican outlets. I understand the unfair picture they can paint and the pain they can cause," he said.
Reid has been harsh in his attacks this week on what he describes as a Republican culture of corruption uncovered by Abramoff's recent guilty plea to bribery charges -- even drawing comparisons between Republicans and organized crime.
And Democrats have been aggressively working to tie Republicans to the scandal and to make it a top 2006 campaign issue. But Republicans, including the office of Senator Bill Frist, the majority leader, cried foul over the 25-page document that attacked individual senators for the contributions and for other acts placed under the headings of "Putting K Street Before Main Street" and "Out of Touch." They said the document was a blatantly political effort produced with taxpayer money in Reid's Senate leadership office.
"The bottom line is they used a taxpayer-funded, self-proclaimed war room to issue a political smear document," said Brian Nick, a spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. This week, that group issued a lengthy document, "Harry's Hypocrisy," which sought to tie Reid to Abramoff and was underwritten by political contributions.
Reid, in his letter, said the Abramoff scandal had made the subject of congressional ethics a legitimate issue for debate as the two parties seek to claim the high ground on the issue.
"But the document released by my office yesterday went too far, and I want to convey to you my personal regrets," he said.
He and fellow Democrats did continue to press Republicans on their Abramoff ties on Thursday, however, sending letters to Vice President Dick Cheney and 20 Cabinet secretaries and agency heads asking them to disclose any dealings they had had with the lobbyist.