Tags: Nevada

GOP Makes Huge Strides in AG Elections


When Adam Laxalt finally edged out a victory over Ross Miller in Nevada, Republicans had made history.

Laxalt was the last of five Republicans to win state attorney general races in six key races on Tuesday. When they are sworn in there will be more Republican attorneys general – 27 – than at any time in American history.

In addition, Republicans are hailing the election of two women AGs, Cynthia Coffman in Colorado and Leslie Rutledge in Arkansas, bringing their total from one to three.

“Our biggest victory is Nevada because of how much we had to overcome to win that race,” a celebratory Jessica Garrison, executive director of the Republican Attorneys General Association, told me.

Laxalt versus Miller was considered “the marquee race in Nevada.” Laxalt’s win, with 46 percent of the vote to Miller’s 45, was the closet AG race of the night.

From the beginning, Laxalt had been considered a long shot. Nevada Political commentator Jon Ralston predicted this race would fall Miller’s way.

“My pledge to you is that I will work just as tirelessly in office as I did on the campaign trail, fighting to protect Nevada’s laws and our Constitution against federal overreach,” Laxalt wrote in an email to supporters. “We will do the things we promised on the campaign – protect Nevada’s most vulnerable, lock away criminals, seek to provide our military families with affordable legal services, continue our efforts to prosecute human trafficking, fight drug addiction and drug crimes, and help eliminate the backlog in rape kits.”

In Arizona, Colorado and Wisconsin, where none of the current Republican attorneys general were on the ballot, new Republicans took their places.

Arizona’s Mark Brnovich, who defeated incumbent Republican AG Tom Horne in the state’s August primary, beat Democratic opponent Felecia Rotellini 53 percent to 46 percent.

This was Rotellini’s second run for attorney general. She lost in 2010 to Horne and many  speculated this election would be her time.

“There are two things that don’t show up on paper,” Brnovich told me in an interview this morning, “and that’s heart and hard work and those things we have a lot of.”

Brnovich plans a “top-to-bottom review of the entire office, to ensure everyone is committing to serving Arizona and keeping families safe.”

He also says he focused on fighting back against the overreach of the Obama administration. “Next time he tries to promulgate job killing regulation, we will be there every step of the way to protect Arizona.”

In Colorado, Cynthia Coffman, chief deputy to term-limited attorney general John Suthers, defeated Democrat Don Quick by 11 percentage points, 52-41. Coffman’s margin of victory was the largest for any statewide race in last night’s election.

 “Over the next four years, I am going to build an office of community initiatives, which will bring the attorney generals office closer to the people of Colorado,” Coffman told supporters during her speech. “There is no higher calling or greater responsibility than being the people’s lawyer, and I am honored to have the opportunity to serve you as your next attorney general.”

Republican Brad Schimel pulled out a 51 percent to 45 percent win over Democrat Susan Happ in Wisconsin. The races focused heavily on the commitment to keeping Wisconsin safe, with Republicans hammering home their argument that Happ has been soft on crime in her time as Jefferson County district attorney.

“The campaign is over, but there is a lot of work to be done,” Schimel said in a statement provided me.  “I put the heroin dealers on notice that they are public enemy number one.” Already, he has spoken with members of the Wisconsin legislature regarding his plans for tackling this public safety challenge.  

Three states gave the GOP a chance to pick up the AGs office, which they were successful in doing in Arkansas and Nevada.

Republican Leslie Rutledge won her race against Democrat Nate Steel 51 to 43. Rutledge’s win makes her the first female to be elected attorney general in the state, and the first time a Republican has held that office since Reconstruction.

Rutledge promised, in her victory speech, to use “grit, determination and love for Arkansas” in her time as AG for the next four years.

Tags: Nevada , Arizona , Colorado , Wisconsin , Arkansas

Three Nevada News Stations Contribute to Democrat AG Hopeful


Intermountain West Communications Company and three of its local NBC news stations donated $40,000 to the campaign of Democratic attorney general candidate Ross Miller, according to the latest contribution and expenses report filed by Miller.

KRNV in Reno, KENV in Elko, and KSNV in Las Vegas and their parent company gave $10,000 each, the maximum contribution allowable by law, on Oct. 17, the day before early voting began in the state, the report says.

Miller, Nevada’s current secretary of state, is in a tight race with Republican Adam Laxalt. Laxalt received no money from media companies during the reporting period.

Intermountain West donated to other candidates, including the Democratic candidate for secretary of state, and candidates running in nonpartisan judicial and university board of regents races.

An email request for comment has been sent to Miller campaign manager Jocelyn Steinberg and remains unanswered. Messages requesting comment from Intermountain West and from management at each of the affiliates have also gone unreturned.

“More than half of states allow corporations to give directly to candidates; Nevada is one of them,” Denise Roth Barber, managing director for the National Institute on Money in State Politics tells me. “So, to the extent that they can give to candidates, they usually do.”

The Institute operates, which allows for a comprehensive search of contributions to candidates for public office made by media outlets. A search of these numbers indicates that a little more than $1 million has been given to state and local candidates in Nevada since 1990.

“We do not take a position regarding the question of the ethics behind this practice, but we do believe the public should know the donations are being made,” Barber says.

Laxalt campaign consultant Robert Uithoven provided the following statement very late Monday night:

The fact that local television news stations are shoveling bundles of cash by way of maximum campaign contributions to a political candidate is appalling, irresponsible and shameful. The attorney general’s race in Nevada is the biggest, most-expensive race of the 2014 cycle. These NBC stations have been reporting on this race and never once disclosed the fact that they are in bed with one of the candidates. It’s really unbelievable.

In a detailed report in 2010, CNN reported that News Corporation, Fox News’ parent company, had contributed $1 million to the Republican Governors Association.

CNN acknowledged in its report that its own parent company had made political donations and that News Corp. was “not alone among media corporations who donated to political parties and candidates,” Republicans and Democrats.

The Center for Responsive Politics examined the practice of media companies contributing to political organizations and candidates. They found “the parent companies of six major media outlets have all donated anywhere from five to seven figures to political organizations during the 2010 election cycle alone.”

However, “Campaign donations made by media companies and the bigwigs who run them were primarily funneled to Democratic campaigns and organizations,” according to a look at those donations by Huffington Post in late 2012.

Capitol City project took a look at these contribution numbers earlier this year and found not much had changed since the last election with the vast majority of money funneled from news outlets to political causes benefitting Democrats.

Tags: Nevada

Did Bilbray Tell the FEC One Thing and Do Another


Erin Bilbray, the co-founder of a political action group, may have violated the terms of an agreement with the Federal Election Commission by using the resources of the group in her bid for Congress.

Bilbray, the Democratic candidate for Nevada’s third congressional district, had been told by the FEC she could continue to work as a paid consultant for a political organization, if she did not “use Emerge Nevada’s resources for campaign-related activities if she becomes a candidate.”

In a recent video produced and released by Emerge Nevada, Bilbray thanks the group she helped found for its help in every step of her campaign.

Chris Gober, an Austin, Texas-based election law specialist, former counsel to the Republican National Committee and political operative for George W. Bush, said he thinks both Bilbray and Emerge Nevada are violating campaign law.

“This video presents very strong evidence that Bilbray is violating the ‘use of Emerge Nevada’s resources’ condition of her agreement with the FEC,” Gober says.

Bilbray campaign manager Adriana Martinez, also a co-founder of Emerge Nevada, has not returned multiple calls and email requests for comment.

A message left for Emerge Nevada has also not yet been returned.

Bilbray founded Emerge Nevada to change “the face of Nevada politics by identifying, training and encouraging women to run for office, get elected and to seek higher office,” according to its website.

She had served as executive director since 2006.

Bilbray originally registered the group as 501(c)4 non-profit organization with the Internal Revenue Service. In 2011, however, the IRS revoked the group’s tax-exempt status because it found the organization was “set up specifically to cultivate Democratic candidates,” according to the New York Times.

Emerge Nevada reorganized and according to the FEC:

Emerge Nevada is a non-profit Nevada corporation holding tax-exempt stautus as a ‘political organization’ under section 527 of the Internal Revenue Code. The organization is not registered with the [Federal Elections] Commission, and it raises and spends funds that are not subject to the contribution limits and source restrictions of the Federal Election Campaign Act (‘FECA’)

 “Because Emerge is not registered with the FEC,” Gober told me, “the organization is legally constrained to only trying to influence state and local races.”

Because of that constraint, when Bilbray first considered running for a federal office in 2013 she wrote the FEC asking if she could step down as executive director, but continue working at a salary of $5,000 a month as a consultant.

The FEC responded to her request saying, “The Commission concludes that, under the terms described in your request, Ms. Bilbray-Kohn may serve as a paid consultant to Emerge Nevada after becoming a candidate.”

Bilbray, the FEC said, could not call upon Emerge Nevada for campaign resources. And without registration with the FEC, the group is not permitted by law to offer help to a candidate for federal office in excess of one thousand dollars, according to Gober.

“Every time that I need a group for a kick-off, or a fundraiser or political event, it is the Emerge network that comes there ready to battle, ready to be there and ready to support me,” Bilbray says in the Emerge Nevada video. “I could not do this without Emerge.”

“It appears as if Bilbray told the FEC one thing, but then turned around and did the opposite when she thought nobody was looking,” Gober says. “To add insult to injury, her biggest mistake may have been admitting it on video.”

Tags: Nevada

Where the AG Races Stand Heading into Election Day


Republicans tomorrow night have a chance to win as many as five of six key attorney general races in Arizona, Colorado, Wisconsin, Arkansas, Nevada and New Mexico.

Recent polls show Republican Mark Brnovich leading Democrat Felecia Rotellini in Arizona by nine points, in a race that appears all but decided.

The AG race seems to be solidly breaking the GOP’s way in Colorado, with Cynthia Coffman leading Democrat Don Quick by seven points. This in a state where Republicans are in a fight to the finish for governor and a U.S. Senate seat.

Republican Brad Schimel is facing a closer race in Wisconsin, but still leads his Democratic opponent, Susan Happ, by four percentage points in recent polling. This race has largely been over-shadowed by the gubernatorial election in which Gov. Scott Walker is seeking a second term after surviving the 2012 recall effort against him.

Arkansas Republican Leslie Rutledge faced criticism regarding voter registration and questionable emails she sent while working for the Department of Human Services. Still, she leads her Democratic opponent, Nate Steel, by 4 percent in the latest PPP survey.

Hopes have been high in Nevada, as Republican turnout in early voting has far surpassed previous mid-term election years. Recent poll numbers show Republican Adam Laxalt closing the gap on Democratic candidate Ross Miller, the current secretary of state.

Nevada will likely be the closest of all the AG races. The grandson of former Nevada Senator Paul Laxalt has overcome criticism for his lack of political experience and weathered a flood of negative advertising to make Democrats nervous going into Election Day.

Only in New Mexico, where Susan Riedel has thus far been unable to come close to her opponent, Democrat Hector Balderas, in polling does a Republican win look out of reach.

Riedel has the support of New Mexico’s Republican Gov. Susana Martinez. Balderas, however, has far surpassed Riedel in fundraising, outspending her 4-1 on television advertising.

Balderas also has history on his side. Republicans haven’t won an AG’s race in the state in 28 years.

Five wins would mean 27 Republican attorneys general, the greatest number in American history.

Those wins, Scott Will, political director of the Republican Attorneys General Association, told me will “ensure an important layer of accountability on the final two years of the Obama administration.”

Tags: Colorado , Nevada , Arizona , New Mexico , Arkansas , Wisconsin

More False Claims From Nevada Congressional Candidate Bilbray


Democrat Erin Bilbray, who has claimed a phantom endorsement on her resume, asserts she joined her husband as the founder of a free children’s health care clinic.

Bilbray claims on her campaign website:

Together with my husband Noah, a pediatrician, we started Nevada’s first and only nonprofit dedicated to providing free health care to the children of Southern Nevada.

An examination of business and legal documents, however, finds the Democratic candidate for Nevada’s Third Congressional District is in no way associated, other than by marriage, with the clinic.

The initial officers list for Clinics in Schools, now Children’s Free Clinic of Southern Nevada, filed with the Nevada Secretary of State includes her husband, Noah Kohn, but not Bilbray.

Tax returns dating back to 2009 also do not include Bilbray as an officer or in any official capacity with the children’s clinic.

In the interviews for multiple news stories that have been done since the opening of the clinic, Kohn has never recognized Bilbray’s role with the clinic. Nor, is she mentioned anywhere on the clinic website.

Bilbray campaign manager Adriana Martinez has not returned an email request for comment.

Bilbray also says her husband, “now serves as the medical director of the Children’s Free Clinic of Southern Nevada.” However, the clinic closed in August of this year and is currently in default with the secretary of state for not paying its business dues.

I was given the option to leave a message in generic voicemail box when I called the clinic for comment.

The clinic’s closing may have been a result of Kohn taking 69 percent of contributions the “non-profit” received in salary. Of the more than $245,000 in donations to the clinic for operating expenses, Kohn paid himself $168,000.

Bilbray argues the twenty years she has worked to “increase civic engagement and to expand opportunity,” is reason to send her to Congress. But, it appears that at least some of that engagement has been falsified in attempt to convince voters of her bona fides as a public servant.

Tags: Nevada

Bilbray Claims Endorsement She Never Received


Erin Bilbray claims on both her campaign website and Facebook page the Henderson Police Officers Association has endorsed the Democrat to represent Nevada’s third congressional district.

The Police Association says that isn’t true.

I have reached out to HPOA to confirm first-hand the endorsement was never given and to find out if they will be asking Bilbray to remove the claim from her website. I have yet received a return call.

Bilbray campaign manager Adriana Martinez told me she plans to look through the endorsement letters to determine if they received one from HPOA.

“If there was an error, I will rectify this as soon as possible,” Martinez told me.

Bilbray is running against incumbent Republican Joe Heck who was elected to the third district in 2010.

Early in the campaign, Democrats mobilized for Bilbray behind a 2,700 ballot lead in voter registration. The campaign faltered leading Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call to rate the district “safe Republican” and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to declined to fund airtime on her behalf.

Tags: Nevada

Mixed Signals, Different Outcomes Predicted in Nevada AG Race


What should Nevada voters make of the discrepancy between unprecedented Republican voter turnout in early voting and poll numbers indicating a lead for many Democrats, one showing Democratic attorney general candidate Ross Miller with an 11-point lead?

Approach with caution, David Damore, associate professor of Political Science at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, says.

“Any public poll done in Nevada should be viewed with skepticism,” Damore told me.

The sample size is based on rough estimates of what turnout will look like. But, as we are seeing already, turnout so far is has been neither consistent with previous midterm elections, nor something anyone predicted.

“The degree to which these models diverge from reality,” Damore continued, rather professorially, “creates systematic error that undermines the validity of the results.”

Taken on their own, the unprecedented turnout numbers for Republican ballots and sagging Democratic voter enthusiasm has political reporter Jon Ralston predicting a wave of GOP wins on November 4.

“Certainly, there is not much good news for the Democrats in the early voting numbers,” Damore said, “which, in my view, is a function of Democratic malaise brought upon by no top-of-the-ticket candidate and (Sen. Harry) Reid’s attention being devoted elsewhere.”

Democrats are clinging to the results of a Global Strategy Group poll – commissioned by an unnamed Nevada gaming company – showing on October 23, Miller with an 11-point lead over Republican Adam Laxalt, the only poll giving Miller such a wide lead.

A Las Vegas Review-Journal poll taken two weeks before early voting began showed Miller up by five on Laxalt.

A week later, the Laxalt campaign released it own polling showing Miller leading by two percentage points. Last week, a Republican Attorneys General Association poll had the Laxalt deficit cut to one point.

“Even Democratic voters, many who have military members and veterans in their family, are telling me they are voting for me,” Laxalt told me in an email statement. “The early vote trends are encouraging, but we still have a lot of work to do and there are a lot of votes yet to be cast, so we won’t rest until polls close next Tuesday night.”

The Miller campaign has not returned a request for comment.

Tags: Nevada

A Possible Election Night Surprise: A GOP House Win in Nevada


Here’s a good example of the kind of down-ticket surprise we might see on Election Night: Representative Steven Horsford is a first-term Democrat representing Nevada’s fourth district, a new district created when the state gained a seat after the census.

As Wikipedia summarizes,

Located in the central portion of the state, [the fourth district] includes most of northern Clark County, part of Lyon County, and all of Esmeralda, Lincoln, Mineral, Nye and White Pine counties. Although the district appears rural, more than four-fifths of the district’s population lives in Clark County, and it is a majority-minority district.

It scored a D+4 in the Cook Partisan Voting Index. It is, by just about every definition, a tough district for a Republican to win. State assemblyman Crescent Hardy is the GOP nominee in this congressional race.

Jon Ralston, the journalist who covers Nevada politics more thoroughly than anybody else, examines the early voting numbers and concludes, “the numbers are devastating for Rep. Steven Horsford.”

According to numbers from the Nevada secretary of state through October 27, 104,809 votes have been cast in Clark County — that’s both in-person early voting and absentee ballots returned. 44,274 are from registered Republicans; 42,836 are from registered Democrats. Another 17,699 are from unaffiliated or other-party voters.

So that’s a 1,400-or-so-vote lead for the GOP in the part of the district that is the Democratic stronghold.

Here’s how the early vote breaks down from the other counties that are partially or entirely in this congressional district:

Lyon: 840 Democrats, 2,201 Republicans, 594 other — a 1,361-vote margin for the GOP.

Esmeralda: 16 Democrats, 52 Republicans, 17 other — a 36-vote margin for the GOP.

Lincoln: 77 Democrats, 161 Republicans, 34 other — an 84-vote margin for the GOP.

Nye: 1,145 Democrats, 2,192 Republicans, 792 other — a 1,047-vote margin for the GOP.

White Pine: 283 Democrats, 409 Republicans, 126 other — a 126-vote margin for the GOP.

The congressional-district lines don’t align perfectly with the county lines, so it wouldn’t be accurate to say that Hardy leads in this election by 4,092 votes. We also don’t know how the independent vote is splitting. But if 4,000 more registered Republicans vote than registered Democrats in the district’s counties, it’s a very good sign for the GOP candidate.

Tags: Steven Horsford , Cresent Hardy , Nevada

What Happens in Places Without Competitive Statewide Races?


From the first Morning Jolt of the week:

Looks Like Nevada Democrats Are Sitting This Year Out. Who Else Will?

Let the great Jon Ralston lay out just how horrific the early-voting numbers are for Democrats out in Nevada:

The turnout nightmare continues for Democrats, who tried to juice it on Saturday by handing out Bill Clinton tickets at The Dooilttle Center in the heart of West Las Vegas. It did not work. Republicans lose early vote by 42 votes out of 12,000 cast. Dems have six more days to turn this around and/or hope for Election Day miracle . . . 

Clark [County] totals with mail: 39,982, GOP; 38,715, Dems; 15,851, others.

Before you start saying, “so what, registered Democrats are still ahead,” note this county is the Democrats’ stronghold in the state. They need a huge advantage here to balance out the GOP advantages elsewhere.

Ralston notes, “It’s 42 percent for GOP and 41 percent for Dems, which means Republicans still 11 points over their registration and Dems 3 percent below theirs. How many different words can I find for ‘disaster’ for the Dems?”

As we noted last week, some of this reflects the fact that there isn’t a really big, competitive race on the ticket this year — no Senate race and Democrats effectively conceded the governor’s race. But the “meh” mood among Democrats is going to have a potentially huge impact on one Democrat-held U.S. House district, all of the non-governor statewide posts (currently held by Democrats), and races for the state legislature.

And if Nevada Democrats are tuning out because there’s no big statewide race on the ballot this year . . . how about all these other states with neither a competitive Senate or governor’s race this year?

Indiana, Missouri, North Dakota, Utah, and Washington are states holding only elections for U.S. House of Representative seats, state legislative seats, and non-gubernatorial state officials.

Quite a few more states have gubernatorial or U.S. Senate races, but not particularly competitive ones: Alabama, California, Mississippi, New York, South Carolina, Tennessee. (Some would argue places like Texas and Ohio don’t have competitive governor’s races anymore, either.) Are we going to see Democratic turnout plummet in places like this, where there isn’t a convenient Republican bogeyman to motivate their grassroots to turn out?

Tags: Nevada , Elections

What Does the GOP’s Big Lead in Nevada’s Early Vote Mean?


The early-vote figures in Nevada look phenomenally good for Republicans and phenomenally bad for Democrats. While Republicans may hope it’s an early indicator of a wide-ranging national wave in favor of the GOP, there are some factors there that are unique to Nevada.

For starters, this year Nevada doesn’t have a big statewide race with the high stakes and drama of 2010’s Harry Reid–Sharron Angle showdown. And the Democrats effectively conceded the governor’s race against Republican Brian Sandoval, as little-known Bob Goodman, a former Nevada state economic developer, will be the token opposition in this race.

But Jon Ralston, the foremost journalist covering Nevada politics, thinks this is something bigger that merely a state Democratic party feeling the blahs.

“Yes, the Democrats conceded the governor’s race,” Ralston said. “Yes, they always knew it was a tough year with no [big race at the] top of the ticket. But I don’t think anyone expected how tilted it has been so far. The GOP is 10 points over registration; Democrats barely holding theirs. If that keeps up, it will be a disaster for the Democrats on Nov. 4.”

And while the gubernatorial race wasn’t expected to be competitive, Nevada Democrats had high hopes for the lieutenant governor’s race — as Sandoval is believed to be a potential Senate candidate in 2016 against Harry Reid. A Democratic lieutenant governor would make that decision much harder for Sandoval. The current lieutenant governor, Brian K. Krolicki, is term-limited; GOP state senator Mark Hutchison is competing against Democratic assemblywoman Lucy Flores.

Democrats currently hold most of the other statewide offices — secretary of state, attorney general, treasurer, and controller.

Ralston warns that the Democrats “could lose every statewide race and sure things such as Rep. Steven Horsford in the fourth Congressional District could be in jeopardy — that’s why Crossroads just dumped a million bucks on TV here to hit Horsford.” State assemblyman Crescent Hardy is running for the Republicans in that district.

Ralston cautions that Democrats could still turn it around, with 10 days of early voting left, and Election Day. But in Nevada more than half, maybe 60 percent, will vote early; in 2012, 60.9 percent of votes were cast early at polling places and another 8.4 percent were absentee.

“The problem is Dems running statewide will not be able to bank the firewall of votes in Clark County to hold off losses in rural and Northern Nevada,” Ralston says. “For example, they had a 25,000-vote lead after early voting in Clark four years ago. Right now, GOP has a slight lead. I have never seen that.”

Nevada Democrats are experiencing what a lot of Democrats across the country are finding — that without President Obama on the ballot, or a Republican figure to turn into a convenient bogeyman to their base, a lot of rank-and-file Democrats just aren’t that motivated to vote.

Ralston concludes with one other thought: Senate majority leader Harry Reid’s turnout machine in 2010 dispelled the forecast of the late polls showing Angle ahead. This year, he, his top staff, and his allied Super-PAC are way more focused on preserving his Democratic Senate majority than on helping Democrats in his home state.

The NRSC’s headache is an opportunity for Nevada Republicans.

Tags: Nevada , Harry Reid

Early Vote Totals Look Promising for GOP in Nevada


Early voting is underway in the Silver State, and if the turnout numbers so far are any indication of things to come, Democrats are in for a tough night on November 4.

After only three days, Republicans are leading Democrats by more than 5,100 votes statewide.

“This is not good news for the Democrats since they traditionally win early voting,” David Damore, associate professor of political science at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas told me. “If they do not recover by the middle of next week, then I think folks like [Democratic attorney general candidate, Ross] Miller will be in full panic mode.” 

In Clark County, where elections are won and lost in the state, the numbers look even grimmer for Democrats.

Republicans have just a 300-vote lead in Clark County. But considering Democrats had a more than 8,000 vote lead over Republicans after the first week of early voting in the 2010 midterm election, the slim early lead this time looks huge for the GOP.

“Clark numbers are looking more than ominous for the Democrats: They look disastrous so far,” political reporter Jon Ralston wrote. “If this keeps up, I don’t know how any of their statewide candidates survive.”

The GOP is far out-performing its registration numbers, while Democrats are under-preforming, not just in Clark but statewide.

So far, Democrats make up about 37 percent of votes cast, while accounting for 40 percent of active voters. The GOP is pulling in 46 percent of early and mail-in ballots compared to statewide registration of nearly 35 percent.

There is a lot of early voting left. But these numbers, coupled with a recent trend finding Republicans waiting until Election Day to cast their ballots, might be the signal of big things to come for the GOP.

Tags: Nevada

Former Commanding Officer for Laxalt Gets into AG Race Mix


An infuriated former commanding officer for Republican attorney general candidate Adam Laxalt is blasting opponent Ross Miller’s attacks on Laxalt’s military record.

“To hear someone say that anybody in my unit did nothing but push paper, is so clearly offensive to me, it borders on anger,” retired Navy captain Brian MacKenzie told me.

MacKenzie was reacting to comments Miller made during last Friday’s debate with Laxalt.

“When you say you were prosecuting terrorists in Iraq, is that true?” Miller asked Laxalt. “Doesn’t seem to be. Seems like you were processing paperwork.”

“Do you have any idea what it is like to go into a warzone?” Laxalt shot back. “I take great offense that you are attacking my military record.”

Miller’s attacks on Laxalt’s time as a volunteer during Operation Iraqi Freedom has drawn national attention.

While most of specifics regarding his work in Iraq are classified, the role and responsibility of Laxalt and the unit in which he served, Task Force 134 (TF 134), is publicly available.

In his legal analysis of the War in Iraq, retired Navy Captain and JAG officer Brian Bill wrote:

Within the TF 134 legal office there was a [Central Criminal Court of Iraq] liaison office, which was tasked to prepare cases for eventual prosecution at CCCI Attorneys within that office would receive the files forwarded to it from the Magistrate Cell and determine, based on their experience with the Court, whether prosecution was worthwhile…. If the CCCI liaison office attorney didn’t act as the prosecutor, he or she was certainly a very active “shadow” prosecutor.”

MacKenzie said Laxalt fit the very definition of a very active shadow prosecutor.

“There was not a legal piece that happened during his tenure there that didn’t have his fingerprints on it,” MacKenzie said. “[Laxalt] was an integral part of a system designed to prosecute those we could and detain those we couldn’t.”

MacKenzie previously came to Laxalt’s defense for his work in Task Force 134. He and Major General Doug Stone, who served as MacKenzie’s commanding officer, took on a tweet by Dana Gentry, executive producer for Ralston Reports.

Responding to a Laxalt campaign ad in which the candidate claims he “helped put away terrorists and war criminals,” Gentry tweeted, “What did he do? Tuck them in for bed?”

“Ralston shamelessly reinforced these offensive comments, even going further, suggesting there is ‘no evidence’ Task Force 134 helped to put away terrorists,” MacKenzie and Stone wrote. “These attacks are false, malicious, and dishonor not only Mr. Laxalt, but the multitude of American servicemen and servicewomen who conducted this critical work.”

Tags: Nevada

Did Nevada’s Ross Miller Violate State Ethics Law?


In the first debate of the campaign for Nevada attorney general, Republican Adam Laxalt hammered Democrat Ross Miller for accepting more than $60,000 in political gifts during his time as secretary of state.

State law says there are no limits on gifts that an elected official can receive. The question of whether those gifts represent a conflict of interest, however, is vague.

“My opponent has shown what I believe is a reckless habit of taking gifts,” Laxalt said during the debate. “I think it makes people wonder if their government works for them or for special interests.”

The “special interests,” in the case of the gifts Miller received, include political lobbyists, law firms, hedge fund managers and officials for Nevada Energy, the Nevada Mining Association and the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

Nevada Revised Statute Chapter 281A addresses ethics in government and establishes an ethical standard for political gifts.

A public officer or employee shall not seek or accept any gift, service, favor, employment, engagement, emolument or economic opportunity which would tend improperly to influence a reasonable person in the public officer’s or employee’s position to depart from the faithful and impartial discharge of the public officer’s or employee’s public duties. – NRS 281.571(1)(e)

The question is whether or not gifts that include tickets to sporting events worth nearly $10,000, travel accommodations, dinners and banquets improperly influenced Miller, the third highest ranking government official in Nevada.

As secretary of state Miller is responsible for enforcing all election laws, for licensing and regulating athletic agents, regulating the securities industry, enforcing securities law and registering corporations and businesses statewide.

The givers of Miller’s gifts operate in those industries.

Caren Cafferata-Jenkins, executive director of the Nevada Commission on Ethics, says the commission has not tackled the question of the ethics of gift giving of this kind.  

“I am not aware of any opinion that would address the issue of the appearance of impropriety.” Cafferata-Jenkins told me in a phone interview.

During the debate, Miller contended the only reason Laxalt could make political gifts an issue was Miller’s having publicly disclosed receiving them.

“The entire reason that that’s out there is because I went above and beyond and disclosed those items, which many public officials aren’t doing,” Miller said.

If they aren’t doing it, they are breaking the law. Far from going above and beyond, Miller is required by Nevada law to file a financial disclosure statement for gifts valued at more than $200.

Miller has broken no laws, but it will be up to voters to decide whether or not it was appropriate to take gifts from people his office is sworn to regulate.

Tags: Nevada

GOP AG Chair ‘Guardedly Optimistic’ about Nov.


Alan Wilson, chairman of the Republican Attorneys General Association told me in a phone interview he is feeling “very good” about GOP incumbent attorneys general holding onto their jobs this November.

Of the 25 seats Republicans currently hold nationwide, 17 are up for election this year. On Monday in Tennessee, the state supreme court appointed Republican Herbert Slatery.

Wisconsin, Colorado, and Arizona are the only red states in which the incumbent is not running for reelection. Races in those three are very competitive, said Wilson, South Carolina’s AG.

“We have a great slate of candidates in these states and believe that we will be able to hold just about every red state,” Wilson said. “We are guardedly optimistic about our chances in those three states. We have strong candidates in each that are doing very well in their campaigns.”

With Democrat AGs in Nevada, New Mexico and Arkansas not running again, Wilson is hopeful Republicans can make some inroads.

Wilson told me he is very proud Republicans have women running for AG in New Mexico and Arkansas.

“Right now, Florida is the only state with a female Republican AG,” Wilson said. “We have the opportunity to increase that number to four if Riedel, Rutledge, and Coffman are successful this November.”

Susan Riedel is running in New Mexico, Leslie Rutledge in Arkansas, and Cynthia Coffman in Colorado.

“Over the last six years, the states have lost ground to the federal government and it is the state attorneys general who stand in the delta between the people and the federal government,” Wilson said. Wilson emphasized the critical nature of these elections. “This is why we need strong rule-of-law AGs who will fight in the courts and represent [the people of their states].”

Tags: South Carolina , Wisconsin , New Mexico , Arkansas , Nevada , Colorado , Tennessee , Arizona , Florida

Monday AG News Round-up


Michigan attorney general, Republican Bill Schuette, is entering the fall election cycle with four times as much cash on hand advantage as his Democrat opponent, Mark Trotten, and has outraised him 12-1 The Detroit News reports.

The race to become Wisconsin’s next AG is quickly turning into a finger-pointing game about who is tougher on crime, despite Democrat Susan Happ’s half-hearted memo requesting otherwise.

Mark Brnovich, Republican candidate for Arizona AG has racked up the highly-coveted endorsement of former attorney general Bob Corbin.

Keeping the topic in the news, a letter-writer to the Las Vegas Review Journal calls the unauthorized leaking of documents from Nevada AG candidate Republican Adam Laxalt’s former law firm a “grossly unfair and misleading tactic.” 

Tags: Michigan , Wisconsin , Arizona , Nevada

Thursday AG News Round-up


The Ohio Republican Party has launched a new website attacking Democrat AG candidate David Pepper for thinking “the law does not apply to him.” “Pepper wants to be the state’s attorney general but he’s shown a shocking lack of regard for even the most fundamental of targeted traffic laws,” Matt Borges, chairman of the Ohio GOP said Tuesday in an e-mail announcement of the site.

In a series of interview videos with the local ABC affiliate, Leslie Rutledge, GOP candidate for attorney general in Arkansas, explained her positions on a number of issues facing Arkansans including school prayer, medical marijuana, and gun-control legislation.

New Mexico Republican Susan Riedel spoke to The Republican Women Group of Otero County where she drew what she sees at the main contrast between her and her opponent, Democrat Hector Balderas. “I know what it is like to supervise a big office and I know what it’s like to supervise lawyers.”

Republican Adam Laxalt says he plans to sue the federal government, if elected Nevada’s next attorney general, if the sage grouse is listed as an endangered species. Laxalt says “he believes the federal government has overreached in enforcing the act and has stepped on the rights of Nevada and other states in dictating how to deal with various species,” reports the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

The editorial board of the Journal Times in Racine County, Wisconsin joins criticism of Democratic attorney general candidate Susan Happ and her office’s handling of case involving allegations of the sexual assault of a child. The editorial reads, in part,

The facts are clear enough. Happ and her husband sold a piece of property to Reynolds under a land contract in 2009 for $180,000, which was paid off three years later.

A spokesman for Happ said the case was turned over to an assistant district attorney who made the decision to go with the plea deal.

That’s not quite good enough. Happ should have recognized the clear conflict of interest this case presented for her and her office and used a 10-foot pole to push it as far away from her jurisdiction as possible. Pushing it down to an assistant — who still reported to her — was simply not good enough.

Happ’s poorly-thought-out decision is probably not enough to warrant asking her to resign from the attorney general’s race, but it should weigh heavily on voters when they go to the polls in November.


Tags: Ohio , Arkansas , New Mexico , Nevada , Wisconsin

The Growing Focus on AGs


It’s only just recently that so many state attorneys general have been garnering the kind of attention worthy of national headlines. The multi-state lawsuit over Obamacare set in motion a growing wave of Republican AGs taking on the federal government for what many of them argue is unprecedented overreach.

From Nevada to New York, Republicans are seizing the opportunity to turn mounting discontent with the president and members of his party, into AG election wins.

The Associated Press recently published a “5 things to watch” list in a series of states and the AGs came up in a number of them. Here are some links, highlights, and other notes:



Republican John Suthers is vacating his post as Colorado’s attorney general. The race to replace him is on between GOP nominee Cynthia Coffman and Democrat Don Quick.

The legalization of same-sex marriage has become an emerging discussion, highlighting a major difference between these two candidates.

In 2006, Colorado voters overwhelmingly approved an amendment to the state constitution that banned same-sex marriage. Quick has said, if elected, he would not defend this part of the constitution, while Coffman vows to not allow her personal opinions interfere with her responsibility to defend of all of Colorado’s laws.

Coffman is no stranger to public service. Her first job out of law school was in the Georgia AG’s office. She then went on to work as a lawyer for the 1996 Olympic games, ultimately moving to Colorado to begin work as legislative council in the Office of the General Assembly.

She was also chief counsel to former governor Bill Owens and currently serves as deputy attorney general.

Quick has also worked in government for most of his career, serving as district attorney as well as deputy AG under Ken Salazar.



Last Tuesday, sitting Republican Attorney General Tom Horne lost in an intense battle against GOP primary challenger Mark Brnovich. Horne was better funded, but Brnovich was aided early on by outside voter-education efforts that targeted Horne.

A fairly reliable red state, Arizona’s race for AG is shaping up to be one of the more competitive in recent years, as Brnovich takes on Democrat Felecia Rotellini, who lost by only four points to Horne in 2010 for the same seat.

Because Republican Gov. Jan Brewer will not be on the ballot, Brnovich will not have the benefit of a popular incumbent governor to help with down-ticket performance.

Rotellini ran unopposed in her primary freeing her up to outraise her general-election foe.

Brnovich won the primary despite his lack of funding and now, as the party’s nominee, should have a money advantage he didn’t have before.


New Mexico:

New Mexico also has an open attorney general seat, which Republicans are eyeing as a potential pick-up opportunity.

Susan Riedel is the GOP candidate running against Democrat Hector Balderas. Riedel is facing an uphill climb as her opponent has far outpaced her in fundraising.

Balderas, current state auditor, came under early fire by Republicans for saying he believes President Obama is taking the “right approach” to addressing the faltering economy and claiming that New Mexicans “don’t mind paying taxes.”

As auditor, Balderas was previously under investigation by the New Mexico attorney general’s office for misuse of funds.

Riedel has the support of Gov. Susana Martinez, who enjoys high approval ratings and a “comfortable lead” over her reelection opponent.

New Mexicans know Riedel as the prosecutor in the 2002 case of “baby Brianna,” a five-month-old who died at the hands of her parents. Both parents were convicted on multiple charges.

With the support of the Latina governor in a border state, and a long prosecutorial career, Riedel may just be on the road to becoming the first Republican elected as New Mexico’s attorney general since 1987.



Despite a recent poll that shows Democrat Susan Happ leading Republican Brad Schimel by seven points, Schimel could surprise in the race for the next attorney general.

Both Schimel and Happ currently serve as district attorneys. However, Schimel is running away with significant endorsements from the law-enforcement community –  important for a candidate looking to become the state’s chief law enforcement official.

A key factor in this race is the role the Wisconsin AG will play in the ongoing legal battles over the controversial law known as Act 10. Gov. Walker signed the bill, which increased the contribution made by public employees to their health care and pensions, in early 2011. Republicans and conservative activists who have supported Walker’s reforms fear that if the AG’s office falls to Democrats this November, all the progress they see the state as having made as a result of the law – including turning a $3.6 billion budget deficit into a projected $1 billion surplus – will almost certainly be reversed.

The Wisconsin supreme court recently upheld the law as constitutional despite ongoing legal challenges by opponents.

The Happ campaign did not return a request for comment when contacted to confirm whether she would defend the law as AG despite her disapproval of it.



The AP actually left Nevada off its list, but the AG race here has been getting national attention. The mere fact that it’s happening in the Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s state, as he works to hold onto the Senate, makes it notable.

Most press attention focuses on the “political dynasties” involved – Republican Adam Laxalt is the grandson of former Nevada governor, U.S. Senator, and Ronald Reagan confidant, Paul Laxalt, and Democrat Ross Miller, current secretary of state, is the son another former Nevada governor, Bob Miller.

Aside from their names, here in Nevada, Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval’s imminent reelection and endorsement of Laxalt, the support Miller is sure to get from Sen. Harry Reid, and the influence outside political organizations are hoping to have on the race make this one of the most closely watched races in the state.

 – Ciara Matthews is a national political reporter for the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity.

Tags: Colorado , Arizona , Nevada , Wisconsin , New Mexico

New Ad Praises Laxalt in Nevada’s AG Race


The Republican Attorneys General Association has released a new television commercial, spotlighting Nev. Gov. Brian Sandoval’s endorsement of GOP attorney general candidate Adam Laxalt.

“Governor Brian Sandoval is getting Nevada’s economy back on track,” the narrator begins. “But he needs a partner to fight against Obama’s federal overreach.”

The ad goes on to emphasize Laxalt’s service both in the military and as a private-sector attorney.

“In the Navy, Laxalt helped prosecute thousands of war criminals and terrorists,” the ad continues. “In the private sector, Laxalt represented Nevada business as the rebuilt our economy.”

The commercial makes no mention of Laxalt’s opponent, Democrat Ross Miller, but concludes with a matter of contrast between the two: “as attorney general Laxalt will fight Obamacare and ensure better days ahead.”

In response to the fairly routine ad from a national Republican clearinghouse for electing and supporting Republican attorney generals, Nevada Democrat Party spokesman Zach Hudson released a statement claiming, “dark money groups are trying to buy Nevada’s attorney general seat for Adam Laxalt.”

Does that mean the Democratic Attorneys General Association, a “national political organization formed to support the election of Democrats to the office of attorney general” will not be coming into the Silver State to help Miller’s chances in the November election?

This is the second commercial created for Nevada media produced by a political organization looking to influence the race. Earlier this year, The State Government Leadership Foundation released an ad condemning Miller for “living the high life” while Nevadans “pay the tab.”

Tags: Nevada

Overview: Nevada


The Silver State has had its full share of dirty election battles, but the attorney general matchup of Democrat Ross Miller and Republican Adam Laxalt is shaping up to be a knock-down, drag-out fight.

Unlike the Grand Garden Arena, there will be no referee warnings or fighters being sent to their corners.

Miller, the son of former Nevada Governor Bob Miller, was youngest Secretary of State in Nevada history when he was elected in 2007. Before that he spent five years as deputy district attorney.

Miller is also known around the state as a mixed martial-arts fighter, a 2012 ring debut he showcases in a recent web ad.

Laxalt is the grandson of another former Nevada governor, Paul Laxalt. He is a former Navy Lieutenant and JAG officer.

During Operation Iraqi Freedom, Laxalt volunteered to work in the war zone prosecuting military detainees. After military service, he began working at a private law firm here in Nevada where he remained until he began his run for attorney general.

Well-known surnames are where the similarity between Laxalt and Miller ends.

It is their stark differences, not to mention the walk-in-the-park reelection bid Republican Governor Sandoval is facing, that are turning this race into the one to watch in Nevada.

Miller’s track record in statewide elections has helped him maintain high name recognition. He had managed to avoid any political or personal controversies.

Few voters have ever heard of Adam Laxalt. He has never run for any office, let alone one for a top statewide post. Yet, he is no stranger to being the subject of attention-grabbing headlines.

Early last year, it became public that his father was former New Mexico Senator Pete Domenici; his mother had decided after becoming pregnant to raise her son on her own and not make news of the married father’s affair.

The personal is proving to be very political. Besides that biographical fact, a confidential and negative internal performance review done by Laxalt’s law firm, Lewis and Roca was leaked last week.

The law firm immediately released a statement saying, in part, “release of these documents was not authorized by the firm,” and that they “do not represent the current view of Lewis Roca Rothgerber LLP about Adam.”

In response to the leak, Laxalt released another evaluation of his work, this one from his time as a naval prosecutor in Iraq, which called him, “exceptionally skilled,” and an “outstanding performer.”

Three days prior to the documents going public, partners from the Lewis Roca Reno office held a fundraiser for Miller, although I am told the candidate himself did not attend. When asked if Miller thought it right for someone to leak the review, or if the campaign had any comment regarding the fundraiser held for him, I did not receive a response from the campaign.

The attorney general’s race has already started out like a Vegas show. But in the coming months honest reporting and diligent voters can help see past low blows.

 – Ciara Matthews is a national political reporter for the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity.

Editor’s note: This content has been changed since posting. 

Tags: Nevada

Laxalt Fights Back


Nevada GOP Attorney General hopeful Adam Laxalt has released his own performance review, one calling him, among other things, “exceptionally skilled,” with “highly advanced qualifications.”

Laxalt is responding to the questionable release of private documents from his previous law firm Lewis Roca Rothgerber, with a “Fitness Report & Counseling Record” completed by a senior officer.

Laxalt, a JAG officer who volunteered for Operation Iraqi Freedom, is “an outstanding performer,” who has “excelled at this fast-paced, high-pressure environment with… proficiency,” the report says.

The review further notes that during his time as a military prosecutor, Laxalt, “diligently reviewed, briefed and presented over 1400 detainee cases… supervised 6 paralegal [sic], 6 officers and was responsible for tracking over 35,000 detainee case files.”

The comments on Laxalt’s performance conclude, he is “a phenomenal attorney” and “a MUST SELECT for… early promotion.”

This release, and the reaction by Lewis Roca in response to documents leaked from inside their firm, may have denied his opponent’s campaign the blow it had hoped to land.

Tags: Nevada


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