Las Vegas Sun

October 21, 2014

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POLITICAL NOTEBOOK:

At last, the money trail leads somewhere

Want to know how much the teachers union spent to collect signatures for an initiative petition it ultimately dumped? How much money the Las Vegas Sands spent on its unsuccessful effort to qualify three ballot initiatives? Where, exactly, former Assemblywoman Sharron Angle got the funding for her property tax cap initiative?

Finally, Nevada voters will be able to follow the money on these matters, even if they won’t get a chance to vote on any of the initiatives. The attorney general’s office has resolved legal questions that kept the contribution and expense reports for ballot advocacy groups from being disclosed.

In a letter sent last week to ballot advocacy groups, Deputy Secretary of State Matt Griffin said the reports would be due Oct. 15.

The secretary of state, Ross Miller, also released the opinion from the attorney general’s office that clarified a law dictating how ballot advocacy groups disclose contributions and expenditures. The secretary of state’s office worried the law was so broad and vague that many people — including voters casually discussing whether they support a petition — would be required to file with the secretary of state’s office as an advocacy group.

In April, Miller’s office asked the attorney general to weigh in.

The attorney general’s opinion was that the state law requiring reporting did not put an unconstitutional burden on political speech.

— David McGrath Schwartz

• • •

State Sen. Dina Titus, the Democrat challenging Rep. Jon Porter in the 3rd Congressional District, scored a nice endorsement this week from her new pal Sen. Hillary Clinton.

Clinton sent a letter to supporters of HillPAC, her political action committee, instructing them to send money to Titus.

Clinton names just two other Democrats, and both are incumbents, so this is a fairly big deal.

It also illustrates the ways in which Nevada’s early caucus is continuing to change the state’s politics. Titus endorsed Clinton fairly early in her presidential run, and the two are now friends. Without the caucus, there would be no relationship.

— J. Patrick Coolican

• • •

The Nevada Policy Research Institute, a conservative think tank, issued a report Tuesday detailing what it calls “egregious cases of wasteful spending” by state and local governments.

According to the institute’s release, the report cites public employee pensions and overtime pay, cost overruns on school district projects, circumvention of contract bidding rules, and the de rigueur minor items that are fiscally meaningless but sometimes resonate with the public. (Think: “Bridge to Nowhere.”) In this case, the report exposes money spent on cat carriers and leashes and sand-filled stress balls.

Nevada is sharply divided over why the state faces a fiscal crisis, with conservatives such as those aligned with NPRI pointing to spending, and liberals — though very few in the Legislature — arguing we need more taxes.

Gov. Jim Gibbons and the Legislature have cut more than $1 billion from the budget since the end of the 2007 legislative session, and are expected to have to shave at least $1 billion during the 2009 legislative session.

— J. Patrick Coolican

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