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July 23, 2014

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POLITICS:

Jobs at CityCenter give Harry Reid 22,000 talking points

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Angle comments on CityCenter

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Sharron Angle

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s campaign wanted to send a message with its selection of CityCenter as backdrop for Thursday’s rally and fundraiser with President Barack Obama. Reid has made the multibillion-dollar Strip resort a showpiece for his chief argument for re-election: His power and influence in the Senate and beyond is crucial to helping Nevada pull itself from its economic morass.

However, don’t expect the Reid campaign’s argument to evolve into a game of one-upmanship with his Republican opponent, Sharron Angle.

Reiterating her position that government should stay out of the way of business, even when it asks for help, Angle said this week that she would not have intervened to help rescue

CityCenter when the project was on the brink of losing its financing.

Thanks to Reid’s campaign ads, the story is now familiar.

Last year, MGM Resorts International was close to shuttering CityCenter, the largest private construction project in the nation’s history. Financing had dried up in the wake of the financial industry’s collapse. At MGM’s request, Reid and his Republican counterpart Sen. John Ensign called the CEOs of the company’s lenders urging them not to ignore the project.

Without that intervention, Reid argues, 22,000 workers would be without jobs and the Strip would be stuck with a cluster of partially built hotels.

In a radio interview on Alan Stock’s show this week, Angle said she wouldn’t have taken the same steps to help CityCenter, providing yet another indication of the opposite views the candidates have on the government’s role during a recession.

“No, I would not,” Angle said when a caller asked if she would have intervened as Reid did.

“The reason is he may have saved jobs in CityCenter but he actually cost jobs in other parts of the city. The issue here becomes bailouts and stimulus. We want something that’s not going to bail out and stimulate. What we want is to deregulate, lower taxes, give businesses some breathing room to do what they do best, which is create jobs.”

Angle’s answer appears to conflate government stimulus spending and the use of political clout to facilitate a private business deal. At CityCenter, Reid brought no government money, legislation or regulation to bear, only his clout as majority leader. The construction and resort jobs created were all private industry jobs.

Angle’s campaign did not return calls Thursday seeking clarification of her remarks.

At Thursday’s rally, Angle’s remarks provided an easy target.

Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani told the crowd: “Sharron Angle would not have lifted a finger to help any one of you ... If it’s not your job to create jobs, what the hell is your job?”

MGM Resorts is Reid’s top campaign contributor, having given $153,400 since 2005, according to OpenSecrets.org. Reid’s intervention on its behalf has raised questions about the propriety of an elected official inserting himself in private business matters.

“I think you represent your folks in the best way you see in whatever path you see appropriate,” said Mark Amodei, chairman of the Nevada Republican Party. “But you don’t want to put yourself in the position of having people using phrases like ‘undue influence.’ ”

Amodei noted Reid’s calls were made in proximity to Congress’ bailout of the financial industry.

“One hand you’ve got him passing the bailout and on the next hand he’s calling up and saying ‘Oh, by the way, we want you to consider this,’ ” he said.

Alan Feldman, spokesman for MGM Resorts, said the intervention was more than appropriate.

“It’s absolutely absurd for an elected official not to weigh in,” Feldman said. “That is part of what they ought to be doing is fostering private investment in their home states.”

Feldman noted the situation was so dire that the company had purchased fencing to shutter the project had the financing not come through.

Angle’s insistence that she would not have intervened prompted the Reid campaign to criticize her laissez-faire political philosophy.

Reid’s spokesman Jon Summers argued Reid’s efforts on behalf of constituents extend from the state’s largest employers to homeowners dealing with underwater mortgages.

“Look what we did to help struggling homeowners with Bank of America,” Summers said. “It’s no different. He called the CEO of the bank in, said ‘We’ve got a real problem in Nevada, you aren’t doing enough to help people and we need you to do something.’ Now they’ve got three outreach centers and a toll-free hotline for Nevada residents specifically.

“So would she (Angle) have opposed that, too?” Summers said of Reid’s meeting with the Bank of America. “When people are struggling they want their elected officials to help. It’s part of what you do with constituent services.”

Sun reporter Steve Kanigher contributed to this report.

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