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November 28, 2014

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Ties to rich special interests on display at Brian Sandoval’s inauguration

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Leila Navidi

Governor-elect Brian Sandoval speaks during a press conference at Jones Vargas law firm in Las Vegas Wednesday, December 29, 2010.

Brian Sandoval News Conference

Governor-elect Brian Sandoval speaks during a press conference at Jones Vargas law firm in Las Vegas on Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2010. Launch slideshow »

For many Nevadans, today’s inauguration of Brian Sandoval as the state’s 30th governor represents an emergence from Gov. Jim Gibbons’ unhappy term. It also signifies a re-emergence of sorts for Nevada’s political and business establishment — a group accustomed to shaping public policy to protect its interests but that found itself closed off from the governor’s office during Gibbons’ tenure in Carson City.

Although Gibbons earned establishment support during his campaign, he failed to cultivate or maintain relationships with the cadre of executives from Nevada’s leading industries and their veteran lobbyists who form the bedrock of influence in Carson City.

Sandoval, on the other hand, hails from that group and has benefited from its support throughout his career. He was recruited to run for governor by two of the state’s leading business lobbyists and was employed by one of Nevada’s largest lobbying firms.

A glance at the list of corporate sponsors of Sandoval’s inaugural celebration reflects those ties and includes companies and interests with some of the thorniest issues before the Legislature next year. They have spent a considerable amount of money on gaining access to political decision-makers.

Barrick Gold, for example, is at the top of the list of $25,000 Platinum sponsors on the inauguration announcements. The mining industry is a top target for those who are fighting for more taxes to better fund state services. (The donors are listed alphabetically on the announcement, but the symbolism isn’t to be missed.)

“I would think the lobbyists and the legislators feel this is a guy they can talk with and that access wasn’t to be seen with Gibbons,” UNR political scientist Eric Herzik said. “He’s definitely well-connected. And the establishment has somebody they can talk to now. But whether that translates into influence remains to be seen.”

Herzik noted, however, that “access is the first key” to influence.

To be sure, the so-called establishment — the cadre of leading Nevada industries and their lobbyists — aren’t the only ones with access to Sandoval. He has made it a point to spend the past two months meeting with a variety of constituencies: Native Americans, city managers, liberal activists, senior citizen activists and others.

“I would tell you that the governor-elect has been as available to what you call establishment representatives as he has to groups that often don’t get to meet with the governor,” his senior policy adviser, Dale Erquiaga, said. “He will have, as he has throughout his public career, an open door. That means information. That does not mean influence.”

Those groups, however, aren’t the ones donating to his inaugural committee. In addition to Barrick, MGM Resorts International, Wynn Las Vegas and the Retailers Association have contributed $25,000.

Donors at the $10,000 and $5,000 level include his employer, the Jones Vargas law firm, Pfizer, United Health and CVS.

Any excess money from the inauguration will be donated to charities that provide treatment for substance abuse and mental health.

Mary Lau, director of the Retailers Association, acknowledged the $25,000 contribution was made to give her members direct access to Sandoval and the legislative leaders who will be at the inaugural balls later this month.

“A lot of times during campaigns, there is so much going on that you just mail in a contribution and there’s no face time associated with the name (on the check),” Lau said. “At these events, you don’t really talk about issues, but you get the face time. And if something comes up later and he needs to make a decision, he knows who you are.”

Erquiaga reiterated access doesn’t translate to influence. “Some of the decisions he will make, you will see people on that sponsorship list won’t like,” he said.

Corporate funding of inaugural celebrations is nothing new in Nevada or across the country. At least a third of the governors elected this year are accepting contributions from large donors and corporations with business before their state legislatures, according to USA Today.

Sandoval’s inaugural planners, however, said they tried to keep the celebration as accessible as possible.

A $100 ticket will get you entrance to one of the two inaugural balls taking place in Reno and Las Vegas at the end of January.

“We’ve got a very general invite for everybody to come, and we picked a price point so that everybody can participate,” said Monte Miller, a Las Vegas businessman and co-chairman of Sandoval’s inaugural committee.

For their part, “the establishment” is a bit uncomfortable at being fingered as having better access to Sandoval than Gibbons. One veteran lobbyist bristled at the description, saying the true difference between Gibbons and Sandoval isn’t who has access and who doesn’t. The two have completely different personalities, he argued.

“With Gibbons you always ran the risk of pissing the guy off,” the lobbyist said. “You ran the risk of somehow making it personal for him.

“So, the only thing the establishment has gained, if that’s what you call it, is access — access and an ear. Whether (Sandoval) ultimately agrees, I don’t know. I’ve known him to be a very independent guy.”

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  1. All hail the new King!
    He's all bought & paid for.
    Slick!

  2. Remove him now before he totally destroys local government and engages in more deception as taxes are raised all over the state except in the cozy corners of Carson City.

  3. Is the guy that owns the now famous "Fallen Horse Ranch" where Gibbons was injured, did he back Sandoval? (While I sympathize with the horrific nature of the injury, I find it hypocritical that Gibbons and Sandoval have the taxpayers pay for their medical insurance, while trying to take away medical insurance for families with children that have preexisting conditions.)

    Does Sandoval and this law firm he continues to retain, Hutchinson something?, do they want parents to abort children that have medical issues? I guess they don't want them having insurance.

    Nice to turn on KDOX 1280 AM this morning and hear music (although I'm not a big oldies fan) at least the hypocritical haters, like Hugh Hewitt, Ingram, Humpty something and the others are off the air in the Valley. Maybe they'll see their political allies from the other local paper in the unemployment line. New Year Is Getting Off To A Good Start.

  4. We conservatives expected you liberals to attack Sandoval on this article, as you do on every article about him. You would like to see businesses crippled in hopes of getting a little more feed in the govt. trough you're feeding at. But, if businesses leave the state like they have in other states due to over-taxation, where will that leave you? Can we absorb the increased unemployment that would be created? But, if you libs. FOLLOW these businesses to other states or other countries, that would be a good thing---so carry on with your protests for preserving healthy businesses in Nevada.

  5. Ah, the usual canard of "NO taxes taxes TAXES!!!" And how has that worked out for Nevada? Oh, we just have the highest unemployment rate in the country. And for all the talk about next door neighbor California having a "toxic" business climate, we've yet to see any sort of "exodus" of businesses from there to here. Perhaps we should finally admit that the "no taxes" gimmick has failed us? And it's time to finally invest in a functional state to get the kind of diversified economy that has been long overdue for quite some time?

  6. Desert_Vu...
    Yu know the score!!!

  7. Congratulations, Governor Sandoval.

    Now sit down. (He sits and looks up obediently.)

    Hit that button there that says we get tax breaks. (He does so without question and smiles.)

    Now, hit the no button on that one. (He does so and looks up again, much like a dog that does something right and expects a treat in return.)

    Good boy, Governor Sandoval. Good boy.

    Sheesh... We are sooooooooooo screwed. He's in their pockets. It's Gibbons Times Two for the next several years.

  8. Here we go! The Sun will launch its non-stop attack on a governor who is going to make a difference in this state. He's a business friendly governor, which is good for the state. That kind of attitude will create jobs and bring more business to the state. But I guess the libs just want more taxes shoved down out throats so the state will continue its death spiral.

  9. Dave202: "Trying to make a difference in our state?"

    Brian Sandoval's policies are a mirror image of the policies of failed Governor Jim Gibbons.

    Highest unemployment in the nation, unending foreclosures and the housing slump, decaying social services, etc.

    What did Jim Gibbons do to fix ANY of those issues? NOTHING.

    What will Brian Sandoval do to fix ANY of those issues? NOTHING.

    Sandoval's been a candidate and Governor-elect for almost a year, yet I can't find a single substantive policy difference between him and Gibbons. Not a single substantial difference.

    Can you name one?

  10. Actually Kevin his hard line on the budget deficits pulled the Democratic legislature back from sticking it to us for more tax increases in the last special session. He's also responsible for Nevada keeping its AAA credit rating in this economic doldrum. I don't particularly like the guy but he's done some good work.

  11. Typical liberal psychological reversal syndrome is on parade on this page and in every article about Sandoval. You libs are already attacking a gov. who has barely been sworn-in, while ignoring the REAL cause of Nevada's economic devastation---the Reid Senate, the Pelosi House and your king at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue (accasionally). It is the policies in Washington DC which have killed Nevada's economy. You know, the outlaws you voted for and support.

  12. Mary had a little lamb,
    And named it Mr. Sandy;
    She dressed it up in a dark business suit,
    And fed it lots of Brandy.