Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Sunday, June 24, 2012 | 2 a.m.
If you’re going to paint yourself as the white knight of transparency, you better make sure to clean up after your horse.
Assemblyman Pat Hickey, R-Reno, listed $13,594 in unitemized credit card payments in this year’s campaign contribution and expense reports, nearly 30 percent of all his expenditures.
Lumping expenses onto credit cards does not violate campaign finance laws, according to the Secretary of State’s Office. But the occasional practice by candidates has been marked as a shortcoming of state law — a way for candidates to potentially obscure how they’re spending the money.
Hickey, the Assembly minority leader, has made campaign transparency and reform a centerpiece of his legislative agenda for 2013, proposing a package of legislation to strengthen state campaign finance laws. He has also criticized Democrats for taking unreported junkets and for campaign finance lapses that brought fines from the secretary of state.
So it was only a matter of time before his own campaign contribution and expense account was scrutinized.
Hickey, after being contacted about the expenses, expressed surprise that other candidates did not report expenses similarly. At the Sun’s request, he provided a breakdown of most of the expenses that he put on his credit card in 2012.
• $4,699 in air fare, mostly to Las Vegas. He went to Las Vegas 15 times and took a trip to California and Washington, D.C., for meeting with Republican groups.
• $1,168 in meals.
• $2,055 in rental cars.
• $2,100 for lodging.
As the only caucus leader from Northern Nevada, Hickey said he frequently travels to Las Vegas for meetings with candidates, fundraisers and lobbyists.
His Democratic counterpart in the Assembly, Marcus Conklin, did not list any credit card expenses in 2012. Instead, Conklin itemized specific expenses, such as payments to Southwest Airlines and Delta Air Lines and meals at restaurants such as McCormick & Schmick’s and Gordon Biersch.
The largest recent example of using a credit card for a lump payment was Gov. Brian Sandoval’s committee for his inaugural celebration. The inaugural committee put $400,000 in expenses on an American Express card owned by Sandoval’s political consultant.
When that payment was first reported by the Sun in February, Secretary of State Ross Miller, a Democrat, said it did not appear to be a violation. But, he said, “it’s something to be corrected.”
Hickey held a press conference in May promising to make campaign finance reform an early issue when the Legislature meets in 2013.
He called on the lawmakers to “hold itself to higher standards in Nevada.”
“I am asking members of both parties to lead the way in establishing higher standards of public transparency and accountability,” he said.
Hickey’s reforms, which he urged lawmakers to make the first order of business when the Legislature meets in 2013, included reporting contributions in real time, requiring candidates to report ending fund balances, and reporting trips and gifts from lobbyists and donors when the Legislature is not in session.
Miller has attempted to pass many of those same reforms since 2007. He said of Hickey’s proposed reforms:
“I don’t expect anyone to adhere to a higher code of conduct merely because they believe the system should be changed. He has now resurrected a set of recycled transparency reforms that have failed before and nevertheless need to be approved. I take him at his word that he will push these measures.”
As for Hickey, he said he has learned his lesson. He will report more details on his campaign expenses in the future and add that to his list of proposed reforms.