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September 23, 2014

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politics:

Republican official accused of improperly using political foe’s Social Security number to dig up info

Updated Thursday, Sept. 26, 2013 | 8:45 a.m.

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Michael McDonald, Feb 28, 2012.

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Nevada Sen. Michael Roberson (left), R-Henderson, talks with lobbyist Robert Uithoven on Tuesday, April 12, 2011, at the Legislature in Carson City, Nev. Roberson introduced a measure Tuesday that would would end binding arbitration in local government contract negotiations.

The Nevada Republican Party political director is facing accusations he inappropriately used a Clark County Republican official's Social Security number to obtain private information about him amid a contested campaign for the county chairmanship.

While the intra-party spat might seem obscure, it's playing a role in an upcoming battle for the Nevada Republican Party chairmanship in an election this Saturday.

The party chairman Michael McDonald is facing a challenge from Robert Uithoven, a lobbyist for the Las Vegas Sands Corp.

At stake in the election is a question over which candidate would better be able to garner the trust of major donors and bring in enough money to fuel voter registration drives, organize and host fundraisers, and provide direct financial support for Republican candidates running in 2014.

While both McDonald and Uithoven say they're not focusing on what McDonald calls a private "personnel matter" concerning his political director Jesse Law, donors like the Las Vegas Sands company are paying attention.

McDonald confirmed Wednesday that the company yanked its funding for the state party, in part, because of the actions of Law who admitted to the improper use of the Social Security number. But McDonald said he's confident he can persuade Sheldon Adelson, owner of Las Vegas Sands and a major Republican donor, to reinvest in the state party.

"To say that money is not going to be an issue would be an understatement, but we're moving in the right direction," he said.

Under Nevada Republican Party rules, hundreds of Republicans who belong to Nevada's county-based Republican parties belong to a central committee. They're the only ones who vote Saturday to pick either Uithoven or McDonald as their leader.

And some see the controversy as a matter of ethics and public perception.

"This race is about integrity and who can raise money," said Betty Rumford, a central committee member.

In July, Dave McKeon, the new chairman of the Clark County Republican Party, obtained evidence that Jesse Law, the Nevada Republican Party's political director, used McKeon's Social Security number to create an online account with the State of Utah Office of Recovery Services to view his child support payment information.

Last month, McKeon filed a complaint with the federal Internet Crime Complaint Center against Law.

Law said he was digging into McKeon's past to verify claims made by supporters of Cindy Lake, the former Clark County Republican Party chairwoman who lost to McKeon in an election earlier this summer.

In the days before the election, Lake's supporters had lobbied party insiders with troubling stories obtained via McKeon's divorce proceedings and child custody battles.

Several Republican insiders had obtained court documents and were circulating them via email.

Law, who admitted he used McKeon's Social Security number, said he wanted to find the truth.

"I had far too many fellow county party members coming to me to verify claims made against McKeon to be true or false," he said via email. "I sought public records on my own time, with my own computer, and with my own phone. My inquiry into Dave McKeon's past had nothing to do with the party, and no party leaders knew anything about it."

McKeon shared with the Sun a document that showed a username "jesselaw" had been created to access his child support payment information.

Such an act would have required McKeon's Social Security number, which Law could have obtained through various court documents his ex-wife was circulating to Republican insiders and the media.

That information is required because the Utah Office of Recovery Services only allows parties to a case to view such information.

"It's totally confidential information," said Elizabeth Sollis, spokeswoman for the Utah Department of Human Services, which oversees the Office of Recovery Services. "We've let employees go and they've been charged for misuse of it, so it's a pretty big deal."

While the Office of Recovery Services does process payments for people who have been delinquent on payments, Sollis said either the payer or the payee can request that the office provide payment services at any time regardless of whether payments are current or delinquent.

McKeon said he's not intending to intervene in the chairmanship election and is waiting to hear back from the federal government to see if Law will face any legal repercussions.

Meanwhile, McDonald said the matter has already been settled via the state party's personnel committee.

"This isn't something new," he said. "This happened. It was unfortunate it happened. It was handled correctly in the respective chain of command. It is what it is."

McDonald declined to be more specific about what action, if any, the party took. Law is still employed by the state party.

McDonald said the chairmanship election is about who has the ability to get Republicans elected.

He said he’s running on a platform of inclusivity and unity, saying he’s been able to arrange meetings between Republicans who used to avoid each other.

“If the people want to work and be empowered and want to have their voices heard, that’s what I am promoting and that’s where I have been successful,” he said.

Uithoven said he's also not making the Law and McKeon conflict a campaign issue. Like McDonald, he said he's focused on his ability to get Republicans elected.

To that end, Uithoven has the backing of high profile Republicans like Gov. Brian Sandoval, Sen. Dean Heller, Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson and Assembly Minority Leader Pat Hickey.

"I believe I will be able to utilize that support to raise the money needed to chip away at the voter registration advantage that Democrats have," Uithoven said.

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