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October 21, 2014

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Politics:

Lowden criticizes Hutchison for not disclosing gift

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Steve Marcus

Sue Lowden, former Nevada state senator and candidate for lieutenant governor, waves during the annual Veterans Day parade Monday, Nov. 11, 2013, in downtown Las Vegas.

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Mark Hutchison

Republican lieutenant governor candidate Sue Lowden criticized her opponent, state Sen. Mark Hutchison, R-Las Vegas, for not publicly disclosing an all-expenses-paid trip to Israel last year.

An affiliate of a national Israeli lobby group, the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee, paid for Hutchison and other Nevada legislators to visit Israel, but Hutchison did not disclose the sponsored trip on an annual financial disclosure form filed earlier this month.

Lowden said in a press release that Hutchison should not “hide junkets” from the public.

“I think you should be on the safe side of reporting and report everything so you’re on the safe side of integrity,” Lowden said in an interview.

The disclosure forms are supposed to note gifts worth more than $200 that elected officials received in the past year.

Citing a legal opinion from legislative lawyers, Hutchison and three other state legislators — Sen. Aaron Ford, D-Las Vegas, Michael Roberson, R-Henderson, and Greg Brower, R-Reno — said the trip was primarily an educational visit and therefore did not constitute a gift.

Lowden called on Hutchison to release the legal opinion to prove its existence.

“He should be able to share that,” she said. “Otherwise it looks like he’s hiding something.”

She said that she did not dispute the legitimacy of the trip itself, noting that trips to foreign countries can be beneficial to elected officials, especially for a lieutenant governor candidate who could become the chairman of the state’s tourism commission.

“I don’t see why he wouldn’t disclose it or even ask for an (legal) opinion,” she said. “I don’t know why you would try to hide this.”

Hutchison’s campaign staff dismissed the issue in an email statement that the campaign declined to attribute to any individual staffer.

"This is a desperate attack from yet another failing Lowden campaign,” the statement read. “The idea of Sue Lowden attacking Mark (Hutchison) on transparency and reporting requirements is as ridiculous as the thought of paying for health care with chickens."

The jab invoked an attack line from Lowden’s failed 2010 U.S. Senate campaign in which the Democratic Party repeatedly lampooned Lowden for suggesting that bartering for medical care — like when “our grandparents would bring a chicken to the doctor” — would be a better system of health care than President Barack Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Hutchison is an attorney who specializes in election law and government ethics. He also served as a former chairman of the Nevada Commission on Ethics.

“Why wouldn’t you disclose it?” Lowden said. “Again, Mark Hutchison is an attorney who can read the statute. And he was an ethics commissioner.”

But gift reporting falls under the Secretary of State’s Office, which has yet to say whether it will challenge the legislative lawyers’ contention that the gift does not need to be reported.

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