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September 5, 2015

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Brian Sandoval fits right in at Jones Vargas law firm

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 »

A few odds and ends from the last week of 2010 we’ll ever have to endure:

THE MAN WITH THE EMPTY QUOTES: “Ahh, you can smell the anointment,” I murmured as I entered the offices of Jones Vargas, the law and lobbying firm, for a media gathering called last week by Gov.-elect Brian Sandoval.

From its client list — an elephant parade of big-moneyed gaming, mining, insurance and health care interests — to the very architecture of the building, a gleaming cube of antiseptic corporate modernism, Jones Vargas exudes the prerogatives of power and access. It’s a player in the tight establishment of Nevada political and business elites that recruited Sandoval to run for the office he assumed easily in November.

He took a job with the firm when he stepped down from the federal bench last year, and, as he sat down before the media last week, he was still on the payroll (as reported by my Sun colleague J. Patrick Coolican).

Sandoval was as smooth and polished as the building, and at ease in front of the cameras. He didn’t say much, of course, despite speaking many words; technically, he wasn’t even governor yet (today’s his first day). His budget hasn’t been finalized.

So he spoke mostly in deflective platitudes that masked a nagging lack of specifics: “Shared sacrifice,” he said again and again; “we’re having those conversations,” he said repeatedly; “worst time to raise taxes,” he said several times.

What if there are businesses barely clinging to their “Open” sign — an ill-considered tax could force them to lay off workers or close entirely, he pointed out. That’s why it’s the worst time to raise taxes. Commerce needs to be nurtured.

“The most important message to send,” he said, “is that Nevada is open for business.”

Finally. After all those years of hostility toward it.

There may be clear conflict-of-interest reasons to wonder about Sandoval earning a Jones Vargas paycheck at the same time he’s appointing staff, drawing up policies and preparing a fiscal plan that will surely affect some of the firm’s clients.

But with all his talk of opening Nevada for business, and sharing the sacrifice — remember, we’re talking in part about schoolchildren here — it’s clear he’s already so much a part of the establishment that I wonder if the question is moot.

•••

NOT BLUFFING: Shortly before the election, at the hot apex of the Reid-Angle campaign, I exchanged e-mail with a Texan improbably named Bonzer Wolf. Subject: Harry Reid.

Wolf, who identified himself as a frequent Las Vegas visitor (turns out he’s serious about poker), said he’d rethink his visiting habits if we Nevadans re-elected Reid instead of Sharron Angle. It’s the sort of thing people said then, given the high stakes and apocalyptic passions that race aroused.

But Bonzer Wolf is a man of his word: “Upon further review of the election,” he responded when I followed up with him last week, “I decided to cut my trips to twice a year. I had been coming at least four and many times six times a year.” Reason: Harry Reid.

And when he does come here, he won’t flash his roll at properties owned by Caesars Entertainment or MGM Resorts. “I am absolutely boycotting and cutting down my trips to Vegas because those properties, SEIU and other unions elected Reid. There are Vegas-style poker rooms all over the country, including in Arizona, Oklahoma. I’d much rather support those states than Nevada now.”

Strong words from a guy whose state gave us the Bushes, the Cowboys and Enron, and which wants to give us school textbooks that take creationism seriously. And I’m certainly pleased that, in turning away Angle, Nevada did its small part to minimize the effect of the dingbat vanguard in the next Congress. And Wolf is, after all, a sample group of one.

At the same time, I’m sorry to see him curtail his visits, and I wonder how many other red-staters will follow suit.

•••

HOW ABOUT JUST MONEY? From Newt Gingrich’s advance man, quoted in a recent Sun story: “Should he announce that he’s interested (in running for president), Nevada would be one of the most important states on his list, where he will not only spend time but money.”

A campaign-crazed Newt on the loose in Vegas — one more reason to look forward to the rest of 2011.

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