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July 29, 2015

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LEGISLATURE 2013:

Nevada Democrats seek ‘help’ for Nic Cage

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Cathleen Allison / AP

Actor Nicholas Cage testified in support of a bill proposing tax incentives to filmmakers at the Legislative Building Carson City, Nev., on Tuesday, May 7, 2013. Proponents of the measure say it will bring jobs and revenue to the state. Cage’s agent Michael Nilon is at left.

Struggling schoolchildren. Downtrodden immigrants. Uninsured working poor.

Generally, these are the constituencies for which Democrats are known for taking a public stand.

But a multimillionaire movie star?

Enter the Nevada Democratic Party and the blast email it sent to supporters Thursday morning.

“Help us help Nicolas Cage!” the email and its accompanying website blared next to a photo of a grinning Cage cupping his chin in his palm.

“Is this a parody?” one Democrat said when a reporter showed him the website Thursday morning. “This isn’t real, is it?”

Informed that the pitch was indeed sponsored by the party, the incredulous Democrat sputtered: “The optics are nuclear.”

Of course, the pitch isn’t exactly to help Cage, the Hollywood actor who has starred in 73 feature films, won one Oscar and blew a $160 million fortune on 15 homes, a private island, and a 67-million-year-old dinosaur skull, according to celebritynetworth.com.

Yes, those optics aren’t exactly ideal.

Instead, the party was ostensibly working to garner support for a bill pending in the Legislature to give the movie industry $35 million in tax incentives to produce films in Nevada. The email asked supporters to sign a petition backing the measure. Cage visited Carson City this week to testify in support of the bill.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Aaron Ford, argues the measure is a key way to diversify Nevada’s economy, create jobs and attract significant investment in the Silver State.

“I would’ve pitched it way differently,” a slightly exasperated Ford said. “This is about jobs. This is about helping our economy.

“Maybe I would have said: ‘Help us help Nic help you.’”

But the timing of the party pitch isn’t exactly ideal.

Democrats in the Legislature are working furiously to craft some way to raise taxes for education and other state services. So far, the only idea on the table is an entertainment tax that, among other things, would levy an 8 percent tax on movie tickets.

Some questioned why the party didn’t launch a petition for Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick’s proposed Entertainment and Admissions Tax.

A party operative speaking on background said the point of the email blast was “list building” — an effort to recruit supporters by using a popular, well-liked face. It’s difficult to attract attention from potential voters when no election is going on, after all.

The operative acknowledged that the email should have been worded better — perhaps by including the word "jobs."

Zach Hudson, spokesman for the state party, defended the email, saying the bill highlights the effort by Democrats to “create jobs at home while Republicans want to create jobs in China.”

Not everyone castigated the approach.

“It’s brilliant,” Sen. Tick Segerblom said. “Nic Cage is a likable figure. We’re trying to bring the movie industry to Nevada. This is about jobs.”

As for Cage’s recent financial troubles, including the $12 million debt to the Internal Revenue Service he is paying on and his foreclosed Las Vegas mansion, Segerblom said many in Nevada’s troubled economy have experienced such hardship.

“He’s just trying to find a way to get by,” Segerblom said with a touch of irony.

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