Cathleen Allison / AP
Wednesday, April 9, 2014 | midnight
Ross Miller characterizes himself as one of the most aggressive secretaries of state in the nation in pursuing those who violate political campaign laws.
He boasts that a $40,000 fine recently imposed on a Virginia company is the largest ever levied in Nevada for a campaign violation.
But Miller was asked Tuesday why he settled for $40,000 when he initially sought a $15 million penalty against the Alliance for America’s Future for running 320 television ads in support of Brian Sandoval for governor in 2010.
Miller said the alliance was a political action committee and must file with his office. The alliance maintained it was a nonprofit agency.
A suit was filed and during the District Court hearing, Miller’s office lowered the proposed penalty to $1.5 million.
District Judge James Wilson of Carson City in 2013 found that the alliance had failed to register as a political action group but imposed a penalty $109,560 plus interest.
An appeal was taken to the Nevada Supreme Court by the alliance. But then a settlement was reached for $40,000, far below the $15 million initially sought.
“It’s one of the risks it’s always presented,” Miller said when asked about taking a lower amount. “When I was a criminal prosecutor I would look at this on a weekly basis. What’s the potential outcome if we go to trial or if we settle? In this case, we felt with consultation with the (attorney general’s) office we felt this was a fair but aggressive settlement.”
“I’m not sure in what world $40,000 is not a lot of money. In fact, this is the largest fine in Nevada campaign history,” he said. “Of course we would have preferred a much more substantial amount, but that’s the way the system works.”
The Alliance for America’s Future agreed under the settlement to file as a political action committee and disclosed it received $230,079 in May 2010 from the Republican Governor’s Public Policy Committee for the Nevada campaign.
Court documents show the alliance spent $189,223 for the television campaign in Nevada in support of Sandoval. It maintained initially that it was a nonprofit group and was not governed by Nevada law that political action committees must register with the secretary of state’s office and disclose its expenditures and contributors.