Las Vegas Sun

November 23, 2017

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the governor’s race:

Rory Reid goes after Brian Sandoval over ties to lobbyists

Rory Reid raises issue, but Sandoval says that rival is hypocritical

Brian Sandoval

Brian Sandoval

Rory Reid

Rory Reid

Sun Coverage

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Rory Reid spent the first year of the campaign attacking Brian Sandoval on education, only to see his poll numbers hold steady at best or slip to more than 20 points behind the front-runner, according to some polls.

Now he’s opening another front, attacking GOP candidate Sandoval about his ties to lobbyists in an attempt to tap into populist discontent with the economy and anger with the establishment.

In a television ad this week — with a massive buy of almost $600,000 for the first week — Reid said, “I’m angry because the big banks and other powerful interests have always gotten their way. They crashed our economy, and now they recruited Brian Sandoval to run for governor.”

Reid, to be sure, is far from a pure messenger. He was once a lobbyist; he is a partner in a law firm, Lionel Sawyer & Collins, that represents some of the most influential interests in the state, including banks; some of the lobbyists he’s attacking for representing interests that “crashed” the economy have ties to his father, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

These facts led to charges from Sandoval’s campaign that Reid is being “hypocritical” in attacking Sandoval’s ties, according to a spokesman.

Still, Sandoval’s resume includes stints in the Assembly, and as a gaming regulator, attorney general and federal judge. Traveling in those worlds provided contact with the special interests he had regulated, legislated on or judged — and from which he is collecting campaign donations.

Reid said this won’t be the only attack on Sandoval’s ties to powerful interests. “We did not pick this thing at random,” Reid said. “In his legislative record, his career, that has involved doing the bidding of people in power.”

When Sandoval announced he was running for governor, he told the Reno Gazette-Journal that two of the state’s most influential lobbyists, Pete Ernaut and Greg Ferraro, had approached him about leaving his lifetime appointment on the federal bench to run for governor.

Both Ernaut and Ferraro, longtime friends of Sandoval’s, serve as unpaid advisers to the campaign.

“They were key to that thought process over whether to run,” Reid said. “It begs the question, whether his agenda will match theirs. I think that’s particularly important for Brian to answer. He has said so little.”

Sandoval was unavailable for an interview Thursday and Friday, according to his campaign.

His spokeswoman, Mary-Sarah Kinner, said, “I think Brian made it pretty clear he got into this race because, with his experience, he believed he could make a difference.

“Asking if he is going to be in the pockets of special interests is ridiculous,” she said.

Since he left the federal bench, Sandoval joined the powerful law and lobbying firm Jones Vargas.

But Reid will have to be careful with this line of attack. The lobbyists for interests he attacks for having “crashed” the economy also have ties to Harry Reid, who’s in a tough re-election fight against Republican Sharron Angle.

Ferraro is a member of the “Republicans for (Harry) Reid.” The CEO of R&R Partners, in which Ernaut is a partner, is Billy Vassiliadis, a senior adviser to Harry Reid.

Ferraro, president of the Ferraro Group, represented J.P. Morgan Chase in the 2009 legislative session. But its major clients are gaming, mining and NV Energy.

A prime example for Reid’s campaign is that Sandoval was the lone sponsor of a bill in 1997 to deregulate banks in Nevada.

According to minutes from a legislative committee, Sandoval handed over the task of explaining the bill to John Sande, then-general counsel for the Nevada Bankers Association, and Dan Reaser, a partner at Lionel Sawyer & Collins, where Reid has worked since 2001.

Sande, a lobbyist at Jones Vargas, told the committee that Lionel Sawyer & Collins drafted the bill.

Kinner said Friday she was unaware of who had drafted the bill, whether Sandoval still stood behind the bill or why he brought it forward.

Elliott Parker, a UNR professor of economics, said the bill helped deregulate the financial industry.

It followed in the footsteps of national legislation to repeal financial regulations enacted during the Great Depression.

Parker, who said he supports Reid, said, “In my opinion, this bill made it easier for banks to merge and out-of-state banks to acquire in-state banks.”

It also changed rules so that banks could count mortgage securities toward their capital, allowing them to carry less-secure assets in greater quantities.

The bill passed unanimously, and was signed by Gov. Bob Miller, a Democrat, Kinner said.

That Reid went to work at the law firm that was the major force behind this bill showed hypocrisy, Kinner said.

Mike Trask, spokesman for Reid, called it a “piddly point” because Reid didn’t work there at the time.

“The fact that Rory works for a law firm is a far cry from being a sole sponsor of a banking bill written by the banking industry,” he said. “That’s like having Barry Bonds writing rules on steroid users.”

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