Las Vegas Sun

December 13, 2017

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Assembly Democrats reverse course, disclose spending of campaigns funds

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Assembly Democrats who may have violated campaign finance laws by not reporting the spending of thousands of dollars in campaign funds to support themselves during legislative sessions have now decided to report those expenses.

The Sun reported last week that three lawmakers, on the advice of their private lawyer, decided to keep secret the campaign money they spent on housing in Carson City while the Legislature was in session.

Just three days later, those lawmakers — Assemblywoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, Assemblyman David Bobzien, D-Reno, and Assemblywoman Lucy Flores, D-Las Vegas — filed new reports with the secretary of state disclosing the expenses.

Another three Democratic Assembly members followed suit, revealing they also had failed to disclose some of their campaign expenses: new caucus chairman Assemblyman Marcus Conklin, Assemblywoman Peggy Pierce and Assemblywoman Marilyn Dondero-Loop, all D-Las Vegas.

In total, the lawmakers failed to report more than $40,000 raised for their campaigns.

After the Sun brought the reporting discrepancies to the attention of Secretary of State Ross Miller’s attention, he promised to review the matter and “possibly issue notices of violation.”

“The law is clear: Anytime you raise money into a campaign account and you spend that money, it is an expenditure that must be reported,” Miller told the Sun.

The lawmakers filed the amended reports before he could take action.

Reached Thursday, Miller said he was still reviewing the reports.

The Democrats’ lawyer, Bradley Schrager, advised the lawmakers that they did not have to report expenses that are not directly tied to their campaigns. Although spending campaign funds on housing during a legislative session is allowed under state law, Miller disagreed with the lawmakers that they could keep such spending a secret.

Smith and Bobzien characterized it as an honest disagreement over interpretation of an ambiguously worded law and said they would work with the secretary of state to resolve it.

Flores complained the disclosure requirements had grown too onerous and said they would be easier to comply with if she had “a staffer that the state paid for to record every single one of my receipts.”

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