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July 19, 2019

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Line of Attack: Does Dean Heller associate with shady businessmen?

Line of Attack is a weekly feature in which we parse a political attack, looking at the strategy behind it, how the campaign is delivering it and what facts support or refute it. We’ll assign it a rating on the fairness meter: Legit, Eye Roll, Guffaw, Laughable or Outrageous.

Attack: U.S. Sen. Dean Heller has a history of associating with “crooked businessmen,” both as personal friends and as a public official.

Method of delivery: Heller’s Democratic rival, Rep. Shelley Berkley, launched a scathing television ad last week that dredges up Heller’s ties to a Carson City media personality who was convicted in 2007 of laundering drug money through a shell company.

Strategy: Berkley has her own ethics investigation to worry about, so her campaign is focused on trying to give voters a reason to find Heller unethical as well — the traditional “muddy-the-waters” strategy.

Fairness meter: Berkley is digging back to a 2006 attack used — to little avail — against Heller in an attempt to impugn him by association with businessman Eddie Floyd, who was involved in a marijuana-growing ring in the early 2000s.

Although Floyd was convicted of money laundering, investigators never tied Heller to the case. Instead, Heller’s political opponents have tried to raise questions about his judgment for associating with Floyd in the first place.

This year, Berkley’s campaign has taken additional steps in an attempt to show Heller’s relationship with Floyd went deeper than Heller describes. In 2006, Heller dismissed the relationship as anything but a “media friendship,” after regularly appearing on Floyd’s radio program.

But Berkley’s campaign dug up documents showing Heller also made comments promoting the business Floyd used to launder the drug money. Berkley’s camp also pointed out comments Floyd made suggesting his family often socialized with Heller and his family — an assertion that Heller flatly denies.

The ad also accuses Heller of “speeding the process along” for Floyd to establish the business — an activity that, as secretary of state, Heller had the responsibility to do for many businesses. But that claim is indeed laughable as the backup the Berkley campaign provided doesn’t even refer to the drug laundering business.

Also, to leave voters with the impression that Heller may have had a business relationship with Floyd is guffaw-worthy, as no such evidence exists.

The problem for Heller, however, is he spent enough time in public with Floyd — before Floyd’s criminal activity came to light — that he’ll be forced to answer continued questions about the depth of that relationship. And those questions are Legit.

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