Las Vegas Sun

October 19, 2017

Currently: 86° — Complete forecast


Miller under attack as he pursues campaign finance reform

An out-of-state conservative group wants you to call Democratic Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller and tell him that you’re “sick of his costly hypocrisy.”

If you think this sounds like a campaign ad, that’s because it is. A group called the State Government Leadership Foundation has attacked Miller for sponsoring a transparency and good-governance bill at the Legislature while alleging that Miller hasn’t been ethical himself.

Ironically, some of the “lavish gifts” Miller has received would be curtailed under his banner bill, which he calls the Aurora Act.

Miller also defends the gifts, which include football games, theatrical performances and UFC fights.

“I disclose absolutely everything,” he said, noting that the gifts are legal.

Meanwhile, the group labeling Miller a “career politician” and illustrating him wearing a joker’s hat doesn’t have to disclose its contributions or expenditures because of loopholes in campaign finance laws.

You can find out who’s paying how much for events Miller attends with a quick read of his financial disclosure statements.

Anything over $200 has to be reported, and he’s meticulous about doing so.

Conversely, your donations will be kept secret should you decide to contribute to the State Government Leadership Foundation, a fact the group touts on its website.

Miller has long been frustrated by the fact that other prominent elected officials in Nevada have a habit of leaving blank the area where they are supposed to declare gifts. Those officials, who are considering regulations and legislation affecting the state’s major industries and monied interests, are either receiving no gifts or they are not reporting them, as some allege.

It’s difficult to know which is the case under current law, a part of the reason Nevada gets bad grades in government transparency.

“The state of disclosure in Nevada is not sufficient enough to know whether other elected officials are paying for events themselves, out of their campaign funds or through lobbyists,” he said.

Miller’s bill, Senate Bill 49, would not totally solve the problem, but it does further define who can give gifts and under what circumstances they can give them.

It also requires more frequent reporting of campaign contributions and requires disclosure of how much cash candidates and elected officials have in the bank.

This allows the public and campaign donors more opportunities to see who’s donating to candidates and how candidates are spending that money.

But the bill may not survive the legislative process.

It’s already been watered down and has faced a fierce fight on the Senate floor in which Republicans adopted a populist tack to pummel Democrats for supporting a provision of the bill allowing candidates to spend campaign funds on clothing.

Legislative amendments to the bill have rolled back reporting requirements and exempted reporting of campaign war chests accumulated before 2014. Some legislators have said that they’re worried well-intentioned people won’t seek office because of the reporting requirements.

“It’s got to be carefully crafted so you don’t set people up for failure,” said Assemblyman James Ohrenschall, D-Las Vegas, who leads a committee that passed a somewhat watered down version of the bill Friday.

In his office last week, Miller wryly addressed this concern.

“Of course it’ll increase work, yet somehow elected officials in any other state manage to comply,” he said.

If the bill doesn’t pass by June 3, it’ll join many other Miller bills in the dead bill graveyard.

The State Government Leadership Foundation is right in at least one regard.

“The facts make it clear,” they write. “His record on transparency is as flimsy as a house of cards.”

But it’s not exactly Miller’s fault if the Legislature kills those bills.

Join the Discussion:

Check this out for a full explanation of our conversion to the LiveFyre commenting system and instructions on how to sign up for an account.

Full comments policy