Thursday, Nov. 17, 2016 | 5:19 p.m.
Defeated Republican congressional candidate Danny Tarkanian has filed a defamation lawsuit against his opponent, Democrat Jacky Rosen, concerning ads that aired toward the end of the campaign. The lawsuit, which also names Rosen’s campaign as a defendant, was filed today in Clark County District Court.
Tarkanian, who was running in Nevada’s 3rd Congressional District, is seeking damages worth more than $8 million as well as reimbursement for attorney’s fees.
The lawsuit alleges that Rosen and her campaign produced and disseminated an ad to television outlets, YouTube and Facebook that contained false and defamatory statements that accused Tarkanian of setting up “13 fake charities that preyed on vulnerable seniors” as part of a telemarketing scheme.
Tarkanian, son of the late UNLV basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian, has said he was not aware of any illegal activity when helped set up the companies and wasn’t involved in their day-to-day activities. In 2009, he received a $150,000 defamation settlement from then-state Sen. Mike Schneider, a Democrat, who tried to tie him to the schemes.
Tarkanian sent the defendants a “cease and desist” letter on Oct. 26 regarding the ad and included the July 2009 verdict, according to the lawsuit, which was first reported by political journalist Jon Ralston.
The lawsuit lays out seven claims for relief — three for libel, three for slander and one for intentional infliction of emotional distress against Tarkanian. Aside from damaging Tarkanian’s reputation, the lawsuit alleges that it contributed to him “losing the election.”
When reached by phone this afternoon, Tarkanian said he didn’t pursue the lawsuit before the election because he didn’t want it to divert attention in the final days of his campaign.
“We didn’t want the focus of the voters on this dishonest, defamatory statement of my opponent,” he said. “We wanted to stay focused on the positive message I was making about how we could better our country.”
Tarkanian said Rosen’s campaign never responded to his cease-and-desist letter and continued distributing the ads.
“I certainly have to think that those ads had a significant impact with the voters — negative for me,” he said.
Stewart Boss, communications director for the Nevada State Democratic Party, responded via Twitter: “This is pathetic. @DannyTarkanian is broke & trying to blame his loss on someone else so he has an excuse to run for office *again*”
A request for comment from Rosen’s campaign manager was not immediately returned. Rosen is attending orientation for new members of Congress in Washington, D.C.
Rosen, a relative political newcomer, captured 47.23 percent of the votes to his 45.97 percent, winning the seat in Nevada’s 3rd Congressional District, which includes Henderson and Summerlin in the southern part of Clark County. Tarkanian’s defeat marked the fifth election he has lost.
The attorney representing him in the lawsuit is Samira Knight, his partner at the Tarkanian & Knight Law Group in Las Vegas.