Las Vegas Sun

July 18, 2019

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Las Vegas Ward 3 attack ads funded by Badlands developer

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Olivia Diaz

A political action committee funded by Las Vegas real estate group EHB Companies is distributing negative campaign flyers targeting Las Vegas City Council Ward 3 candidate Olivia Diaz to voters in the downtown ward.

EHB Companies is the developer behind the controversial, stalled proposal to redevelop the closed Badlands Gold Course in the affluent Queensridge neighborhood in Ward 2 near Summerlin. The company denies harboring any ill-will toward Diaz, and said it sent money to the political action committee believing it would go toward efforts to recall Badlands critic and former Ward 2 city councilman Steve Seroka.

Paid for by the Las Vegas-based PAC Fighting for the Future, the flyers claim that Diaz, who served four terms in the Nevada Assembly, “lied to voters” about her ties to “shadowy corporations” and has deceived voters by raising and spending money “against non-existing opponents.” The flyer also lists a website, dirtydiaz.net, that elaborates on the accusations.

Diaz denounced the claims as “baseless lies.”

“It’s completely untrue,” she said. “And it’s sad that big corporations from outside the district are trying to interfere with and influence the outcome of a very local race.”

Fighting for the Future registered with the state in January and its sole contributions came from “Sahara Center LLC” and “Mojave 15 LLC,” according to campaign finance forms submitted to the Secretary of State’s Office. Sahara Center contributed $11,250 to Fighting for Our Future on Feb. 20, and Mojave 15 contributed $7,200 on Feb. 7.

Mojave 15 LLC’s address is listed as 1215 S Fort Apache Rd, Suite 120, the same address as EHB Companies. Sahara Center LLC, whose address is listed as 1212 S Fort Apache Rd, Suite 120, is the name of the entity that developed the Sahara Shopping Center in Las Vegas, which is under the EHB Companies umbrella.

Despite having contributed to the PAC, EHB Companies “is not adverse” to Diaz, said Elizabeth Ham, legal counsel for the business. She insisted the company contributed to Fighting for the Future in order to help oust Seroka, an outspoken opponent of plans to redevelop Badlands.

“That was our understanding,” Ham said. “The effort against Diaz was a surprise to us.”

Campaign finance forms do not indicate whether Fighting for the Future was ever involved in the recall campaign against Seroka, and no one from the PAC could immediately be reached for comment. The PAC’s only expenses went toward advertising efforts paid to the marketing and printing company Alpha Graphics between Feb. 20 and March 11.

A separate PAC, Washington, D.C.-based Committee to Recall Steve Seroka, spearheaded and championed the recall effort against Seroka beginning in December. Its primary contributions came from local construction union Laborers Local 872. Seroka resigned for undisclosed reasons on March 4.

Dirtydiaz.net falsely claims that Diaz is “under investigation” by the Secretary of State’s Office. A spokesperson for the Secretary of State’s Office said Diaz is not under investigation.

The website also says that in 2017, 2018 and 2019, Diaz did not list in Financial Disclosure Statements filed with the Secretary of State her ties to three political action committees: the Nevada Hispanic Leadership Fund, the Nevada Hispanic Legislative Caucus and the Nevada Hispanic Legislative Caucus Foundation.

Diaz amended all three financial disclosure statements in April 2019 to reflect her association with those organizations, filings show. She said that she was unaware initially that those connections needed to be listed on her disclosure forms.

“I’m human, and we all mistakes, and it wasn’t brought to my attention by the attorneys that counsel us on what to disclose,” Diaz said. “It was an omission, but it wasn’t made because there was a malicious intent behind my disclosures.”

The website also draws attention to Diaz’s campaign finances, questioning why she raised over $412,000 and spent over $375,000 between 2011 and 2018 (the flyers inflate the money she raised to “nearly a million dollars”). The website falsely claims that she “faced no opponent” between 2012 and 2018.

Diaz said that in addition to campaigning against republican contenders in 2010 and 2018, she raised and spent that money over the years on necessary campaign resources.

“You need to make sure you’re engaged with voters and make yourself accessible,” she said.

Diaz resigned from her Assembly seat in December 2018 to run for city council. She came in first place in the crowded primary race this April and will face off against the second-place winner, neighborhood activist Melissa Clary, in the general election June 11.

Clary said she has seen the flyers but not the associated website. She emphasized that her campaign has no connection to the attack ads.

“I’m focused on my campaign and talking to voters about what I bring to the table,” Clary wrote in a text message.

Ward 3 resident Kathleen Kahr D’Esposito said the flyers seem to have been delivered to most homes in the ward. She denounced those behind the flyers for “meddling” in the local race.

“It’s really a bad business practice, and not only is it an attack on Olivia, it’s also an attack on Melissa, because it reflects poorly on her. And she’s not behind this,” D’Esposito said.

Diaz said she is unsure as to why she was targeted in the flyers. Ultimately, she added, the effort isn’t going to change her campaign.

“At the end of the day, I’m going to continue to knock on doors and reach voters and continue to work hard, just like I did in the Legislature,” she said. “I think voters can see through these intentions.”