Incumbent congressional Democrats enter 2020 with wide head-start on fundraising race, filings show

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As 2019 wound to a close, the season of giving proved to be a boon for incumbent Democrats Susie Lee and Steven Horsford, who combined to rake in more than $1 million ahead of the December 31 deadline, according to filings made last week with the Federal Election Commission.

Nine Republican candidates across both Lee and Horsford’s districts combined to raise roughly $1 million themselves, but more than half of that sum —  about $536,000 — came in the form of candidate loans. 

Lee and Horsford will likely be the only of Nevada’s four House members to see competitive elections in 2020. Lee in particular has already become a frequent target for national Republicans, who have sought to tie the moderate Democrat to the party’s progressive left wing in the wake of December’s vote to impeach President Donald Trump. 

In the less competitive District 1 and District 2, represented by Reps. Dina Titus and Mark Amodei, respectively, there was far less fundraising activity. The two incumbents raised less than $300,000 combined, and no challenger in either district has yet to bring in more than five-figures. 

Below is a breakdown of fourth-quarter fundraising data by congressional district, ordered by the total money raised by declared candidates in that district. 

District 3

Much like the third quarter, incumbent Democrat Susie Lee led all of the state’s congressional candidates with more than $600,000 in fourth-quarter fundraising, bringing her total on the year past $2 million and leaving her campaign with more than $1.5 million cash on hand — by far the most of any congressional candidate in the state up for election in 2020.

It was also among the best fundraising hauls among all House members. For the first time, Lee cracked the top-50 House fundraisers, sandwiched at number 46 between fellow Democrats Reps. Sheri Bustos of Illinois and Jennifer Wexton of Virginia. 

A little more than half of Lee’s fourth-quarter total, about $353,000, came from individual donors, while another $145,000 came from political action committees (PACs). The remaining $100,000 for the quarter came through a transfer from another of Lee’s campaign committees.  

Individual donations are capped by federal law at $2,800 per candidate, per election, meaning no donor can give more than $5,600 directly ($2,800 for the primary, and another $2,800 for the general election). 

Among those individual donors who maxed out their contribution to Lee are a number of Las Vegas business heavyweights, including Cashman Equipment CEO Mary Kaye Cashman, MGM Resorts International President William Hornbuckle and businessman and frequent Democratic donor Stephen Cloobeck. 

Among the $147,000 Lee spent last quarter, much of it ($69,000) was split between salaries ($30,000) and consultants, including $26,000 to Colorado-based digital consultant 4Degrees Inc., $9,000 to Virginia-based fundraising consultant Fiorello Consulting and $3,750 to the Maryland-based Maccabee Group for research consulting. 

Another Democrat, Richard Hart, filed for the 2020 race in late 2018, but has yet to file any other documents with the FEC in the time since. 

Though Lee has so far outpaced any possible Republican rivals, two candidates have so-far dominated the fundraising race for the GOP: former state Treasurer Dan Schwartz and ex-pro wrestler Dan Rodimer. 

Schwartz held a narrow edge over Rodimer in fourth quarter fundraising ($302,000), fundraising on the year ($565,000) and cash on hand ($447,000) — though he has also poured an extensive amount of his own money into the race in the form of personal loans. Schwartz gave his campaign $250,000 in the fourth quarter alone, boosting his loans for the year up to nearly $430,000, or roughly three-quarters of his total campaign war chest. 

Of the almost $53,000 Schwartz spent last quarter, most went to political consultants. That includes $21,000 to local firm McShane LLC and $10,000 to North Carolina-based Saligram and Associates for fundraising consulting. 

Close behind Schwartz is Rodimer, who raised $250,000 through the fourth quarter and $502,000 over the year, leaving his campaign with $294,000 cash on hand. Like Schwartz, Rodimer has placed a substantial amount in candidate loans into his 2020 bid — $100,000 in the fourth quarter and $165,000 through the entire election cycle so far. 

Rodimer also proved to be the biggest spender in District 3 in the fourth quarter, doling out more than $168,000 and even outspending Lee by a margin of about $20,000. Much like the other candidates, a majority of that money was spent on various kinds of political consulting, with $95,000 spread across eight different consulting firms. 

Unlike his opponents, however, Rodimer has already begun to spend thousands on advertising, including more than $20,000 in media placement fees to South Carolina firm Point1 (of which ex-White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer is a partner) and another $9,000 in fees to Silver State Radio, which operates two music stations in Las Vegas. 

Another Republican candidate, Corwin “Cory” Newberry, has yet to file campaign finance documents with the FEC. Two other Republicans, Tiger Helgelien and Zach WalkerLieb, as well as an independent candidate, Alex Pereszlenyi, have dropped out of the race. 

District 4

Democratic incumbent Steven Horsford raised more than $455,000 for his reelection bid in the fourth quarter, putting his yearly total at more than $1.5 million and leaving just over $1 million cash on hand. His war chest is larger than all but Lee’s, and it leaves him far ahead of his Republican rivals in the fundraising race, who together combine for just $674,000 cash on hand. 

Of Horsford’s fourth-quarter fundraising, a little more than half ($217,000) came from PACs, while $210,000 came from individuals and another $27,500 came from Democratically-aligned committee transfers. Among Horsford’s notable donors are Cosmopolitan CEO William McBeath ($5,600), Jonathan Gray, president of the real estate group Blackstone ($2,800), and MGM Resorts President William Hornbuckle ($2,800).

The nature of the dozens of PACs that gave to Horsford ranged widely, from corporate PACs linked to WalMart ($3,000) or NV Energy ($2,500) to political or policy-based PACs like the House LGBTQ caucus-linked Equality PAC ($7,500) and Planned Parenthood Action Fund ($1,000). 

Of Horsford’s near-$180,000 in money spent, a little less than half of it, $71,000, went to consultants and pollsters, including $29,000 for an internal poll in October. Nearly all of the remainder went to operating expenses, from Lyfts and Ubers to email hosting to event catering. 

Among the seven Republicans still looking for the chance to take on Horsford in November, former Assemblyman Jim Marchant ended the quarter on top, raising $156,000 for the quarter and $333,000 on the year, leaving his campaign with just over $209,000 cash on hand. 

After losing his seat in the Assembly in 2018, Marchant has sought to cast himself as fully in-line with the Republican party’s right wing, even gaining the endorsement last week of Freedom Caucus regular Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona. 

But only about $56,000 of Marchant’s fundraising came through individual donors, including a maximum contribution from New York investor Edward Bramson. Filling out the rest of the quarterly total was a last-minute $100,000 candidate loan, tripling his total and bringing his total loans on the year to $110,000. 

Of the $39,000 Marchant spent, the largest single chunk went to consulting firm McShane LLC ($15,000), with much of the rest going to operating expenses. 

Marchant was followed by veteran and insurance salesman Sam Peters, who raised more than $145,000 for the quarter, marking his 2019 total at more than $283,000 and leaving nearly $206,000 cash on hand. But like Marchant, Peters buoyed his receipts with a last-minute $79,550 loan on Dec. 31, the last day before the fundraising period ended. That loan also raises his total loans on the year to more than $157,000. 

Peters’ biggest donors were largely retirees, including at least one retired Navy captain and six others who gave the $2,800 maximum. In terms of spending, roughly two-thirds of Peters’ budget ($21,000 of $32,000 spent overall) went to advertising, including signs, radio and Facebook ads.    

Though third among Republicans in raw fundraising totals, former Miss Nevada and local business owner Lisa Song Sutton led Republicans in individual contributions for the second quarter in a row, raising more than $130,000 in the fourth quarter and $258,000 through the year. 

With $187,000 left in the war chest, the Song Sutton campaign has touted itself as the only Republican campaign with five-figures of cash on hand and no outstanding debt, with Song Sutton herself having so far given no loans to her campaign. A lack of loans hasn’t meant a lack of contributions, however, as Song Sutton did contribute $15,000 to her campaign in the fourth quarter and $35,000 through 2019. 

Though federal law limits individual contributions to $2,800, any money spent by a candidate on their own campaign is considered “personal funds,” and those funds are not subject to limits so long as they are reported. 

Song Sutton received 20 maximum contributions, including donations from Texas-based attorney Sonny Patel ($5,600) and UFC fighter Cory Hendricks ($2,800). And of $42,000 in spending, the largest chunk once again went to consulting and advertising (nearly $26.000), including $19,000 for Texas-based firm Amplify Relations. 

Among the remaining Republicans, none broke the $100,000 mark for the quarter. Business owner Randi Reed came closest with $57,940 for the fourth quarter, $105,000 for the year and $33,000 cash on hand, while veteran Charles Navarro, who raised $107,000 through 2019 — largely on the back of a $75,000 loan from the third quarter — brought in just $9,500 in the fourth quarter, all while spending more than $53,000. 

Nye County Commissioner Leo Blundo raised the least of any candidate, just $1,500 for the quarter, $46,000 for the year and leaving $5,000 cash on hand. It was a quarterly haul even below that of nurse Catherine Prato, who dropped out of the race this month after raising just over $4,200. 

Another late entry to the Republican race, Leo Dunson, has yet to file any financial documentation with the FEC. 

District 2

Incumbent Republican Mark Amodei brought in a modest $144,000 in the fourth quarter, bumping his total for the year to near-$456,000 and leaving his reelection effort with just over $333,500 in the bank. 

Amodei’s fundraising was largely split evenly three ways between individual donors ($52,000), PACs ($43,000) and committee transfers ($49,000). Among individuals and PACs, notable donors include Monarch Casino and Resorts President Bahram Farahi ($1,000), Retail Association of Nevada Executive Director Mary Lau ($800) and several PACs linked to Boeing ($3,500) and military contractors Northrop Grumman ($2,500) and Lockheed Martin ($2,000).

Amodei’s increased fourth-quarter fundraising was not enough, however, to push his campaign into the black for 2019. Though spending just $57,000 in the last three months of the year, Amodei spent just over $470,000 over the course of the year, dipping into his cash reserves by a margin of roughly $15,000. 

Of that $57,000, much of it went to consulting and accounting fees ($26,000), with the rest falling to a mix of operational expenses such as gas mileage or catering. 

Other candidates in District 2 include two Democrats, Clint Koble and Patricia Ackerman, though neither managed to raise more than $100,000 on the year. Koble came closest, raising $28,000 for the quarter and nearly $75,000 for the year, but consistent spending has left Koble with only $4,500 cash on hand. 

Ackerman, who only entered the race in November, reported raising more than $15,000, including a $5,000 candidate loan. Much of that money went back into operating expenditures, however, and Ackerman enters 2020 with just over $4,000 cash on hand. 

Two other candidates, Democrat Edward Cohen and Republican Jesse Douglas Hurley, did not report raising any funds in 2019. 

District 1

Arguably the safest member of Nevada’s House delegation — more than 48 percent of voters in District 1 are registered Democrats, compared to just 21 percent registered Republican — incumbent Democrat Dina Titus reported raising more than $125,000 for the quarter, lifting her yearly total to nearly $443,000 and leaving $341,000 cash on hand. 

Titus’ fundraising was roughly split evenly between individual contributions ($63,000) and PACs ($62,500), with notable donors including lobbyist Jay Brown ($2,800), filmmaker Robin Greenspun ($2,800) and PACs linked to Newmont Mining ($2,500), AT&T ($2,000) and Amazon ($1,500). Titus also received a handful of $5,000 from several unions, including Laborers International and the Transport Workers Union. 

Of the $58,000 Titus spent, more than half went to transfers to other Democratic campaign committees, including $30,000 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and another $2,500 to the state Democratic Party. Of the remainder, $6,700 went to Wisconsin-based consultant Run The World Digital, with the rest going to operating expenditures such as food, payroll and travel. 

Titus’ only challenger, Republican Citlaly Larios-Elias, reported raising $305 for the quarter, including a $100 donation from the candidate. Larios-Elias reported spending just 50 cents, though no more detailed information was available through the campaign’s FEC filing. 

Sisolak's 2018 calendar gives detailed view into campaign, county operations

A mix of lobbyist meetings, fundraisers, campaign events and county business dominated Gov.-elect Steve Sisolak’s calendar throughout the first 11 months of 2018, according to a copy obtained by The Nevada Independent.

Sisolak, who defeated Republican Adam Laxalt in the November election and will be sworn in next month as the state’s first Democratic governor in 20 years, kept a packed schedule through most of the year, ranging from meetings with gaming executives, business leaders, top lobbyists and other candidates for office, along with debate prep, campaign events and nearly three dozen fundraisers in addition to his normal county business.

The information was obtained via a records request submitted by The Nevada Independent on Dec. 7 for a copy of the Clark County Commission chair’s calendar from Jan. 1 to the first week in December. Some caveats: just because a meeting was scheduled in the calendar doesn’t necessarily mean it happened, and the calendar isn’t a definitive record of Sisolak’s meetings and activity on the campaign trail.

With hundreds of entries, the calendar provides a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the relationships and schedule of the man soon to be Nevada’s 30th governor.

Jay Brown

Twenty-seven scheduled meetings, including 17 one-on-one meetings, underline the close relationship between Sisolak and powerhouse local government lobbyist Jay Brown, whose long list of clients includes Resorts World, Republic Services, Treasure Island and a host of marijuana dispensaries.

Two of the meetings were held with longtime Walters Group president Mike Luce in January and August. Another two meetings with Brown were held with developer Don Webb, the Raiders stadium chief operating officer. Brown represented the team in its business before the county commission last year.

Other participants in meetings with Brown and Sisolak included prominent Las Vegas developer Brett Torino on Oct. 10, developer-turned-cannabis company owner Mitch Wilson on Nov. 29 and prominent criminal defense attorney David Chesnoff on Jan. 9.

Brown, a top attorney and former law partner of Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, has close relations with many Southern Nevada power players, including former Sen. Harry Reid and incarcerated gambler Billy Walters. Walters’ wife, Susan, contributed $100,000 to Sisolak’s gubernatorial campaign in the weeks ahead of the 2018 election.

Brown contributed $10,000 to Sisolak’s campaign through his law firm on Oct. 5, and another $10,000 personally on Sept. 1, 2017.

Eglet

In December 2017, Clark County became the first jurisdiction in Nevada to contract with the private law firm of Eglet Prince to pursue litigation against 17 pharmaceutical-grade opioid companies.

Over the next several months, close to a dozen other jurisdictions in the state would also enter into similar contracts with Eglet Prince. During that period, Robert Eglet, the firm’s namesake and senior partner, continued to meet with Sisolak and help his campaign.

Sisolak’s calendar shows meetings with Eglet on Jan. 23, a dinner with him and lawyer/businessman Peter Palivos on Feb. 2, another meeting on May 31 and an Eglet-hosted fundraiser on July 26, the same day Sisolak’s campaign reported receiving more than $107,000 in contributions, including $5,000 from Eglet Prince.

Post election meetings

So far, Sisolak has announced that a handful of Sandoval administration appointees will remain at the helm of executive branch agencies in his administration, and his scheduled meetings since the election suggest he’s considering keeping more in place.

His calendar shows meetings with current Department of Transportation Director Rudy Malfabon on Dec. 4, and a meeting with Paul Anderson, head of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, on Dec. 5. Both meetings were scheduled at Sisolak’s “Transition HQ.”

The incoming governor also met with SEIU leaders Brian Shepherd and Grace Vergara at the transition HQ on Dec. 5. The Clark County Commission approved a 1 percent salary increase for all county employees and a 2 percent Cost of Living Adjustment pay bump for union members at their Dec. 18 meeting.

Peter Palivos

Sisolak’s calendar also shows eight meetings with Las Vegas lawyer and businessman Palivos, a personal friend, between January and June of 2018. Palivos was the seller in a $7 million land deal in 2012 with the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, and since then has been a philanthropist and Democratic political donor.

He donated $15,000 to Sisolak’s gubernatorial bid between September 2017 and October 2018, about a quarter of the $57,000 total he has donated to Democratic candidates and causes since 2012.

Before moving to Nevada, Palivos was involved in a dubious real estate deal in Illinois which eventually saw him convicted of conspiracy to obstruct justice in 2003 — though Palivos had claimed outside of court that he was framed by prosecutors for refusing to provide evidence against former Illinois Gov. George Ryan.

Other meetings

Sisolak’s calendar is peppered with other meetings with top lobbyists and political insiders.

It shows three scheduled meetings with powerful lobbyist and R&R Partners CEO Billy Vassiliadis in March, April, and a few days after the general election in November, as well as a scheduled meeting at the firm’s office on Nov. 13. The advertising firm represents some of the most powerful entities in the state, including the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, Blockchains LLC and the Nevada Resort Association.

Sisolak also met with lobbyist Gary Milliken at least four times, including joint meetings with taxi executive Jonathan Schwartz and Nevada Contractors Association vice president Sean Stewart.

The calendar also shows a scheduled meeting with Station Casino owners Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta on Oct. 3. Both Feritta brothers and their wives individually contributed $10,000 to Sisolak’s campaign about a week earlier, according to campaign finance records.

He also reported meeting with former Diamond Resorts CEO Stephen Cloobeck on Oct. 21. Cloobeck, who in 2017 weighed a run for governor, contributed $5,000 to Sisolak in August and constantly slammed his Republican opponent, Adam Laxalt, on Twitter prior to the election.

He also met with Wynn Resorts CEO Matt Maddox on Aug. 28, Monarch Casino Resorts CEO John Farahi on Sept. 12 and Switch CEO Rob Roy, also on Sept. 12.

Education support

Meetings recorded on the calendar also underline Sisolak’s close alliance with the Clark County Education Association and its leader, John Vellardita.

In addition to a CCEA podcast recording in late May, Sisolak’s calendar shows a meeting with Velardita on June 27, the same month the union officially split from its parent organization, the Nevada State Education Association. Velardita held a fundraiser for Sisolak on Oct. 24, a day which his campaign reported raising more than $58,000.

CCEA was an early backer of Sisolak in both the primary and general elections, including spending more than $1.3 million on his behalf through 2017 and 2018 through the “Nevada Leads” political action committee, which ran ads attacking primary opponent Chris Giunchigliani and Laxalt.

Although the NSEA spent heavily to back Giunchigliani, Sisolak’s calendar shows meetings with the group on July 19 and a roundtable with the organization on Oct. 12, about a week before the union announced it was endorsing him for governor. He also met with Clark County School District Superintendent Jesus Jara on the same day as the NSEA meeting, July 19.

Political meetings & fundraisers

He also had scheduled meeting with current and former Democratic elected officials over the span of several months, including Sen. Harry Reid, Sen. Richard Bryan, Senate Majority Leader and attorney general candidate Aaron Ford, Senate Majority Leader Kelvin Atkinson, Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson and state party chair and Assemblyman Will McCurdy.

In the heat of campaign season, Sisolak also met with a number of Democratic politicians, candidates and former politicians. That includes several primary fundraisers with state and local politicians, including Rep. Dina Titus on March 27, then-state Senate Assistant Majority Leader Kelvin Atkinson on March 27, state Sen. Yvanna Cancela on March 14, and County Commission candidate Tick Segerblom on October 25.

Sisolak’s calendar also shows a scheduled meeting with Segerblom’s primary opponent, labor organizer Marco Hernandez, on March 28 — the same day Sisolak’s “Sandstone PAC” contributed $500 to Hernandez’s campaign.

He also reported meeting with National Popular Vote, a group pushing for states to adopt an agreement to cast electoral votes toward the winner of the popular vote, on July 10. A bill adding Nevada to the compact failed to make it out of committee in 2017.

Whether fundraisers were for Sisolak, another candidate or joint was usually not made explicit in the calendar, though by the general election he had held at least 32 fundraisers exclusively for his own campaign, including at least two after the election in November. Those fundraisers include:

  • 7/18 - Ali Rizvi, CEO of Litigation Services, LLC.
  • 7/19 - Doctors fundraiser with three local doctors, including a “Dr. Prabhu,”(Rachakonda Prabhu, longtime politically connected physician) Dr. William Resh, and Dr. Nick Spirtos
  • 7/26 - Robert Eglet, partner at Eglet Prince
  • 8/15 - Phil Peckman, CEO of The Peckman Capital Corporation
  • 8/20 - Chad Christensen, former state assemblyman
  • 8/29 - Scott Canepa, attorney at Canepa Abele Riedy, and Scott Sibley, publisher and former assemblyman
  • 9/5 - Small business fundraiser
  • 9/6 - Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder
  • 9/6 - Christopher Kaempfer and Anthony Celeste, attorneys at Kaempfer Crowell
  • 9/10 - Barbara Molasky, account executive at The Rogich Communications Group and President of the Neon Museum, and Jan Jones, former Las Vegas mayor
  • 9/11 - Laura Fitzsimmons, Sisolak’s longtime personal lawyer, and Mary Kaye Cashman, CEO of the Cashman Equipment Company
  • 9/13 - Rob Walsh, attorney at Walsh & Freedman, and Khusrow Roohani, owner of Seven Valleys Realty
  • 9/15 - Fundraiser, Bonefish Grill
  • 9/20 - Ozzie Fumo, state assemblyman
  • 9/24 - Mike Dreitzer, CEO of Gaming Arts LLC (the calendar entry for this fundraiser misspells the name as “Mike Drezier”)
  • 9/25 - Robert Goldstein, President and COO of Las Vegas Sands
  • 10/3 - George Harris, CEO of Alien Tequila, Don Ahern, CEO of Ahern Rentals
  • 10/4 - Robert Goldstein, president and COO of the Las Vegas Sands. Goldstein contributed $5,000 to Sisolak’s campaign on Aug. 21.
  • 10/5 - Dr. Tousif Pasha
  • 10/10 - Ash Mirchandani, former deputy director at the state Department of Business and Industry and lobbyist
  • 10/11 - Ross Miller, former Nevada secretary of state, Bob Miller, former Nevada governor, “Dr. Khan” (longtime politically connected physician Ike Khan)
  • 10/12 - Marybel Batjer, secretary of California’s Government Operations Agency, former VP of public policy and corporate social responsibility for Caesars Entertainment and former chief of staff for Gov. Kenny Guinn.
  • 10/17 - Mark James, former state senator and county commissioner, Neil Tomlinson, managing partner at Hyperion Advisors
  • 10/21 - Mark Miyaoka, Robert Song and Helen Hsueh, owner and publisher of the Las Vegas Chinese Daily News
  • 10/22 - Rita Vaswani, professional banking relationship manager at Nevada State Bank and Dr. Benito Calderon
  • 10/24 - John Vellardita, head of the Clark County Education Association
  • 10/25 - Sharon and Tick Segerblom, the former state senator and incoming Clark County commissioner
  • 10/26 - Dr. Nick Spirtos, CEO of the Apothecary marijuana dispensary, and NFL player Jerry Rice (Spirtos is Rice’s family doctor). The fundraiser was scheduled but did not take place.
  • 10/27 - William Hill CEO Joe Asher and company attorney Reed Horsley
  • 12/4 - Judy Perez, an executive with real estate development company Siegel Group
  • 12/5 - Tyre Gray, an attorney and lobbyist with the law firm of Fennemore Craig

Sisolak calendar by Riley Snyder on Scribd