Follow the money: Breaking down $2.8 million in combined legislative campaign spending from major industries

The Nevada Legislature building

Even as lawmakers perennially tout the strength of their small-dollar fundraising, the driving force of any campaign in any cycle — with few exceptions — is big-money donors. 

Often contributing upwards of six-figures across dozens of campaigns, money from these donors often comprises the vast majority of campaign funds, especially in the most competitive legislative campaigns.

However, while all these contributions are reported to Nevada’s secretary of state every quarter, parsing trends from such reports or determining how corporate or PAC donors are spending in the aggregate is no simple task, as each contribution is siloed either under individual candidates or individual donors. 

To get at those trends, The Nevada Independent analyzed more than 7,700 individual contributions of more than $200 made to every sitting lawmaker elected in 2020. 

That $200 cutoff excludes a small portion of small-dollar fundraising, as well as two lawmakers who were appointed to their seats in 2021 (Sen. Fabian Donate, D-Las Vegas and Assemblywoman Tracy Brown-May, D-Las Vegas) and any fundraising by losing candidates. 

What is left is an expansive picture of the spending habits of Nevada’s biggest industries, from unions and casinos to health care giants and dark-money PACs. Over the course of our Follow the Money series, we’ve taken a deep dive into the spending of the state’s 10 largest industries, a group of donors that collectively spent $7.8 million of the $10.6 million in big money legislative contributions last cycle. 

Links to all previous installments of this series, including top-line breakdowns of all spending and all fundraising, have been included at the end of this article.

But beyond the largest 10 are the 14 “smallest” industries, according to our categorizations, which still spent upwards of $2.8 million combined. Below is a breakdown of that campaign spending, ordered by industry, from greatest to least. 

Spending nearly as much money last cycle as the much-debated Nevada mining industry were a number of alcohol and tobacco companies, which combined to contribute nearly $319,000. 

Spendiest among industry donors was tobacco company Altria (likely better known by its former name, Philip Morris Companies, Inc.), which gave 30 lawmakers a combined $95,050. Almost all of that money went to Republicans, who received $75,050 to the Democrats’ $20,000. 

Among all legislators, none saw more money from Altria than Senate Minority Leader James Settelmeyer (R-Minden), who received $9,000. He was followed by Assemblyman Tom Roberts (R-Las Vegas) with $8,750 and Sen. Scott Hammond (R-Las Vegas) with $7,000. The remaining 27 lawmakers, including eight Democrats and 19 Republicans, received $5,000 or less.

Other major industry donors include beer-giant Anheuser Busch ($50,500), the Nevada Beer Wholesalers Association ($49,000), alcohol distributor Southern Glazer’s Wine and Spirits ($33,500) and electronic cigarette maker Juul Labs ($26,500). 

Contributing more than $306,000 combined, the state’s transportation industry included a varied mix of donors from car manufacturers, ride-sharing companies, railroads, taxis and associated organizations and individuals. 

Biggest of all was the Nevada automotive dealers PAC, NADEAC, which contributed $52,500 in total, split nearly evenly between Republicans ($27,500) and Democrats ($25,000). Most of NADEAC’s contributions were comparatively small, however, and only two legislators saw more than $2,500 — Sen. Heidi Seevers Gansert (R-Reno) and Sen. Carrie Buck (R-Las Vegas), each of whom received $5,000. 

Following NADEAC was electric car maker Tesla — operator of the massive gigafactory battery plant in Northern Nevada — which gave 20 legislators $45,000. Most of that, $34,500, went to legislative Democrats, with the two Democratic leaders — Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro (D-Las Vegas) and Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson (D-Las Vegas) — receiving the most of anyone with $5,000 each. 

Other major transportation donors include the Nevada Trucking Association and its president, Paul Enos (a combined $42,500), Union Pacific Railroad ($33,500), rental car company Enterprise ($29,500) and the ride-sharing company Lyft ($21,000).

Twelve telecommunications companies combined to spend more than $300,000 on lawmakers last cycle, with the single largest chunk coming from internet service provider Cox Communications ($120,000). 

The largest internet provider in the state with a near-monopoly on internet service in the Las Vegas metro area, Cox’s spending largely favored legislative Democrats, who received $80,000 to the Republican’s $40,000. That includes one maximum $10,000 contribution to Frierson, as well as $8,000 for Cannizzaro.  

Communications giant AT&T followed with $82,250, again favoring Democrats ($58,750) to Republicans ($23,500). And here, too, the top recipients were Frierson and Cannizzaro, who received $8,000 each. 

Other major donors included internet service providers Charter Communications ($47,500) and CenturyLink ($14,000), as well as satellite TV provider Dish Network ($12,000). 

Though the pharmaceutical industry at large contributed nearly $273,000, more than half came from just one donor: the Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), which gave 45 lawmakers $140,500. 

Among the most powerful industry groups in the entire country, PhRMA’s contributions favored Republicans, who received $86,000 to the Democrats’ $54,500. Among individual lawmakers, PhRMA’s four top recipients were all Assembly Republicans: Roberts ($8,000), Assembly Minority Leader Robin Titus (R-Wellington) ($8,000), Assemblywoman Jill Tolles (R-Reno) ($8,000) and Assemblywoman Melissa Hardy (R-Henderson) ($7,000). 

Other major donors include the drugmaker Pfizer ($46,250), National Association of Chain Drug Stores ($17,500), and biotechnology company Amgen ($11,000). Nineteen other donors, including major drugmakers such as Merck, Sanofi, Eli Lilly and Johnson & Johnson, gave $10,000 or less. 

Though 55 donors in the finance and banking industry combined to contribute more than $214,000, almost two-thirds of that money came from one source: the Nevada Credit Union League (NCUL), the credit union trade association, which gave $86,250 across 46 legislators. 

The NCUL’s spending widely favored Democrats, who received $62,000 to the Republicans’ $24,250. Much of that difference was made up by the sheer number of Democrats receiving contributions (30 Democrats to 16 Republicans), but also by three large contributions to Democratic Leaders. 

Frierson and Assembly Majority Leader Teresa Benitez-Thompson (D-Reno) both received the $10,000 maximum, while Cannizzaro received $9,000. No other lawmakers received more than $5,000 from the group.   

Other major donors include One Nevada Credit Union ($25,500) and the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors ($14,500). The remaining 52 donors gave just $9,500 or less. 

Unlike some other major industries, technology-related companies and donors gave to lawmakers in comparatively mid-sized or small amounts, with the largest among them — the data company Switch — giving a total of $62,000 to 21 legislators. 

That money was evenly split between 10 Democrats and 11 Republicans, who combined to receive $31,0000 each. That even-split largely extended down to the individual level, too, with Democrats Cannizzaro, Frierson and Gansert, a Republican, receiving $10,000, while Republicans Hammond and Buck received $5,000 each. The remaining recipients all received $2,500 or less. 

The other significant chunk of technology contributions came from Blockchains, Inc. owner Jeff Berns and his wife, Mary, who combined to give $44,500. Berns was at the center of efforts this session to create so-called “Innovation Zones,” which would have created a semi-autonomous county in rural Nevada supported by the use of cryptocurrency. 

As criticism of the concept intensified over the course of the legislative session, Gov. Steve Sisolak backed away from Innovation Zones last week in announcing the proposal would take shape as a study, instead. 

The single biggest beneficiary of Bern’s contributions was Assemblyman Jim Wheeler (R-Minden), who received $10,000 each from Jeff and Mary for $20,000 total. Wheeler’s district, District 39, encompasses parts of Storey County, where Berns’ Blockchains company owns roughly 67,000 acres of land that likely would have become the state’s first Innovation Zone, had the proposal passed muster.  

Berns also gave $5,000 to Cannizzaro, Frierson and Settelmeyer, as well as a handful of smaller contributions to six other lawmakers, including both Democrats and Republicans. 

Other technology companies gave comparatively little, with Reno-based precision measuring equipment firm Hamilton Company following Berns with $15,000, and the tax-software giant Intuit giving $12,500. The remaining 25 donors gave $11,000 or less.  

Insurance companies — close cousins to the finance industry — combined to give lawmakers $165,700, with the Farmers Employee and Agent PAC leading all donors with $63,000. 

Farmers’ spending was split nearly evenly between the two major parties, with Republicans receiving $32,000 to the Democrats’ $31,000. No lawmakers received the maximum amount from the group, though four — Frierson, Roberts, Gansert and Titus — did receive $5,000 contributions. The remaining 20 recipients received $3,000 or less. 

No other single insurance came close to Farmers’ spending. The next largest, USAA, gave just $25,500 (of which most, $17,000, went to Democrats), while small business insurer Employers EIG Services gave $24,000 (including $13,500 for Republicans and $10,500 for Democrats). The remaining 20 insurance donors gave $13,000 or less. 

Though the payday lending industry at large gave comparatively little — $128,000 split across 37 legislators — the single largest industry donor, TitleMax, was among the biggest spenders of any industry as it contributed $93,000 to 35 lawmakers. 

Most of that went to 20 Democrats, who received $56,500 to the Republicans $36,500. TitleMax’s largest individual contributions similarly went to Democrats, with Frierson and Cannizzaro each receiving the $10,000 maximum. Gansert followed with $7,500, while the remaining 32 legislators received $5,000 or less. 

Other payday lending donors gave little in comparison to TitleMax. Dollar Loan Center was next-closest with $23,500 contributed, followed by Purpose Financial with $8,500. The remaining three donors gave marginal amounts, including $1,250 from Advance America, $1,000 from the Security Finance Corporation of Spartanburg and $750 from Community Loans of America.

Breaking down the smaller industries

Dozens of donors categorized as “other” combined to become the 14th largest category, with donors who could not be classified as industry-specific — 357 in all — contributing a combined $247,761. Many of these donors were retirees or private citizens, and most, 262, gave $500 or less. 

Lobbyists and lobbying firms were the next-largest donor group trailing payday lenders, with 56 donors contributing $126,401 combined. There were few major donors in that group — all but 10 gave less than $3,000. The only exception was the Ferraro Group, which gave $32,500 spread across 33 lawmakers. The group’s donations were relatively small, however, and the single-biggest recipient — Cannizzaro — received just $3,500. 

Roughly three dozen education companies, teachers and other individuals combined to contribute $83,272, with the biggest sums coming from charter school company Academica Nevada ($28,500), education management company K12 Management Inc. ($13,500) and for-profit college University of Phoenix ($11,000). Notably absent in this category are major teachers unions, such as the Nevada State Education Association and the Clark County Education Association, as both of those organizations are covered in our analysis of union spending. 

Spending slightly less than they did in 2018 were 15 marijuana companies or related individuals, who combined to spend $86,500 (down from more than $91,000 spent in 2018). Most of that money was concentrated in the three biggest spenders: An LLC linked to The Grove dispensary ($24,750), Nevada Can Committee ($23,000) and a company linked to the Planet 13 dispensary ($15,000). 

The remaining two categories were the smallest of all: Nevada tribes, but only the Reno Sparks Indian Colony reported major campaign contributions with $30,500 across 37 legislators, while just seven agricultural donors combined for $10,950 (of which nearly half, $5,000, came from the PAC Nevadans for Families & Agriculture). 

Tim Lenard, Riley Snyder and Sean Golonka contributed to this report.

As part of our Follow the Money series The Nevada Independent has published deep dives into the industries that dominated legislative campaign spending in the 2020 campaign cycle. To see any of the previous installments, follow the links below: 

Cox Communications to debut faster download speeds for low-cost internet program

The internet is about to get faster for thousands of Nevada children navigating remote learning.

Cox Communications, which is involved in a public-private partnership to bridge the digital divide, announced that it’s doubling the download speed for its low-income internet service called Connect2Compete. The move — increasing download speeds to 50 megabits per second — aims to ensure all students can fully participate in distance education.

Some families, especially those with multiple children, have lamented the effects of sluggish internet. Students have had trouble participating in video-conferencing platforms and using other online learning tools, which sets them behind academically.

The enhanced download speeds for the Connect2Compete program start Friday and run through June 30.

“Connect2Compete was created to augment the classroom and it has now transformed to power the entire classroom for many students,” Michael Bolognini, a vice president with Cox Communications in Las Vegas, said in a statement. “With virtual learning continuing into the coming months, Connect2Compete provides a critical connection for thousands of local children learning remotely during this pandemic.”

The company is part of the Connecting Kids coalition that mobilized over the summer to ensure all Nevada students had internet access and a laptop or Chromebook for virtual learning.

Clark County School District students have not returned to brick-and-mortar schools since mid-March when COVID-19 prompted closures. Remote learning will continue at least through early January.

For families with multiple children, sluggish internet amplifies remote learning frustrations

If there is one thing Kennet Guerra has learned this year, it’s patience.

The tenth-grader who attends Valley High School has been battling chronic internet problems amid remote learning. Freezing screens. Long upload times. Sudden program shutdowns.

“Sometimes I get in late,” he said, referring to virtual class sessions held on Google Meet. “Sometimes I don’t. Sometimes it lags in the middle of class.”

The problems were especially acute just a few weeks ago when his family relied solely on the low-cost home internet provided by Cox Communications through its Connect2Compete program. Guerra’s family has purchased internet through that program, which costs $9.95 per month, for two years and, up until the coronavirus plunged schools into distance-education mode, it worked fine. But Guerra and his four brothers — who are in pre-kindergarten, second, fifth and sixth grade — suddenly needed the internet at the same time and not just for simple web surfing.

Remote learning requires participation in classes conducted over video-conferencing platforms, frequent use of an online learning management system and a smorgasbord of other online educational tools that teachers are using in a bid to make virtual education more effective and fun. But all those web-based activities have put a crunch on the internet highway.

The result was a daily headache for the entire family. His mother, Angeles Guerra, said her children’s schools were marking them absent because of the connectivity problems.

“It’s been very difficult for me,” she said while speaking Spanish. “First of all, I don’t speak English. Second, I struggle to understand how to use the computer. I try to find help from other places, but it has been difficult.”

The family’s journey highlights another wrinkle in the digital divide amplified by the ongoing pandemic. While school districts raced to outfit every student with internet and a Chromebook, laptop or other device, a new challenge emerged — internet connections that cannot support online learning.

Adrian Guerra, a pre-kindergarten student at Will Beckley Elementary School, attends school remotely from his family's Las Vegas home on Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020. (Photo courtesy the Guerra family)

The Parent Leadership Team — which focuses on issues affecting Hispanic families and is powered by Opportunity 180, a nonprofit education organization — surveyed more than 100 families in September and October and found that inadequate internet was a chief concern among many, particularly those with multiple school-age children. 

Likewise, a recent report from the RAND Corporation, a nonprofit and nonpartisan research organization, echoed the internet challenge. Principals from high-poverty schools across the nation — who were surveyed in early October — reported that, on average, only 80 percent of their students had adequate internet at home.

The report went on to suggest that the government, both at the state and federal level, should be augmenting funding and resources, particularly to schools serving larger shares of low-income and minority students, during remote learning.

“All of these issues are interconnected,” said Laura Stelitano, an associate policy researcher at RAND. “Simply getting internet access is only one part of the solution.”

Southern Nevada families told the Parent Leadership Team that they had even received truancy notices from their children’s schools because of spotty attendance in virtual classes, said Selene Lozada, an Opportunity 180 coordinator. Household finances compound the problem because for many families, she said, it’s not as simple as upgrading their internet plan.

“This is really a big issue because they are not able to pay more,” she said. “Some of them (don’t) have a job.”

Nevada has the second-highest unemployment rate in the nation, with 12.6 percent of its workforce out of a job. And a disproportionate share of the economic burden is falling on communities of color, according to a Guinn Center report released earlier this year, which shows the state’s African American, Latino, Asian and American Indian populations will have a more difficult time recovering and rebuilding from the pandemic-triggered crisis.

Officials from Connecting Kids, the public-private partnership that launched to shore up technology gaps, said they’re aware of the problem. Cox’s Connect2Compete program — which the Clark County School District subsidizes with CARES Act funding for eligible low-income families — provides internet with download speeds of at least 25 megabits per second and upload speeds of 3 megabits per second.

“It’s not a skimpy product,” said Punam Mathur, executive director of the Elaine P. Wynn and Family Foundation, which has been heavily involved in the Connecting Kids coalition.

A spokesperson for Cox Communications said in an email that its Connect2Compete program “does support multiple children in a household,” although the company has been advising families to follow tips such as not activating their video cameras.

“Sometimes bandwidth issues are not related to Cox service but other devices at home,” the company said in a statement. “For example, other people at home while the kids are learning should not connect their mobile phones or other devices to the Wi-Fi.”

Even so, Connecting Kids has been offering additional Wi-Fi hotspots to families with more than three school-age children if they’re experiencing sluggish internet that is affecting remote learning, said Mathur, who encouraged those in need to call the Family Support Center.

“Every day we encounter families who don’t think to call to express it as a frustration,” she said. “They just sort of absorb the frustration.”

But the internet help comes with a caveat: Families receiving subsidized internet should refrain from doing their own remote work using the same Wi-Fi signal during their children’s school hours.

“We just need to make sure the kids’ educational access goes first and then the other household needs goes second,” she said.

The Guerra family, which couldn’t afford upgrading to a pricier plan, received a hotspot several weeks ago to boost the household’s internet capacity. Angeles Guerra called the hotspot a “big, big, big help,” noting that since its arrival, her children have only experienced one instance of being disconnected from their virtual classes.

Lozada, the Opportunity 180 coordinator, said it’s imperative more families receive similar help because the technology gap is only exacerbating academic achievement gaps in the long run. And with no end to remote learning in sight, the need for a quality internet connection isn’t going away. The Clark County School District has committed to distance learning through the end of the first semester and even if it resumes in-person learning sometime in January, it will be through a hybrid model, meaning students would attend school in person two days a week and work remotely the other three days.

The gravity of the situation isn’t lost on educators either. Dillon Booker, an English resource teacher at Cheyenne High School, has been religiously uploading class notes, PowerPoint presentations and other materials to the Canvas learning system because he knows students are combating internet glitches and missing chunks of virtual classes.

Navigating technology hiccups, he said, has become par for the course during distance education. He generally believes students when they blame an absence or tardiness on an internet struggle.

“They may be sitting in class and sometimes their computer will freeze up and they will drop out of class as a result of the bandwidth being so bad,” he said. “Obviously, this is a distraction to learning.”

For Kennet Guerra, dealing with internet slowdowns became second nature earlier this year. The family’s new hotspot, however, has reduced those wait times and distractions.

But the technological assist hasn’t convinced his mother that schools should remain operating virtually for the foreseeable future. She sees a double standard in the community’s response to COVID-19.

“I don’t go out much, but I see people at the parks and at the stores,” she said. “And we’re worried about the schools, but we don’t worry about being out in public.”

Since mid-March, her family’s home has been the school — with or without reliable internet.

Third quarter fundraising race tightens in competitive congressional districts as election day nears

Incumbent Democrats no longer universally led the money race in Nevada’s most competitive congressional districts, marking the first quarter this election cycle that a Republican — District 3’s Dan Rodimer — led all fundraising among the state’s congressional hopefuls. 

With no statewide race at the top of the ticket, much of the attention — and therefore campaign dollars — has gone to the state’s two potentially competitive House elections in Southern Nevada. Rodimer topped fundraising efforts among Nevada’s House candidates with more than $1.4 million raised, while District 3 incumbent Susie Lee trailed with roughly $1 million raised.

In District 4, seen as marginally less competitive than District 3 because of voter registration figures favoring Democrats, incumbent Democrat Steven Horsford maintained a comfortable lead in the money race as he brought in roughly $680,000 to Republican Jim Marchant’s $492,000. 

Below is a breakdown of campaign fundraising and expenditure reports in each of Nevada’s four congressional districts, with districts ordered from greatest cumulative fundraising to least. 


DISTRICT 3

Susie Lee - Democrat (incumbent)

  • Q3 receipts: $1,005,787
  • Q3 spending: $2,501,619
  • Cash on hand: $924,353

Locked in likely the most competitive race in Nevada this election cycle, Lee dipped deep into her campaign warchest this quarter in spending more than $2.5 million over just the last three months — roughly $363,000 more than she spent in the same time period in 2018. 

A vast majority of that spending went to advertising, including three payments totaling more than $2 million to Virginia-based Screen Strategies Media. Two of those payments, one of $500,000 and another of $1.16 million, came on Sept. 11, not long before Lee launched a major ad campaign targeting Rodimer on his run-ins with police. 

Lee’s contributions, meanwhile, came primarily from individual donors ($623,173), with the rest coming from a number of PACs ($201,427) and committee transfers ($176,471). Most contributions were below federal maximum contribution limits, though Lee did see maximum $5,000 PAC donations from Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto’s PAC, All for Our Country Leadership, the American Resort Development Association, Barrick Gold, Cox Communications and Culinary Union-parent UNITE Here, among others. 

Dan Rodimer - Republican

  • Q3 receipts: $1,412,578
  • Q3 spending: $946,308
  • Cash on hand: $719,485

Rodimer’s campaign reported a massive gain in campaign contributions last quarter, raising roughly seven times as much as it did in the second quarter during the heat of District 3’s Republican primary. Rodimer’s $1.4 million in banked contributions also puts it among the largest single-quarter hauls in the district’s history, topping the $1.38 million Lee managed to raise during the third quarter of her well-financed bid in 2018. 

Still, with less cash on hand entering the quarter, Rodimer’s campaign lagged Lee in spending and enters the final weeks of the campaign with a roughly $200,000 cash on hand deficit. 

Like Lee, most of Rodimer’s largest expenditures went to advertising, including two payments totaling $157,000 to the Maryland firm OnMessage Inc. Rodimer also spent big on campaign consulting, including $432,000 on ads and fundraising consulting services from Las Vegas-based Top AD Consulting LLC. 

A large majority of Rodimer’s fundraising ($1.23 million) came in the form of individual contributions, including $699,000 in itemized contributions and $532,000 in unitemized contributions. An additional $76,800 in PAC contributions and $103,000 in committee pushed Rodimer’s total fundraising on the quarter to more than $1.4 million.

Like Lee, many of Rodimer’s individual contributions came through online fundraising, this time through the Republican platform WinRed. He also saw maximum $5,000 PAC contributions from groups linked to current and former GOP elected officials, including South Carolina Sen. Lindsay Graham, ex-Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and ex-Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. Rodimer also saw a $68,000 windfall from a joint-fundraising transfer from the Cruz 20 for 20 Victory Fund, a group linked to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.  

DISTRICT 4

Steven Horsford - Democrat (incumbent)

  • Q3 receipts: $692,759
  • Q3 spending: $704,709
  • Cash on hand: $1,557,543

Running for a second consecutive term and third overall term for District 4, Horsford dipped slightly into his campaign reserves last quarter with about $12,000 more spent than earned. 

Horsford’s single largest expense, like most candidates, came in the form of advertising. The Horsford campaign spent $406,214 on just one advertising firm, Sage Media Planning & Placement, including a $333,000 payment made one day before launching a TV ad campaign touting his work on pandemic relief. 

Horsford’s fundraising was roughly evenly split between individual and PAC contributions, with $329,000 raised from individuals and $304,000 from PACs. It marks the first quarter this cycle in which a majority of Horsford’s fundraising came through individuals, though he still saw maximum $5,000 PAC donations from groups linked to Sen. Cortez Masto, the American Resort Development Association, South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn, the Communications Workers of America and Cox Communications, among others.

Jim Marchant - Republican

  • Q3 receipts: $492,641
  • Q3 spending: $406,559
  • Cash on hand: $228,018

Though he lagged behind Horsford’s fundraising for another quarter, former one-term Assemblyman Marchant still more than doubled contributions from the second quarter, when he raised just $187,000. 

With $382,000 in individual contributions, $35,000 from PACs and $74,000 from committee transfers, Marchant’s biggest single contributions came largely through current and former Republican politicians, including a $62,250 joint committee transfer from the Cruz 20 for 20 Victory Fund. 

Marchant also received maximum PAC contributions from the Gun Owners of America (and an additional $1,000 from the National Rifle Association) and the Conservative Leadership PAC, a group that bills itself as targeting “the millennial generation for conservative candidates.”

Marchant’s biggest expense was the nearly $241,000 spent on media placement through the consulting firm McShane LLC, which received more than $308,000 from Marchant during the quarter — about two-thirds of the candidate’s spending. 

DISTRICT 2

Mark Amodei - Republican (incumbent)

  • Q3 receipts: $297,676
  • Q3 spending: $168,173
  • Cash on hand: $395,808

Amodei’s contributions include several donations from Nevada casino owners, including a combined $11,200 from four members of the Stations Casino-owning Fertitta family, and $2,800 from South Point owner Michael Gaughan. The congressman also banked $79,300 from a number of PACs, including $5,000 each from the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, Barrick Gold and NV Energy.

Much of Amodei’s spending in the third quarter fell to a handful of advertising campaigns. Of note, the campaign paid nearly $43,000 to Reno-based Lamar Advertising Company, with roughly another $32,000 spent on a radio advertising campaign from Carson City-based Wyman & Associates. 

Patricia Ackerman - Democrat

  • Q3 receipts: $238,304
  • Q3 spending: $172,507
  • Cash on hand: $101,391

Mounting a longshot bid to unseat Amodei in deep-red District 2, Ackerman has raised an uncharacteristically high amount for a Democratic bid in the mostly-rural district through the third quarter. 

With nearly $240,000 raised last quarter alone and more than $101,000 left in the warchest through the final weeks of the election, Ackerman’s cumulative fundraising of more than $338,000 more than doubles the roughly-$162,000 raised by Democrat Clint Koble during his District 2 challenge in 2018

Nearly all of Ackerman’s fundraising came through small-dollar individual contributions made through the Democratic fundraising platform ActBlue, though she also received $2,500 from Reno-area Assemblywoman Sarah Peters and $1,000 from a PAC linked to former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. 

Much of Ackerman’s spending went to consulting and advertising costs. That includes nearly $49,000 spent on advertising through California-based Pantograph Labs, which bills itself in part as a “boutique progressive digital firm.” 

DISTRICT 1

Dina Titus - Democrat (incumbent)

  • Q3 receipts: $121,928
  • Q3 spending: $53,716
  • Cash on hand: $394,646

Running for a fifth term in the bluest congressional district in the state, incumbent Democrat Dina Titus reported raising roughly $122,000 in the third quarter, roughly tripling the $42,000 she raised through the quarter prior.

A majority of that money, $72,325, came through PAC contributions, while the remaining $49,603 came through individual donations. Titus’ largest donors included the Coeur Mining company, the national REALTORS PAC, the Service Employees International Union, the Transportation Workers Union and the Plumbers and Pipefitters Union, all of which gave the maximum $5,000.  

Running against a little-known Republican challenger, Joyce Bentley, in a rematch of 2018, Titus reported spending just under $54,000. Of that, the single largest payments went to consulting, including more than $12,000 to Maryland-based Kalik & Associates and another $4,500 to Washington, D.C.-based Next Level Partners. 

Joyce Bentley - Republican

As of Friday morning, Bentley had not filed a contributions and expenditures report with the FEC or such a report was not yet available through the FEC website.

This story will be updated as those documents become available.

Nevada Interrupted: As shift to online schooling underscores digital divide, Cox expands free internet

Many Nevadans are adjusting to the proliferation of COVID-19 by practicing social distancing, stocking up on supplies and staying at home. The Nevada Independent is sharing stories each day about how the pandemic has disrupted daily life and forced businesses and organizations to change course. 

If you are a Nevada business owner or worker whose job has been upended by coronavirus, we would love to feature your story. Send an email to ideas@thenvindy.com for consideration.

***

Education has been forced to move online after Nevada’s schools closed, but in the world of digital schooling, children without reliable access to the internet are left behind.

In Clark County, a school district partnership with Cox Communications is in place to remedy this issue and extend internet access to students who need it. Connect2Compete, the company’s program providing internet access to low-income families who qualify for government benefits, was first established in 2012 and has been greatly expanded in the past several weeks, with the company now offering two free months of service to those in need.

“It was kind of based on national research of what were the needs for our communities across the country,” Tamar Hoapili, the community relations manager for Cox Las Vegas, said about the creation of the program. “Many families were connected through, let's say, their cell phone ... but not really connected in the home.”

Previously, in order to qualify for the program, families had to meet a multitude of conditions. In addition to having at least one K-12 student in the household and receiving government benefits, families could not have any bad debt with Cox or have been Cox customers in the 90 days prior to applying. 

“Because of the pandemic, knowing that the need is out there for the students, we've made some changes,” said Hoapili. 

Cox has now waived the no bad debt requirement, allowing any qualifying low-income household with students and no current Cox contract to enroll. Additionally, Cox is offering the first 60 days of service for free, has eliminated data overages, and has increased speed for current customers. After those initial 60 days, the service costs $9.95 per month.

“If we have current [Connect2Compete] customers, we are upgrading their service levels from 25 Mbps to 50 Mbps,” said Hoapili. “So there's still some advantages for our current customers. They'll get higher speeds during the pandemic time.”

In order to make the application process easier for families and ensure that every household in need gets access, Cox works directly with the school district to identify homes that are eligible for service. School principals supply Cox with a list of addresses for households that fit the program, and those households are auto-approved, making it simpler for families to go through the online application process.

Hoapili clarified that Cox doesn’t get the names of any students or families, but if families at a qualified address apply, they are automatically approved for service.

While Clark is the only county in Nevada working with Cox, other county school districts are recommending resources for families in need of internet access. Washoe County is recommending families contact Charter or AT&T, which is providing low-income households with unlimited internet for $10 a month.

In addition to the Connect2Compete program, Cox has made additional efforts to assist families in the face of the pandemic. While on-the-ground technicians are no longer allowed to enter homes to provide support, they will drive to homes to assist over the phone or from a safe distance. Cox has also opened more than 3,000 public wi-fi hotspots in Southern Nevada in support of the Federal Communications Commission’s Keep Americans Connected pledge. 

This story was updated at 1:00 p.m. on April 7, 2020 to correct a misstatement made by Hoapili, who had said restrictions for current Cox customers have been lifted. These restrictions are still in place.

Follow the Money: Campaign finance reports show GOP edges in key Assembly races, tight contests in State Senate

Front of the Nevada Legislature building at night

A year after legislative Republicans became close to an endangered species after widespread 2018 electoral defeats, the party’s attempted comeback was boosted by candidates in several key races outraising incumbent Democratic lawmakers during the last year.

Details from the 2019 contribution and expenses reports, due on Jan. 15, detailed how much legislative incumbents and candidates raised over the last calendar year and painted a more hopeful picture for Republicans in several “swing” Assembly races, with a more mixed view in competitive state Senate seats.

Although there are 63 seats in the Legislature — 42 Assembly members and 21 senators — actual control of the body, or more likely whether or not Democrats have a two-thirds majority (required for passing any increase in taxes) in either body, will likely come down to just a handful of competitive seats up in 2020. 

Changing the balance of the state Assembly, where Democrats enjoy a 29-13 seat advantage, could be the best ticket for Assembly Republicans. In at least three races — Assembly Districts 4, 29 and 37 — Republican candidates reported raising at least six figures and each substantially outraised the Democratic incumbent in the seat.

Only 10 seats are up for election in the Senate, with members serving staggered four-year terms. Democrats control 13 seats — one shy of a super-majority — but have not endorsed candidates in the two most likely pick-up districts; Heidi Gansert in Senate District 15 and Scott Hammond in Senate District 18. And those incumbents will start with a significant financial advantage — Gansert raised $245,000 in 2019, and Hammond also pulled in $107,800.

Senate Democrats will also have to work to defend two competitive seats — Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro’s Senate District 6 and the open Senate District 5, vacated by termed-out Sen Joyce Woodhouse. They’ll also have to deal with a competitive, three-way primary in safely Democratic Senate District 7 between caucus-backed Roberta Lange and two long-time Assembly members, Richard Carrillo and Ellen Spiegel.

And with no major statewide or federal races (beyond congressional seats and the presidential election) on the ballot, it’s likely that more attention and funds will make their way to down-ticket legislative races, especially ahead of an expected redistricting after the 2020 Census that could determine the political trajectory of the state over the next decade.

Fundraising reports, especially those filed nearly a year before an election, aren’t a perfect barometer of the success of any particular candidate, but offer a helpful context in determining which races that individual parties determine to be the most winnable and whether or not individual candidates have the resources to compete in a down-ballot race. (It’s also worth noting that incumbents are disadvantaged in fundraising because of a legally required “blackout” period before, during and shortly after the 120-day legislative session).

On the flip-side, a close examination of major contributors can pull back the veil on which businesses or industries are trying to curry favor with lawmakers ahead of the 2021 legislative session. 

Here’s a look at the financial status of major legislative races:

Major state Senate races

Although 10 state Senate races will be on the 2020 ballot, only a handful of races are likely to be competitive and shift the current 13-8 seat advantage currently held by Democrats.

A key battleground will be in Senate District 6, which is held by Cannizzaro, who narrowly beat former Assemblywoman Victoria Seaman in the 2016 election. Senate Republicans have endorsed April Becker, a Las Vegas-based attorney. Democrats make up 40 percent of registered voters in the district, and Republicans make up roughly 32.8 percent of registered voters.

Cannizzaro, who also beat back a politically motivated recall attempt in 2017, starts the race with a significant financial advantage after raising more than $326,000 throughout 2019, spending just $22,000 and ending the reporting period with $531,000 in the bank. Her top donors include $30,000 from properties affiliated with the Las Vegas Sands and $10,000 checks each from the Mirage, Switch and the Home Building Industry PAC, as well as nearly $10,000 from Woodhouse’s campaign.

But Becker’s first campaign finance report isn’t shabby; she reported raising nearly $313,000 over the fundraising period (including a “written commitment” from herself for $125,000) and ended the period with $152,000 in her campaign account.

Top donors to Becker included several Republican senators ($10,000 each from James Settelmeyer and the Senate Republican Leadership Conference, $5,000 each from Ben Kieckhefer, Joe Hardy and former state Sen. Michael Roberson and $2,000 from Keith Pickard), as well as $10,000 each from Abbey Dental Center owner Sanjeeta Khurana, the law firm of Gerald Gillock & Associates and Nevsur, Inc. (owned by Bruce and Barry Becker ).

Another highly competitive seat is Senate District 5, where Woodhouse narrowly beat Republican candidate and charter school principal Carrie Buck by less than one percentage point in the 2016 election. Democrats make up 38.4 percent of registered voters in the district compared to 32.6 percent for registered Republicans.

Buck, who is running again and has been endorsed by Senate Republicans, reported raising nearly $63,000 and ended the fundraising period with nearly $58,000 in the bank. Her top donors were fellow Republican senators; $10,000 each from the caucus itself and Settelmeyer, $5,000 each from Kieckhefer, Roberson and Hardy and $2,000 from Pickard.

But Buck’s fundraising total was eclipsed by Democrat Kristee Watson, a literacy nonprofit program facilitator endorsed by Senate Democrats in October.

Watson, who ran unsuccessfully for a Henderson-area Assembly seat in 2018, reported raising nearly $87,000 through the fundraising period, with a significant chunk coming from transfers from other candidates and office-holders. She received $10,000 contributions each from a PAC affiliated with Cannizzaro and the campaigns of Sens. Woodhouse, Chris Brooks, Marilyn Dondero Loop, and $5,000 from the campaigns of Sens. Melanie Scheible, Julia Ratti and Yvanna Cancela.

Other potentially competitive state Senate races feature a lopsided fundraising advantage for the incumbent. Democratic Sen. Dallas Harris in Senate District 11 was appointed to fill the term of now-Attorney General Aaron Ford, and reported raising nearly $46,000 over the fundraising period ($65,000 cash on hand). Her Republican opponents, Edgar Miron Galindo and Joshua Dowden, raised only $7,250 and $ 11,500 respectively over the fundraising period.

Two Republican incumbents up for re-election also posted impressive fundraising numbers that far outstripped potential opponents. Gansert in Senate District 15 raised nearly $246,000 and has nearly $237,000 in cash on hand; potential Democratic opponent Lindsy Judd did not file a 2019 campaign finance report.

In Senate District 18, incumbent Hammond raised nearly $108,000 and has more than $91,000 left in his campaign account; potential Democratic opponent Liz Becker raised $21,700 in comparison and has just $11,200 in cash on hand.

Primary battles

One of the most intriguing legislative races could come in the three-way Democratic primary to replace longtime Sen. David Parks, who is termed out of his Senate District 7 seat. Two Assembly members — Ellen Spiegel and Richard Carrillo — are running for the seat, but state Senate Democrats have thrown their weight behind another candidate, former state party head Roberta Lange.

Lange — who only made her bid for the seat official in mid-December — reported raising more than $64,000 for the seat, essentially during only the last two weeks of December. Her major donors included $10,000 from Cannizzaro’s political action committee, and $5,000 each from six incumbent senators — Ratti, Brooks, Scheible, Woodhouse, Cancela and Dondero Loop. She also received $2,500 from Parks, $1,000 from former U.S. Sen. Harry Reid’s Searchlight Leadership PAC and $5,000 each from UNLV professor and former gaming executive Tom Gallagher and his wife, Mary Kay Gallagher.

But she faces a potentially tough primary fight from Spiegel, who raised $63,000 throughout 2019 and has nearly $213,000 in available cash on hand. Her top contributor was Cox Communications ($10,000 cumulative) but other top givers included the Nevada REALTORS PAC, pharmaceutical company trade group PhRMA, health insurance giant Centene and AT&T ($3,000 from each). 

Carrillo lagged behind both Lange and Spiegel in initial fundraising reports. He reported raising $29,500 throughout the fundraising period, spending $37,600 and having just $17,000 left in available cash. His biggest contributor was the Laborers Union Local 872, which donated $12,500 through contributions by five affiliated political action committees. Other top contributors include tobacco company Altria and the political arm of the Teamsters Union ($5,000 each), and $3,000 each from Nevada REALTORS PAC and the Nevada Trucking Association.

Another major primary election is brewing between Republican candidates Andy Matthews (a former campaign spokesman for former Attorney General Adam Laxalt) and Michelle Mortensen (former television host and congressional candidate) in a primary for the right to challenge Assemblywoman Shea Backus in Assembly District 37.

Matthews raised a massive $154,000 over the fundraising period, the highest amount of any Republican Assembly candidate and the second most of any Assembly candidate behind only Speaker Jason Frierson.

He reported spending $23,800 and ending the period with more than $130,000 in available cash. His top donors included $10,000 combined from manufacturer EE Technologies and founder Sonny Newman, and $5,000 each from Las Vegas-based businesses Vegas Heavy Haul and InCorp Services, Inc. 

Mortensen also posted a substantial fundraising total; more than $102,000 raised, $9,500 spent and more than $93,000 in cash on hand. Her major donors included primarily family members; her husband Robert Marshall and his company Marshall & Associates ($20,000 total), her father-in-law James Marshall ($10,000) and maximum $10,000 donations from several family members including Betty Mortensen, Tom Mortensen, Ryan Mortensen and Mila Mortensen.

Both Republican candidates outraised incumbent Backus, who raised nearly $25,000 during the reporting period and has nearly $64,000 left in cash on hand. Her top donor was Wynn Resorts, which gave her $5,000. Backus narrowly defeated then-Republican Assemblyman Jim Marchant in the 2018 election, the first time a Democrat won the district in four election cycles.

Another competitive primary is happening in Assembly District 36, where appointed Assembly Republican Gregory Hafen II is facing off against Joseph Bradley, who ran for the seat last cycle against former Assemblyman James Oscarson and famed brothel owner Dennis Hof, who won the primary but died before the election.

Hafen reported raising $62,000 over the fundraising period (including a $9,500 loan) and has nearly $47,000 in cash on hand. Bradley reported raising $54,000 and has $38,500 left in his campaign account.

Key Assembly races

Nevada’s Assembly Democrats hit a potential high-water mark in 2018, winning control of 29 seats for the first time since 1992 and gaining enough seats to relegate Assembly Republicans to a super-minority (fewer than two-thirds of members).

But in a handful of competitive Assembly seats currently held by Democrats, Republican candidates posted substantial fundraising totals that not only eclipsed but often lapped the amount raised by incumbent Democrats, giving Republicans a financial leg up in some of the state’s most competitive legislative districts.

In Assembly District 4, first-term lawmaker Connie Munk reported raising $18,600 throughout 2019 and ended the period with just over $30,000 in cash on hand. Her biggest donors were PhRMA and trial attorneys-affiliated Citizens for Justice, Trust.

But her fundraising total was overwhelmed by Republican candidate Donnie Gibson, who reported raising $115,000 and has $87,000 left in his campaign account. Gibson, who runs a grading and paving company called Civil Werx, received maximum contributions from home builders and developers: $10,000 each from Associated Builders & Contractors, Associated General Contractors, the Nevada Contractors Association and the Home Industry Building PAC.

A similar disparity in fundraising totals was also present in Assembly District 29, where incumbent Democrat Lesley Cohen reported raising $16,000 over the fundraising period and has just under $50,000 in available cash.

Steven Delisle, a dentist and former state Senate candidate who announced his intention to run for the Assembly seat on Thursday, reported raising more than $134,000 for the race against Cohen, including a $125,000 loan to his campaign account.

But Democrats may have caught a break in Assembly District 31, where incumbent Skip Daly has won multiple races despite representing a district that went for President Donald Trump in 2016. Daly raised $46,425 through 2019 and has $75,800 left in his campaign account.

Assembly Republicans initially rallied behind Jake Wiskerchen, a marriage and family therapist who reported raising $27,700 for the race and had $19,000 in cash on hand at the end of 2019. But Wiskerchen opted to publicly drop out of the race in early January, leaving Republicans without an endorsed candidate for the time being. Daly’s 2018, 2016 and 2014 opponent, Jill Dickman, reported raising $8,800 in 2019 and has nearly $104,000 in leftover campaign cash.

Legislative leaders

Democratic Assembly Speaker Frierson reported raising more than $233,000 through the fundraising period, spending $174,000 and ended the period with just under $475,000 in cash on hand. His top contributors included a wide swath of Nevada businesses, including $10,000 each from Southern Glazer’s Wine and Spirits, the campaign account of former Assemblyman Elliot Anderson, Home Building Industry PAC, MGM Resorts and UFC parent company Zuffa, LLC. He also received $5,000 from the Vegas Golden Knights.

Republican Assembly Leader Robin Titus, who took over the caucus leadership position after the 2019 legislature, raised just over $38,000 during the fundraising period, spending more than $16,000 and ending the period with $72,000 in cash on hand. Top contributors to Titus included PhRMA and the Nevada REALTOR PAC ($5,000 each).

Her Republican counterpart in the state Senate, Settelmeyer, reported raising nearly $95,000 over the reporting period, with top contributors including UFC parent company Zuffa ($7,500), TitleMax, Nevada Credit Union League PAC, Grand Sierra Resort and Storey County businessman Lance Gilman ($5,000 from each). Settelmeyer ended the reporting period with $137,000 in cash on hand.

Sisolak

Although he isn’t up for re-election until 2022, Gov. Steve Sisolak broke fundraising records for Nevada governors in their first year in office after raising more than $1.6 million for his campaign and another $1.7 million for two closely affiliated political action committees. 

Sisolak reported having more than $2.3 million in available cash on hand at the end of 2019, and only reported spending $164,000 throughout the year. The governor also raised $1.7 million between the Sisolak Inaugural Committee and the Home Means Nevada PAC, which were initially set up to manage Sisolak’s inaugural events but have since been used for pro-Sisolak advertising. Political action committees in Nevada are allowed to accept unlimited donations.

Updated at 12:55 p.m. on Saturday, January 18th to include fundraising totals from Senate Republican candidate Joshua Dowden.

Water authority would pay $30 million to Raiders under proposed decade-long advertising contract for water conservation

Rendering of football stadium to the left of I-15 in Las Vegas

The Southern Nevada Water Authority is proposing a 10-year marketing deal with the future Las Vegas Raiders that will pay the NFL franchise more than $30 million in tax dollars over the next decade, enabling the agency to use team logos and place advertising in the $1.9 billion Allegiant Stadium.

The deal, which is up for approval at the water authority’s board meeting on Thursday, is worth $2.5 million with an automatic annual four percent increase that will see the annual payment top out at about $3.5 million by 2029.

Scott Huntley, a public services senior manager with the authority, said that the marketing contract price was the same for a group of roughly 20 “founding partners” including Caesars Entertainment, Desert Ford Dealers and Cox Communications that have initial advertising rights at the Allegiant Stadium, which is partially funded by $750 million in Las Vegas hotel room taxes. 

Huntley said the Raiders had contacted the water authority’s general manager John Entsminger about potentially advertising in the new stadium earlier this year, and that the two sides have been in contract negotiations since July. 

The proposed contract is a major expansion of the SNWA’s marketing budget with professional sports teams; agency spokesman Bronson Mack said the water authority’s advertising budget with UNLV, minor league baseball team Las Vegas Aviators, Las Vegas Lights FC and the National Hockey League’s Golden Knights is only about $500,000 in total. SNWA’s total advertising campaign for water compliance and conservation is roughly $4.9 million a year, he said.

But Huntley said the proposed advertising contract would reap many positive water conservation benefits for the authority, including an estimated 169 million impressions and would help SNWA target a larger and more diverse audience of Raiders fans than a normal marketing campaign or through partnerships with other sports teams.

“It is a big, big audience and it is an audience that we very much would like to get to,” he said.

The contract gives the water authority wide advertising privileges — focused on water conservation and restriction programs — at the stadium and during NFL games, including the ability to place English and Spanish television ads for games controlled by the Raiders and other ads during other team television and social media programming. 

The contract buys the regional water authority digital and physical advertising spaces on TV, radio, social media and physically at the stadium, including the sponsorship of a two-minute warning, a large sign in the stadium’s main concourse and a “marquee signage package” allowing SNWA material to appear on a team-operated billboard near the stadium on Interstate 15.

On the digital side, the contract affords the SNWA branding and a rotating advertisement on the team’s desktop, tablet and mobile sites (plus the team’s official app) with an entitlement of 1 million impressions a year, plus rights of up to 250,000 15-second pre-roll advertisements on the team’s digital platforms. It also guarantees a full page color advertisements in the team’s gameday magazine.

The water authority would also be designated as the “presenting sponsor” of the team’s final non-nationally televised preseason game. The contract also allows the water authority to have advertising privileges in bathrooms throughout the upper and lower concourse of the stadium; something Huntley said was advantageous given the connection to water in bathrooms and the presence of a “captive audience.”

“We like to use a lot of humor in our advertising and the jokes in bathrooms almost write themselves,” he said.

The contract will also give the authority license to potentially use Raiders players in advertisements — something that SNWA used to great success with Golden Knights fan favorite Ryan Reaves in a television ad with more than 117,000 views on YouTube. Mack said the agency had the “exact intention” to use the Raiders in the same way in future advertising and marketing material.

“We're hit with over 5,000 ads and messages a day as Americans from media, and you only have that 1.3 (to) 1.5 seconds to capture that attention and get that message through and cut through the noise,” he said. “And that's one of the things that Ryan Reeves really helped us do, because those ads are so over the top, and really kind of silly...but those ads are cutting through the noise and they're getting people to stop (and) listen to the message.”

Mack added that the water authority had found in research that in residential homes, the individual most often responsible for setting or changing the sprinkler clock is a male, making sports advertising (and its predominantly male audience) suitable for conservation messaging.

“Utilizing sports and communicating through sports is just a great way for us to reach that target demographic,” he said.

The contract also gives the SNWA the ability to use various designations, including “Official Water Conservation Partner of the Raiders” and “Official Water Conservation Partner of Allegiant Stadium.” 

Additionally, the contract requires the Raiders to annually donate $600,000 for the installation or upgrade of two Clark County School District football fields from grass to synthetic turf. The school district will select which fields to upgrade. The contract allows the Raiders to make “reasonable efforts” to secure NFL grants for similar donations and for the schools to use turf previously used by the Raiders.

That portion of the contract also requires the Raiders to invite a “mutually agreed number” of SNWA Youth Advisory Council for a tour of the stadium, including an appearance by a Raiders executive, a catered meal and a social media post by the team.

The SNWA will also receive some other benefits through the contract, including guaranteed annual appearances by six Raiders alumni, six appearances by at least two Raiderettes and three appearances by the Raider’s mascot. The appearances are limited to an hour, must be in Clark County and specific alumnus and Raiderettes are up to the team’s discretion.

The contract also gives the SNWA an annual $100,000 “Activation Fund” credit, which can be used to purchase stadium tour tickets, rental of the team’s practice facility, advertising inventory and other “mutually agreed inventory.” The water authority is the latest public agency in the state to become financially involved with the Raiders, who agreed to move to Las Vegas after state lawmakers in 2016 approved allocating $750 million in hotel room taxes to fund construction of the stadium.

The city of Henderson gave the football team a $6 million discount on a sale of unused land for the team’s headquarters in early 2018, and NV Energy — the state’s incumbent electric monopoly — reached a deal with the football team in October for a specially designed, discounted electric rate model for stadium operations.

Daniel Rothberg contributed to this story.

Follow the Money: Lawmakers raised $11.7 million throughout 2018 election cycle

Running for office — even for a citizen legislature — is an expensive proposition.

At the low end, funding a successful bid can cost candidates tens of thousands of dollars, while competitive campaigns can be even pricier and require campaign hauls in the six-figure range.

In the 2018 election cycle, donors who contributed more than $200 to a candidate cumulatively contributed roughly $10.8 million to 63 state legislators, with total donations topping $11.7 million. Donations came from across the state and across the country, with much coming from Nevada’s usual top contributors: casinos, real estate developers, unions and law firms.

Fundraising totals increased compared to the 2016 election cycle, where the 63 lawmakers raised a combined $10.8 million over the two-year cycle.

The secretary of state makes campaign finance data available online, posting regular reports throughout every election cycle. But parsing that data and drawing conclusions can be a cumbersome task.

So, The Nevada Independent tracked and categorized more than 8,000 donations of $200 or more from January 1, 2017 to the pre-session fundraising freeze on January 15, 2019, which roughly encompasses the two-year election cycle. Donors are limited to making a maximum $10,000 contribution to a single candidate, but major corporations easily surpass that limit by contributing through various affiliated entities or businesses.

Each donation was categorized before the entire set of donations was analyzed for patterns and trends.

This data set — as large as it may be — doesn’t capture every slice of Nevada’s campaign finance pie. Data collected does not include donations made to losing candidates, nor does it break down spending by the many PACs or political groups that spend on state elections, or small donations under the $200 threshold.

The collected data offers a picture, though, of how the most powerful and well-connected industries in Nevada — gaming, energy and organized labor — contribute to campaigns and offers a glimpse at how legislative campaigns are funded and operate. It also lends useful context as the 120-day Legislature gets underway, and lawmakers face pressure and requests from the very same businesses and entities that helped fund their campaigns.

Over the coming weeks, The Nevada Independent will do weekly deep dives into contributions from highlighted industries ranging from pharmaceutical companies to payday lenders.

Below are some highlights of the data analyzed so far.

Gaming industry, unions top the list (again) as biggest campaign donors

In total, the gaming industry and unions top the list as the largest campaign donors.

Casino companies spent more than $1.6 million over the last two years, while unions spent nearly $1.4 million in the same time frame. However, those donations were fairly spread out — on average, the gaming industry spent $2,700 per legislator, while organized labor organizations spent an average of just $1,539 — much closer to the overall average contribution of $1,337.

Top casino donors consisted of the usual suspects, with MGM Resorts properties leading the pack through contributions of $345,000 to 53 separate legislators. Other top casino donors included the Las Vegas Sands ($240,500), South Point Hotel & Casino ($160,000), Caesars Entertainment ($90,000 to 42 legislators), Wynn Resorts ($103,000) and Station Casinos ($106,500).

Organized labor also made major contributions; AFSCME contributed $153,000 to lawmakers, the Nevada State Education Association contributed more than $154,000 and the Plumbers & Pipefitters Local 525 made $83,000 in contributions.

But one of the largest individual donors to legislators isn’t a casino or union — it’s “Citizens for Justice,” the political action committee of the Nevada Justice Association which represents trial attorneys in the state Legislature. In total, the PAC gave more than $305,000 to 54 individual lawmakers, including $10,000 each to lawmakers Jason Frierson, Brittney Miller, Chris Brooks, Ellen Spiegel, James Ohrenschall, Keith Pickard, Maggie Carlton, Marilyn Dondero Loop, Michelle Gorelow, Ozzie Fumo, Steve Yeager, Teresa Benitez Thompson and Tom Roberts. Nine legislators did not receive contributions from the PAC, including five state senators not up for re-election and two appointed Assembly members.

Other major contributions include NV Energy ($215,000), a PAC affiliated with Sunrise Health Care System ($162,250), Cox Communications ($110,500) and the Nevada Home Builders Association ($131,500).

Major campaign donors varied in their contribution levels between the 2018 cycle and the 2016 cycle; MGM Resorts made more than $305,000 in contributions in the last election cycle, $40,000 less than the casino giant contributed to legislative candidates in 2018.

NV Energy’s $213,000 in donations was a significant bump in contributions over what the utility company gave in the 2016 cycle, when it contributed $128,000. Rooftop solar installer SolarCity also saw a drop in contributions, going from $49,500 in donations to only $3,000 in 2018.

Democratic leaders brought in some of the highest total contributions

Leaders of the Assembly and Senate caucuses of both parties were each able to raise significant sums — a combined $2.1 million — over the two years of the reporting cycle.

Democratic Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson brought in more campaign funds than any other lawmaker over the 2018 election cycle, raising more than $792,000. His Republican counterpart, Assembly Minority Leader Jim Wheeler, reported just the tenth-largest fundraising haul of the 63 members of the Legislature, raising nearly $300,000.

In the other chamber, Democratic Senate Majority Leader Kelvin Atkinson reported raising nearly $503,000 over the reporting period — good for the second highest total of all lawmakers. Republican Senate Minority Leader James Settelmeyer raised just over $318,000, the eighth highest reported total.

Other top recipients of campaign cash include a slew of state senators who won competitive races including Democratic Sens. Melanie Scheible (around $485,000) and Marilyn Dondero Loop ($479,000) and Republican Sen. Keith Pickard ($379,500). Democratic Assemblyman Steve Yeager raised more than $397,000, the second-highest total of any Assembly member.

On the other end of the spectrum, the lowest reported fundraising total of a lawmaker up for re-election was Republican Assemblywoman Robin Titus, who raised $45,700 and represents a rural, heavily-Republican district. The lowest total belongs to appointed Republican Assemblyman Gregory Hafen, who raised $1,000.

Democrats dominated fundraising in 2018

Unsurprising given their election night victories, the 42 Democrats in the Legislature raised significantly more campaign funds than the 21 Republicans — $8.3 million for Democrats and nearly $3.4 million for Republicans.

On the whole, individual Democrats typically raised more than Republicans. The median Democratic fundraising haul was more than $154,000, more than $28,000 higher than the median haul of $126,000 for Republicans.

And on the whole, Democrats had a slightly higher average donation ($1,371) than Republicans ($1,253), though median contributions for lawmakers in both parties were the same; $1,000.

$10,000 donations

Of the more than 8,100 contributions tracked, only 72 donations of the maximum $10,000 were made to legislative candidates over the two-year period.

A total of 48 separate entities, including casinos, political action committees, unions and even candidates themselves reported making the maximum contribution in one swoop. MGM Resorts gave the largest number of $10,000 checks at 10 apiece.

Legislators receiving the highest number of $10,000 contributions were Republican state Sen. Keith Pickard — who narrowly won his race by 24 votes — and Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson; both lawmakers received nine maximum contributions over the last two years.

Jeremy Marsh and Jodie Snyder contributed to compiling data used in this report.