Rep. Steven Horsford announces $363,000 in first quarter fundraising

The campaign for Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford announced $363,000 in first-quarter fundraising Tuesday, an amount that lifts his campaign war chest to more than $750,000 through the first three months of the midterm election cycle. 

Those total receipts exceed the $309,000 Horsford raised in the first quarter of 2020, though it falls slightly short of the $370,000 he raised in the same time period in 2019. It also comes a distant second to funds raised by fellow Southern Nevada Democrat Susie Lee, whose campaign announced yesterday that she had raised more than $600,000 through the first quarter. 

Even so, the three-quarters of a million Horsford now maintains in cash on hand is more than double the $309,000 he had at this point last cycle. 

Horsford’s campaign touted in a release Tuesday that more than 1,240 donors contributed to his fundraising last quarter, with a median donation of just $10. Still, ahead of the public filing of campaign finance reports later this week with the Federal Election Commission, it is unclear how much of his fundraising came from PACs or other major donors. 

Horsford was originally elected to represent District 4 — which includes the northern half of metropolitan Las Vegas as well as a handful of counties in the state’s rural center — in 2012, following the district’s creation in a year prior. 

After losing the seat to Republican Cresent Hardy in 2014, Horsford returned in 2018 after incumbent Democrat Ruben Kihuen declined to run for re-election amid allegations of sexual harassment. 

Horsford won re-election last year by a margin of 4.9 percentage points over former Assemblyman Jim Marchant, his narrowest margin of victory in the district so far. That margin, coupled with Republican victory in the district in 2014, will likely once again mark Horsford’s seat as one of several dozen targets for Republicans eager to take control of the House in 2022. 

Clark County Commission appoints public health advocate, nonprofit executive to fill vacant legislative seats

The Assembly chambers on Friday, July 31, 2020 during the first day of the 32nd Special Session of the Legislature in Carson City.

Clark County commissioners have appointed a UNLV graduate and public health advocate, Fabian Doñate, to fill a vacant state Senate seat, and nonprofit executive Tracy Marie Brown-May to fill a vacant Assembly seat.

Fabian Doñate (Image courtesy of Clark County)

The commission unanimously appointed Doñate during its meeting on Tuesday to take over the vacant state Senate seat for District 10, after the Senate Democratic Caucus recommended him for the position. He replaces Yvanna Cancela, who was elected to a four-year term in 2018 but resigned in early January to take a position in the Biden administration

“Fabian’s experience in public health will help guide us in making sound public policy to combat the COVID-19 pandemic,” Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro said in a statement after the appointment was made. “Fabian has deep ties to his community. As the son of immigrants and Culinary Union members, he understands the challenges working families face and the need to expand access to quality, affordable, health care.”

Tracy Brown-May (Image courtesy of Clark County)

The commission also chose Brown-May, the director of advocacy, board and government relations for the nonprofit Opportunity Village, to fill the seat in the Assembly District 42. The seat was vacated by Democrat Alexander Assefa after he resigned last month amid a criminal investigation. 

“We are all too aware of the hardships our families are facing and I’m humbled to be trusted to help lead our families towards a healthy and economic recovery,” Brown-May said in a statement. “I do not take this charge lightly and I am ready to put my years of experience advocating for people with disabilities to work immediately.”

Under state law, the county commission is designated to select a replacement lawmaker of the same political party who resides in the district to carry out the remainder of Cancela’s term. In 2017, Cancela was appointed by the commission to fill the vacated state Senate seat of Ruben Kihuen, who left the Legislature to run for Congress.

The appointments fill out the roster of the state’s 63-member Legislature, which gaveled in to its 120-day session Monday with the two positions still vacant.

Doñate is a native of Las Vegas and an alumnus of the UNLV School of Public Health and recently earned a Master's degree in health administration at the University of Maryland. 

In his application, Doñate described his experiences advocating for health policies during the pandemic and throughout his graduate degree.

“Given the disparities that have been intensely magnified by the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve spent these past few months at the forefront of this crisis,” the application reads. “Under the supervision of LifeBridge Health, a health system in the Baltimore region, I completed a graduate internship that provided me with the contextual knowledge on crafting evidence-based strategies with the inclusion of policy and technology to improve the public’s health.”

Doñate, a Latino who resides in District 10, seeks to improve the district’s health care and racial disparities exasperated by the pandemic for a “‘healthier’ Nevada.”

“This vacancy was my call to action, and I’m eager to represent my district during this tumultuous period in our state’s history,” Doñate said in his application letter. “Now more than ever, Nevada needs a diverse cohort of leaders that can help guide our state into recovery.”

Brown-May said in her application for the position that she’s lived in the Las Vegas valley for nearly 30 years, including three years in District 42 — an area that includes Flamingo Road from Durango Drive to the I-15. 

For the past two decades, she has supported and advocated for the community on a local and federal level. She’s worked at Opportunity Village since 2001, and helped found two nonprofits that help people with disabilities.

“I have participated in the legislative process and understand the hard work that goes into effectuating positive change,” Brown-May said in her application. “I am most proud of the times when common ground can be found to create positive solutions for the majority.”

Former regent, political operatives among 19 candidates seeking to fill state Senate vacancy

The Legislature on Sunday, Aug. 2, 2020 during the third day of the 32nd Special Session in Carson City.

A total of 19 individuals, including a former member of the Nevada System of Higher Education Board of Regents, have applied to fill the state Senate seat vacated by Democrat Yvanna Cancela weeks before the start of the 2021 Legislature.

The applications will go before the Clark County Commission during its Feb. 2 meeting. The board is designated under state law to select a replacement lawmaker of the same political party who resides in the district to carry out the remainder of Cancela’s term.

Cancela, elected to a four-year term in 2018, resigned in early January to take a position in the Biden administration. She was appointed by the commission to fill the vacated state Senate seat of Ruben Kihuen, who left the Legislature to run for Congress.

Two applications were not accepted — one was not properly notarized, and another was filed by a registered Republican.

Senate District 10 covers portions of the Las Vegas Strip and is considered safely Democratic, given the disparity in voter registration between the two major political parties.

Among the candidates:

  • Melissa Clary, who ran unsuccessfully in 2019 for the Las Vegas City Council seat now held by Olivia Diaz, has worked at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and at the Las Vegas Planning Department
  • Greg Esposito, a lobbyist who has worked as a campaign manager and supported a range of ballot initiative campaigns
  • Keenan Korth, who has worked for the Clark County Education Association teacher’s union, as well as the campaigns of Bernie Sanders and progressive congressional candidate Amy Vilela
  • Lisa Levine, a former staffer for Rep. Dina Titus who was appointed by the governor and served as a regent for the Nevada System of Higher Education.
  • Hergit Llenas, who has worked as a national director of Latino outreach for the American Federation for Children, a school choice group
  • Heather Harmon, deputy director of the Nevada Museum of Art
  • Adriana Martinez, a former chairwoman of the Nevada State Democratic Party

Other applicants for the seat include:

  • Elisabeth Apcar, a handbag designer.
  • Sergio Bustos, a UNLV student
  • John Delibos, who has been president of the Stonewall Democratic Club of Southern Nevada
  • Fabian Donate, a graduate intern at LifeBridge Health
  • David Lopez, who has been a Las Vegas parks commissioner
  • Stephanie Molina, a researcher at UNLV
  • Jonathan Norman, an attorney at the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada
  • John Ruse, a real estate investor
  • Dorian Stonebarger, a policy adviser for Las Vegas City Councilman Brian Knudsen
  • Kai Tao, who has worked as a hedge fund manager
  • Erik Van Houten, who teaches AP government at Equipo Academy
  • Marc Wiley, a retired police officer

Updated on Jan. 20, 2021 at 8:42 a.m. to include that an additional applicant had submitted paperwork to the Clark County election officials.

Clark County Commission candidate accused of campaign finance violations, says issues weren’t ‘on purpose’

Democrat Ross Miller’s Clark County Commission campaign has filed a complaint with the secretary of state’s office accusing Republican opponent Stavros Anthony of “numerous campaign finance violations,” but Anthony’s campaign says they are correcting errors.

The complaint alleging illegal transfers and larger-than-allowed contributions comes a week before Election Day and brings a new twist to the race for the District C seat on the commission. Third quarter campaign finance reports were due for both candidates on Oct. 15, and Miller said his team noticed “issues” with his opponent’s contributions when those came out.

“When I was secretary of state and chief elections officer, and I got those complaints, I would investigate them fully, and if we found violations, refer them to the attorney general’s office for prosecution,” Miller said on Tuesday. “And I think that’s what any member of the public would expect to see.”

Las Vegas City Councilman Anthony’s campaign says that any violations that occurred in managing finances were just mistakes.

“None of [the issues in] Ross Miller's complaint, none of it’s nefarious, none of it's on purpose, they're very simple things that we'll take care of immediately,” said Lisa Mayo-DeRiso, Anthony’s campaign manager.

The secretary of state’s office declined to comment on the complaint, saying it was “under review.”

The high-spending race is the only contest for the commission this year featuring well-funded candidates from both major parties. Both candidates have previously held high-profile office — Miller, son of former Gov. Bob Miller, was Nevada’s secretary of state, and Anthony was chairman of the Board of Regents. Anthony was appointed mayor pro tem for the city of Las Vegas in July.

Miller’s complaint pointed to two kinds of violations it said were made by Anthony’s campaign: finance limits and transparency provisions. 

The limit for contributions from a single donor to a campaign in a single election is $10,000, broken up into $5,000 for the primary election and $5,000 more if the candidate goes on to compete in the general election. A donor or candidate who knowingly violates this limit can be charged with a felony.

The first discrepancy the Miller complaint references involves two incidents of single donors contributing more than the $10,000 limit. A donor identified as “California Hope Trust” had three reported contributions to Anthony with two different addresses listed. The first donation was made in April 2019 under a Las Vegas address for $5,000. Two more contributions made using a California address occurred in July 2019 and August 2020, totaling $15,000.

The second donor was Ed Bozarth Nevada #1 Chevrolet, an auto dealer located in Las Vegas. Bozarth’s first donation to Anthony was made in March 2019 for $10,000, and Bozarth made a second donation in September 2020 for $5,000.

Mayo-DeRiso says that Anthony’s campaign will “correct that.”

“Essentially, we'll have to return that money. And if the donors decide that they want to still support Stavros they would have to write checks from a different entity,” she said. “And we're fine with that.”

Miller’s complaint said that returning the money wouldn’t be enough as the campaign had already “reaped the benefits” of the excess funding.

“These funds were likely already utilized by his current campaign and Mr. Anthony and these contributors have already reaped the benefits of excess funds to illegally persuade voters. These offenses cannot therefore be simply corrected by simply requiring Mr. Anthony to return excess funds,” Miller said in the complaint.

Another transaction that the Miller campaign submitted to the secretary of state for review was a $90,888 donation made by “Stavros Anthony for Congress c/o Battle Born Liberty PAC” in May 2019. The complaint claimed that the Stavros Anthony for Congress campaign fund “never existed,” but Federal Elections Commission (FEC) filings show that Anthony’s congressional campaign fund was converted into the Battle Born Liberty PAC after Anthony dropped out of the race for Nevada’s Congressional District 4 seat in 2018.

The secretary of state determined in 2019 that candidates can legally bulk transfer campaign funds from federal accounts after former Rep. Ruben Kihuen transferred $160,000 from his former congressional campaign account to his Las Vegas City Council campaign account.

Kihuen’s account had not converted into a PAC before the transfer, whereas Battle Born Liberty PAC is classified as a multicandidate PAC which would typically be subject to donation limitations.

Anthony’s commission campaign also reported a $10,000 donation from Battle Born Liberty PAC in January 2019. Miller’s complaint points out that multiple donors who made contributions to Anthony’s campaign also made donations to the Battle Born Liberty PAC, which would, in total, put them beyond the $10,000 donation limit to Anthony’s campaign.

Miller’s complaint also accused the Republican candidate of “commingling” campaign funds based on a $100,000 transfer Anthony made from his “Stavros Anthony for City Council Account” in September 2020.

“He’s obviously financed his campaign at this point with huge sums of money that are illegal, and the public should take that into account,” Miller said. “Whatever remaining voters are left out there, this is the kind of activity they would want to look at.”

The complaint also claimed Anthony was violating transparency procedures. Campaigns are required to list the name, address and date of donation for all donors who contribute more than $100. In Anthony’s quarter three filing, 19 donors had addresses listed merely as “requested.”

Anthony’s campaign said that this was a “download error” and that they had already been in touch with the secretary of state’s office to amend the filing to include those details.

This is not the first time Miller has openly criticized his opponent. After winning the Democratic primary in June, Miller referred to Anthony as a “Trump crony,” and earlier this year he condemned the councilman on Twitter for saying that “violent rioters” should be held at Jean prison following a Black Lives Matter protest.

Mayo-DeRiso said that the complaint is a political move by the Miller campaign to get more attention in the final days before the election.

“It’s seven days before the election. Ross Miller has had a pretty anemic campaign. We actually never see him out anywhere in the district while we're campaigning,” she said. “And, you know, there's the old ‘October surprise.’”

Election Preview: Rep. Steven Horsford looks to hold off challenge from Jim Marchant in Congressional District 4

In the absence of a statewide race at the top of Nevada’s 2020 ballot, many eyes have fallen to a pair of competitive congressional races that could play a role in deciding which party takes control of the House come November. 

In District 4, incumbent Democrat Steven Horsford has run a re-election race that has largely ignored a challenge from former one-term Republican Assemblyman Jim Marchant, a staunch pro-Trump conservative who’s sought to pressure Horsford on the issues and on character.

In the ads with the most money behind them — and consequently the widest reach — the Horsford campaign has largely held to a positive tone that’s praised his work on Capitol Hill, especially in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. 

In a TV ad launched late last month, his only major ad buy so far this cycle, Horsford touted his role in passing federal coronavirus relief in March, with a testimonial from a local business praising him for securing Paycheck Protection Program loans for Nevada businesses. 

Steven Horsford waiving to a crowd
Steven Horsford, who won the race for Nevada's 4th Congressional District, speaks during the Nevada Democratic Party election night event at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. (Daniel Clark/The Nevada Independent)

The congressman’s online messaging, most notably on Facebook, has more directly challenged Marchant’s bid, though it has done so without ever naming him. Calling him “my Republican opponent,” “my far-right opponent” or often simply “my opponent,” Horsford’s online ads have criticized Marchant’s links to the Freedom Caucus — an evolution of the old Tea Party movement in the House — and his endorsements from groups such as the National Rifle Association. 

Horsford also has frequently used the specter of Republican PAC money as his own fundraising driver, accusing “GOP outside dark money groups” of spending more than $1 million “to spread deceitful ads across Nevada.”

Still, these online ads likely comprise a small portion of Horsford’s overall spending, according to data available through Facebook’s Ad Library. Most individual online ads have been boosted by less than $100 in spending, and the campaign spent just $807 on Facebook ads over the last week. 

Horsford has maintained a sizable lead in the money race, raising more than $3 million cumulatively and entering the final weeks of the election with roughly $1.5 million cash on hand, according to his campaign. 

Marchant has generally lagged behind Horsford’s fundraising, though by how much will remain unknown until campaign finance reports are released on Oct. 15. Through the second quarter, Marchant’s campaign had cumulatively tallied roughly $646,000, of which about $143,000 remained in cash on hand. 

After emerging from the largest competitive primary field in any Nevada congressional race, Marchant has since repeatedly criticized Horsford for being “too far left,” especially on the issue of reforming police departments in the wake of the George Floyd protests this summer. 

Republican congressional candidate Jim Marchant at a rally in support of law enforcement organized by the Nevada Republican Party on Thursday, July 30, 2020 outside the Legislature in Carson City.
Republican congressional candidate Jim Marchant at a rally in support of law enforcement organized by the Nevada Republican Party on Thursday, July 30, 2020 outside the Legislature in Carson City. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)

Endorsed by police unions, the Las Vegas Review-Journal and President Trump himself, Marchant has attacked Horsford for being a “radical leftist” and sought to link him to efforts by activists to defund local police departments. 

Police funding remains tied to state and local dollars, however, and members of Congress exert little pressure over such local public safety spending. An ideological analysis by the website Govtrack rates Horsford slightly left of the ideological median among Democrats, but still to the right of representatives such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or Rep. Rashida Tlaib, based on bills he sponsored or co-sponsored in 2019. 

Marchant’s campaign also has more recently sought to raise the issue of an affair Horsford admitted to earlier this year between himself and a former intern for Sen. Harry Reid, Gabriela Linder.

Linder first revealed the affair, which she says went on twice — between 2009 and 2010 and 2017 and 2019 — under a pseudonym on a podcast in April. Her identity was later revealed in May by the Review-Journal, after which Horsford confirmed that the affair took place. 

While Marchant’s messaging has tiptoed around the affair itself — one ad proclaims the congressman’s sex life is “none of our business” — it has targeted the ethical implications of the entire episode. 

Namely, Marchant and his Republican allies have seized on a story first reported by the Nevada Current in July that Horsford had paid an unknown amount to Linder using money from his own company, Resources +. 

Horsford’s office denied any ethical wrongdoing, and told the Current that the money did not exceed limits placed on him by House rules. 

News of the affair did little to stop Horsford’s renomination earlier this year in an uncompetitive Democratic primary in which Horsford won more than 75 percent of the vote. Still, it remains unclear how the re-emergence of the issue in Republican messaging may influence voters in the general election, especially in the context of the wider 2020 election, the race for the White House and the complications of voting in the middle of a pandemic.

District 4 at a glance

Nevada’s newest congressional district, District 4 was carved out following re-apportionment from the 2010 census. Among the largest districts in the country by area, its geographically sprawling boundaries encompass both parts of Clark County, including North Las Vegas, as well as a handful of the counties in the state’s rural center, including Nye, White Pine and Lincoln counties. 

With sizable populations of both Black and Hispanic voters in Clark County, District 4 has often — though not always — tilted toward Democrats. Voter registration figures show Democrats lead Republicans 41 percent to 31 percent, with another 21.8 percent of voters registered as non-partisans. 

Horsford, at the time a state senator, was the first to win the district, taking the seat in 2012 by a margin of 8 points over perennial Republican contender Danny Tarkanian. Horsford would later be upset in the 2014 midterms, when Mesquite-area Assemblyman Cresent Hardy won the seat by roughly 2.7 percentage points as part of a wave of Republican victories statewide. 

Democrats flipped the seat once more in 2016, this time with then-State. Sen. Ruben Kihuen, who defeated Hardy by 4 points as Democrats statewide rode to victory in a number of key competitive races. 

But following revelations in late 2017 that Kihuen had sexually harassed a campaign staffer, the incumbent’s decision to forgo a reelection bid in 2018 opened the door for a return for Horsford, who had spent his years outside office working at his own public relations and consulting firm. 

Horsford went on to win easily in 2018’s “blue wave,” besting Hardy in a rematch of the 2014 race by roughly 8.2 percentage points. 

Outside observers have generally forecast a strong edge for Democrats in District 4 based on both demographics and historical voting trends. The Cook Political Report and the University of Virginia Center for Politics rate the district as “Likely Democratic,” while FiveThirtyEight rates the race as “Lean Democratic.”

What to watch in the 2020 primary election: Congressional District 4

A hand arranging "I voted" stickers on a table

As the presidential caucus has drifted into the past and with no statewide offices up for grabs in 2020, a pair of hotly contested congressional primaries on June 9 may draw battle lines for the coming push by the major parties to take or keep control of the House in November. 

That includes District 4, which early on drew a wide field of Republican challengers hoping to flip the seat away from Democrat Steven Horsford. The district, with a large Democratic registration advantage and rated “Likely Democratic” by the Cook Political Report, has for years been held as the tougher of Nevada’s two swing-districts to pry away from Democrats as the GOP looks to retake control of the House. 

That may have changed over the weekend, after Horsford acknowledged Friday carrying on a years-long extramarital affair with a former intern for Sen. Harry Reid. That intern, Gabriela Linder, revealed the relationship in a podcast, and Horsford later issued a statement to the Las Vegas Review-Journal confirming the relationship.

The admission has upended the political assumptions surrounding the race so far, and some Republican strategists and candidates now see 2020 as the best opportunity to flip the seat in the last four years. 

Horsford has already drawn fire from the wide field of Republican hopefuls looking to unseat him, and some have called on him to be investigated or to resign his seat altogether. At least two Democrats running against him called on him to drop out of the race.

But with no well-funded or well-organized primary challengers on the June ballot, Horsford will likely avoid a referendum on the issue until November. And, among Republicans, the race to take on Horsford remains wide open. Five candidates have mounted well-funded operations, with three more hoping for an outside shot at a spot on the November ballot. 

The Republican Primary

The Republican Primary for District 4 is the most crowded field for any major race in the state in 2020, boasting eight candidates on the June ballot. Among them, five have emerged as relatively well-funded efforts, with three more running smaller campaigns with far longer odds at victory.

And though the Republican field has so-far avoided direct attacks — so, too, have they rushed to occupy a similar ideological space in the era of the Trump White House. 

Jim Marchant, a former one-term Republican assemblyman, staked a claim early on as a conservative stalwart who could oppose Horsford in a general election. In advertising and online, he has touted positive ratings from The American Conservative Union and National Rifle Association and claimed that “the liberal media can’t stand him.”

He’s also sought to draw a close line between himself and Trump, frequently praising the administration and even circulating a gif of himself standing nearby the president after he flew into a Nevada air base for a visit in February. 

Marchant has frequently led the fundraising push over the last year, raising more than $100,000 through the first quarter of 2020 and entering the final run to the primary with roughly $231,000 cash on hand. That number was buoyed early on in 2019 by more than $110,000 in loans to his campaign, though his campaign has since shifted to a reliance on individual donors.  

He has also received key endorsements from high-profile House conservatives, including Arizona Reps. Andy Biggs and Paul Gosar and Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan — all leaders of the House Freedom Caucus. An outgrowth of the old Tea Party movement, the Freedom Caucus has provided a political force for the party’s conservative wing for half-a-decade, and in recent years has moved in lockstep with the Trump White House. 

But Marchant is not alone in his quest to prove himself as the “right” conservative for District 4. 

Lisa Song Sutton, a former Miss Nevada who now runs her own business in Las Vegas, has stayed neck and neck with Marchant in the fundraising race. Song Sutton entered the home stretch of the campaign with $198,000 on hand, and boasted of having raised it all through individual donors and without candidate loans. 

Running on a platform largely centered around the core GOP platform, including the protection of the 2nd Amendment, opposition to abortion and increased border security, Song Sutton has also prominently added the economic impact of the coronavirus to her personal platform. 

Calling dependence on overseas manufacturing “dangerous,” Song Sutton’s website notes that she “stand[s] ready to help President Trump rebuild the economy and support the America First agenda.”

Though her single most prominent endorsement has come from Texas Rep. Dan Crenshaw, Song Sutton has also received nods from a handful of state and local Republicans, including Las Vegas City Councilwomen Michele Fiore and Victoria Seaman and former state GOP Chair Amy Tarkanian.

Last among the top fundraisers is Sam Peters, an insurance agent and veteran who has been endorsed by the likes of former Speaker Newt Gingrich, conservative musician Ted Nugent and local conservative talk radio host Wayne Allyn Root.  

Though FEC filings show Peters has raised more than $254,000 through his entire campaign, he began to lag behind Marchant and Song Sutton in the early part of 2020, raising just over $62,000, spending $90,000 and ending the quarter with just $60,000 on hand.  

Asking voters to help him “fight the swamp” in Washington, D.C., Peters has prioritized the issues of the federal budget and immigration on his platform, calling for, among other things,  a balanced budget amendment and proposing an 11-point plan aimed at “ending illegal immigration.”

Peters also appears to be one of few candidates who have continued to campaign in-person into the pandemic, sharing several selfies this month of visits to a reopening rally in Mesquite and a campaign stop in Pahrump

Nipping at the heels of the top three fundraisers are another two campaigns, those of businesswoman Randi Reed and former congressional staffer and veteran Charles Navarro, who entered the final weeks of the campaign with roughly $27,000 and $24,000 on hand, respectively. 

Branding her campaign with her nickname, “The Fury,” Reed has also mounted a campaign centered around the core party platform, including gun rights, immigration and health care. But amid the coronavirus, Reed has also taken aim at China, calling the virus “China’s Chernobyl” and pushing for a greater separation between the American and Chinese economies.

Touting his time in the Navy and his work as a former re-entry manager for faith-based organization Hope for Prisoners, Navarro has, unlike his rivals, elevated the issues of public lands and education on his platform, amid other calls for reforms to the Medicare, Social Security and criminal justice systems. 

There also are several cash-strapped campaigns, including that of Nye County Commissioner Leo Blundo, businesswoman Rebecca Wood and self-described entrepreneur Rosalie Bingham. 

All have raised less than $10,000 through the first quarter of 2020, but all have continued to actively promote their campaigns online as they look to distinguish their efforts ahead of June 9. 

About District 4

District 4’s massive geographic boundaries are bigger than some U.S. states, encompassing not just parts of the Las Vegas metro area like Northwest Las Vegas and the City of North Las Vegas, but also a handful of the state’s rural counties, including Nye, White Pine and Lincoln Counties.

That geographic composition has created a balance of voters where the urban and suburban voters of Las Vegas often outweigh the rural voters to their north. All told, 40.8 percent of voters in the district are registered Democrats, while 31.4 percent are registered Republicans and 21.9 percent are registered non-partisans. 

That distribution of voters has created a predominantly Democratic stronghold over the four election cycles since the district was created in 2012. Horsford, then the state Senate majority leader, won the seat’s inaugural election with just over 50 percent of the vote, defeating Republican candidate Danny Tarkanian. 

But amid a historically low voter turnout in the 2014 year’s midterms, Horsford would lose re-election by nearly 3 percentage points to Republican legislator Cresent Hardy. A coup for Republicans in a year where the party swept state, federal and local races up and down the ballot, Hardy’s election would nonetheless be the last GOP victory in District 4.

In 2016, Democratic state legislator Ruben Kihuen bested Hardy by roughly 4 points, contributing to a near-total Democratic sweep of the closely contested federal offices that year alongside victories in the Senate and neighboring District 3. 

Kihuen was forced to abandon a re-election bid in 2018, however, amid sexual misconduct allegations. But as his name and station become another entry among a long list of alleged sexual impropriety on Capitol Hill amid the escalating #MeToo movement, he resisted pushes to resign his post — which ranged from fellow Nevada Democrat Jacky Rosen all the way to then-Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

When the House later convened an ethics panel to review his conduct, Kihuen bowed out of the race and promised not to launch a reelection bid — an exit that would provide an opportunity for Horsford to reenter the seat that launched his congressional career six years earlier. 

Fending off a handful of primary challengers in the open contest to replace Kihuen on the Democratic ticket, Horsford would eventually beat Hardy — the Republican nominee for the third cycle in a row — by more than 8 percentage points, as he once again garnered more than 50 percent of the vote.  

Horsford has since kept a low electoral profile among the state’s congressional delegation. With his seat more difficult to flip than Rep. Susie Lee’s to the south, national Republicans have so far avoided pumping money and advertising into his district like they have in. 

And among Democrats, Horsford has so-far skirted through 2020 without the need to actively campaign, amassing nearly $1.2 million in cash on hand along the way as he looked toward November. 

He has since begun to take fire from his Democratic rivals, who have joined Republicans in the district in calling for Horsford to be investigated or step out of the race amid the revelation of his extramarital affair.

Whether or not those calls will amount to anything beyond campaign rhetoric, however, remains to be seen.  

For a full breakdown of every race in the 2020 primaries, visit our Election 2020 page. 

Rep. Horsford, who has campaigned as a family man, acknowledges extramarital affair

Steven Horsford speaking at a podium

Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford, who describes himself on his re-election website as a “devoted family man,” has acknowledged that he had an extramarital affair that spanned years after a woman detailed a relationship that started a decade ago when she was 21 and he, at 36, was the highest-ranking senator in the Legislature.

The admission comes as the woman, first identified by the Las Vegas Review-Journal as Gabriela Linder, is releasing a series of six-minute podcasts called “Mistress for Congress” detailing the circumstances of an affair. She initially identified the subject with the pseudonym “Bob” but recently revealed that her account was about Horsford. 

"It is true that I had a previous consensual relationship with another adult outside of my marriage, over the course of several years,” Horsford said in a statement provided to The Nevada Independent. “I'm deeply sorry to all of those who have been impacted by this very poor decision, most importantly my wife and family. Out of concern for my family during this challenging time, I ask that our privacy is respected."

In her podcast, Linder said she met Horsford in 2009 when she was a 21-year-old intern for Sen. Harry Reid and Horsford was a state senator. She said they began a sexual relationship that lasted for about a year and a half, but kept in touch afterwards and resumed the affair from 2017 to 2019, a timeline that overlaps with Horsford’s second term in Congress that began in 2019.

Linder said her podcast series “isn't some revenge campaign to destroy Steven,” who she said she was in love with, but rather an attempt to tell “my truth.” She does think he should step away from elected office, though.

“Did he cause me a lot of harm? Yes. Do I believe he needs to do some atoning? Absolutely,” she said on the podcast. “Do I believe he needs to step out of public office for some time to do that atoning? Yes.”

Linder has not responded to requests sent Saturday for an interview. Horsford’s office did not make him available for an interview on Saturday or directly address a question about whether he plans to proceed with his ongoing campaign amid calls for him to step aside, although his office did say "this former personal relationship has no bearing on the Congressman’s ability to fight for the people of Nevada and he fully intends to serve them in this Congress, and beyond."

Horsford is seeking re-election to the 4th Congressional District seat, which encompasses North Las Vegas and large segments of rural, central Nevada. Horsford ran for the seat in 2018 after former Rep. Ruben Kihuen opted to not run for re-election amid multiple reports of sexual harassment.

While the district has a comfortable Democratic registration advantage and Horsford has not attracted formidable challengers in the ongoing primary, a large field of Republicans hopes to run against him in the general election.

At least one of those Republican candidates, Lisa Song Sutton, is calling for a House ethics investigation into whether any taxpayer dollars were used in commission of an affair. 

Linder indicated on her podcast that Horsford had offered financial support over the years, although Horsford’s office says that neither his House office nor the campaign had provided Linder compensation.

Another candidate for the seat, Republican Sam Peters, called for a “full investigation” on his Facebook page and said it was “time to remove this loser from Congress!” Democrat Brie D’Ayr said it’s time to elect a woman to the seat, arguing that “you can’t give it 100% if you’re constantly distracted by issues that have nothing to do with the job of making your constituents’ lives better.”

Linder’s account of events places the beginning of the affair at the height of Horsford’s eight-year legislative career — when he was Senate majority leader from 2009 to 2012. 

Years later, he would face questions about what he knew and whether he took enough action in that leadership role to intervene in the case of Mark Manendo, a longtime state senator who was found in 2017 to have violated harassment policies for activities ranging from unwanted sexual advances to harassing conduct during numerous legislative sessions.

In an interview in 2017, Horsford declined to comment on some specifics of his dealings with Manendo. But he argued for systemic improvements in workplaces.

“This is a moment and it’s a moment we need to reflect on and more importantly fix things that are broken,” he said in an interview. “There needs to be a process that’s independent, that’s fair, that allows people to come forward. People shouldn’t have to go to their boss alone to file a complaint and be heard — there needs to be a better code of conduct and ethics.

Horsford describes himself on his campaign website as “a devoted family man” who “has built a strong family.” His Twitter accounts feature family photos and remarks supportive of his wife, a university professor.

Facing criticism for maintaining a home just outside of Washington D.C., he told The Nevada Independent in 2018 that he did so so he could have meals with his family and attend his three school-age children’s activities during the work week. His own father was killed in an episode of gun violence when he was 19.

“I know what it’s like to grow up without a father. And it is very important to me that I always am there to be present and to provide for my kids,” he said.

Horsford, a longtime director of the Culinary Academy workforce training organization, was elected to the state Senate in 2004 and held its top post for the 2009 and 2011 legislative sessions.

He served as co-chair of President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign in Nevada and did stints as a Democratic national committeeman and as vice chairman for the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, a fundraising entity.

He won a race for Nevada’s newly created 4th district in 2012 but lost the seat to Republican Cresent Hardy in the “red wave” of 2014. He started running his own business, Resources Plus, which provides public relations and consulting on workforce development strategies, skipped the 2016 cycle, and ran for the seat in 2018 when it became clear that Kihuen would not seek the role again.

In a debate in the 2018 election, Horsford said it bothered him that an ethics commission was taking months to present findings about the accusations and that Kihuen accusers wake up each morning still seeing him in office.

"It absolutely does, and that is why we should expect more of every elected official and every person in power,” he said. 

Updated at 6:48 p.m. on 5/16/20 to add comment about Horsford's future political plans.

Democrats lead first-quarter congressional fundraising as traditional campaigning hits pause amid coronavirus

Overhead view looking down on voting stations

Nevada’s congressional Democrats continued to open up a wide lead in the fundraising race through the first quarter of 2020, even as widespread shutdowns amid the coronavirus pandemic largely shuttered campaign efforts in March. 

The numbers come as part of the final filing deadline before Nevada’s June 9 primary, an election that will for the first time be conducted largely by mail-in ballots

Below is a breakdown of that fundraising by district, ordered by fundraising totals from greatest to least. 

DISTRICT 3

A district that covers much of the southern half of Clark County and includes many of the Las Vegas metro area’s wealthiest suburbs, the so-called swingy District 3, has switched hands between the two major parties since its creation in 2002. 

The district has most recently been controlled by Democrats, following a narrow win by now-Sen. Jacky Rosen in 2016 and a 9 point victory by Susie Lee in 2018. Still, a narrow victory in the district by Donald Trump in 2016 and small voter registration gaps have marked District 3 as one of a few-dozen nationwide that may become key to deciding which party controls the House in 2021.

Susie Lee - Democrat (incumbent)

  • Q1 Receipts: $512,000
  • Q1 Spending: $162,000
  • Cash on Hand: $1.89 million

Freshman Democrat Susie Lee continued to lead the fundraising race among Nevada’s congressional candidates, raising more than $200,000 from individual donors and another $164,000 from political action committees. Lee rounded out the quarter with an additional $123,000 in authorized committee transfers, extending her fundraising lead and outpacing the entire Republican field by more than $200,000.

Some of Lee’s notable donors this quarter include former Las Vegas City Councilman Bob Coffin and the corporate PAC for Caesars Entertainment. As usual, Lee’s biggest checks were cut to consultants, including Colorado-based 4Degrees, which received more than $20,000 for digital advertising, consulting and email hosting. 

Dan Rodimer - Republican

  • Q1 Receipts: $164,000
  • Q1 Spending: $136,000
  • Cash on Hand: $323,000

One-time pro-wrestler turned Fox News regular Dan Rodimer reported raising nearly $164,000 in the first quarter, including, for the first time, no new candidate loans. His campaign had previously received $165,000 in loans. 

Still, Rodimer spent nearly all of the money his campaign brought in, boosting his cash on hand by only $28,000. Like other candidates, Rodimer spread much of that spending between a variety of consultants, but unlike the field, Rodimer has concentrated a notable portion of spending on advertising. That includes nearly $8,000 spent on more than 30 separate Facebook ad-buys. 

Dan Schwartz - Republican

  • Q1 Receipts: $143,000 ($43,000 in contributions, $100,000 in loans)
  • Q1 Spending: $166,000
  • Cash on Hand: $424,000

Former Treasurer Dan Schwartz continued to supplement his war chest this quarter with two large personal loans of $50,000 each, adding another $100,000 to a campaign that has now received nearly $530,000 in candidate loans. 

Among the 26 donors who gave to Schwartz this quarter, seven gave the maximum $2,800 contribution, though none of the seven came from Nevada. In terms of spending, Schwartz spent more than $20,000 than he raised this quarter, with much of the sum falling to consultants BrabenderCox LLC ($97,000) and McShane LLC ($26,000).

Mindy Robinson - Republican

  • Q1 Receipts: $3,547
  • Q1 Spending: $148
  • Cash on Hand: $3,399

A last-minute entry into the Republican primary, activist and actor Mindy Robinson did not organize her campaign until March 14, just days after Gov. Steve Sisolak issued his first statewide shutdown order and as concerns around the impacts of the coronavirus on normal life began to accelerate. 

One candidate who filed in District 3, Republican Corwin Newberry, did not file a campaign finance report with the FEC. Other candidates who have dropped out or did not qualify for the race include Republicans Zach WalkerLieb and Tiger Helgelien, Democrat Richard Hart and independent candidate Alex Pereszlenyi.

DISTRICT 4

A geographically sprawling district that encompasses parts of Las Vegas, North Las Vegas and much of the state’s central rural counties, District 4 has been held by Democrats for all but one cycle since its creation in 2012. That exception came in 2014, when Republican challenger Cresent Hardy unseated then-freshman Democrat Steven Horsford in an upset win. 

Horsford retook the seat in 2018, defeating Hardy in an open race after incumbent Democrat Ruben Kihuen declined to mount his own re-election bid amid a sexual harassment investigation.

Steven Horsford - Democrat (incumbent)

  • Q1 Receipts: $309,000
  • Q1 Spending: $156,000
  • Cash on Hand: $1.18 million

Incumbent Democrat Steven Horsford continued to open up a fundraising lead over his possible Republican challengers through the first quarter, raising more than $309,000, spending $155,000 and ending the quarter with nearly $1.2 million cash on hand. 

For comparison, the six Republicans still campaigning for the chance to challenge Horsford in November have roughly $548,000 combined in cash on hand heading into the last few weeks before the June primary. 

A little more than half of Horsford’s total, $158,000, came from individual donors, while another $146,000 came from PACs and $2,200 came from authorized committee transfers. Much of Horsford’s $156,000 in disbursements went to consultants and staffing, including $25,000 to the Strathdee Group out of Washington, D.C. and $20,000 to 4Degrees, Inc., among others. 

Jim Marchant - Republican

  • Q1 Receipts: $100,000
  • Q1 Spending: $78,000
  • Cash on Hand: $231,000

Former Republican Assemblyman Jim Marchant led Republican fundraising efforts in District 4 for the first time since the third quarter of 2019, and for the first time he did not supplement his fundraising efforts with candidate loans. 

Of the $100,000 Marchant raised this quarter, most of it — more than $64,000 — came from just 15 donors giving between $2,800 (the maximum contribution for a single campaign) and $5,600 (the maximum contribution for a single cycle, including both a primary and general election). 

Marchant spent the single-largest chunks of money on consulting, including $18,500 on local firm McShane LLC, but a majority of his campaign spending was dozens of small operating expenses. 

Lisa Song Sutton - Republican

  • Q1 Receipts: $79,000
  • Q1 Spending: $68,000
  • Cash on Hand: $198,000

After leading Republican fundraisers in the crowded race for District 4 last quarter, former Miss Nevada Lisa Song Sutton fell to second place this quarter with $79,000 raised, including $72,000 in individual contributions and $6,000 in PAC contributions. 

Unlike Marchant, however, many of Song Sutton’s individual contributions — more than $47,000 — came through the online fundraising platform WinRed, an attempt by Republicans to mirror the success of the Democratic fundraising app ActBlue. 

Like the rest of the field, Song Sutton spent the largest sums of money on consultants, including $11,000 to Reno-based J3 Strategies, $10,000 to Texas-based Amplify relations and $5,000 to Las Vegas consultant Greg Bailor.

Sam Peters - Republican

  • Q1 Receipts: $62,600 ($47,000 in contributions, $15,000 in loans)
  • Q1 Spending: $90,000
  • Cash on Hand: $60,000

Veteran and local business owner Sam Peters raised the third-most among the crowded Republican field, though he continued to boost his campaign coffers with an additional $15,000 in candidate loans. To date, Peters has loaned his campaign more than $84,000. 

Most of the individual contributions were small, with just one reaching the $2,800 maximum. Peters also drastically outspent his fundraising in the first quarter, eating into his reserves by roughly $30,000. Like the other candidates, that spending flowed largely to consultants, including $9,800 to Henderson-based Osambela and Associates, $9,000 to right-wing radio host Wayne Allen Root and $8,300 to Massachusetts-based Tuesday Associates. 

Randi Reed - Republican

  • Q1 Receipts: $54,000
  • Q1 Spending: $60,700
  • Cash on Hand: $27,100

Business owner Randi Reed narrowed the fundraising gap with the leading Republican candidates in the first quarter, raising more than $54,300, including more than $50,800 from individuals and roughly $3,500 from PACs. Among Reed’s notable donors are Michael and Paula Gaughan, co-owners of the South Point hotel who each gave the $5,600 maximum, and several dozen contributions made through WinRed.

Still, Reed outspent her fundraising and ate into cash reserves by roughly $6,000, leaving just $27,000 amid the final campaign push before the June primary. Of that money, nearly all of it, $48,700, went to 10 campaign consultants. 

Charles Navarro - Republican

  • Q1 Receipts: $5,800
  • Q1 Spending: $14,100
  • Cash on Hand: $24,500

A distant fourth in the fundraising race, veteran and ex-congressional aide Charles Navarro raised just $5,800 in the first quarter, though not all of those contributions were itemized. Among the four contributions that were, just one — a $2,700 donation from Weston Lee Adams, owner of the Western States Construction company — approached the maximum. 

Spending nearly $14,200, Navarro also cut deeply into his cash on hand, leaving a little more than $24,500 in reserve. Those reserves were largely built up through more than $78,000 in loans Navarro made to his campaign in 2019.

Rebecca Wood - Republican

  • Q1 Receipts: $5,100 ($2,100 in contributions, $3,000 in loans)
  • Q1 Spending: $4,700
  • Cash on Hand: $4,100

Small business owner Rebecca Wood reported just three itemized contributions in the first quarter totaling a little more than $1,000. Wood received another $1,000 in unitemized donations, and buoyed her bottom line with a $3,000 loan. 

Wood spent nearly all of that money, $4,700, with more than $780 going toward loan repayments and an additional $2,000 going toward the payment of country musician Trey Taylor, who held a fundraising concert with Wood in February. 

Leo Blundo - Republican

  • Q1 Receipts: $4,900
  • Q1 Spending: $1,500
  • Cash on Hand: $8,300

With roughly $4,900 in contributions, Nye County Commissioner Leo Blundo trailed the rest of the Republican field for the second quarter in a row. Among Blundo’s contributors is Ahern Rentals CEO Don Ahern, who gave Blundo $2,000, as well as roughly a dozen small contributions made through WinRed. 

Blundo reported just three expenses in the first quarter, including two email marketing bills and a $1,000 payment to marketing consultant Lisa Mayo. 

Jonathan Royce Esteban, a Libertarian Party candidate for District 4, did not file a financial report with the FEC. 

DISTRICT 2

A district that includes Reno and the remaining areas of rural Nevada, District 2, holds the distinction of being the only remaining Republican stronghold in the state. The one-time seat of former Sen. Dean Heller and former Gov. Jim Gibbons, both Republicans, the district has been held by incumbent Republican Mark Amodei since 2011, when he defeated Democrat Kate Marshall in a special election to replace the outgoing Heller. 

Mark Amodei - Republican (incumbent)

  • Q1 Receipts: $89,700
  • Q1 Spending: $129,700
  • Cash on Hand: $293,400

Amodei continued to burn through his campaign war chest in the first quarter, spending roughly $40,000 more than he brought in in the first three months of 2020.

Some of that spending came in large chunks, including $30,000 to the National Republican Campaign Committee for dues and $31,000 to the firm Wyman & Associates for advertising. But Amodei also spent several thousand on operational expenses, as well as nearly $6,900 on meals and entertainment for “contributor relations.”

Still, the congressman ended the quarter with nearly $300,000 in the bank, no challenger for the Republican nomination and a wide fundraising head start over any of his possible Democratic challengers. 

Ed Cohen - Democrat

  • Q1 Receipts: $52,151 ($20,651 in contributions, $31,500 in loans)
  • Q1 Spending: $19,900
  • Cash on Hand: $32,100

A former newspaper reporter who now directs marketing for the National Judicial College in Reno, Cohen surged to a fundraising lead among Northern Nevada Democrats in the first quarter, raising more than $20,000 and boosting his war chest with an additional $31,000 in loans. 

Even so, Cohen — or any Democrat — will likely face a longshot bid against Amodei in November. In 2018, a year when Democrats swept dozens of House seats amid a Republican push to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Amodei won his reelection by more than 16 points. 

Patricia Ackerman - Democrat

  • Q1 Receipts: $40,300 ($27,600 in contributions, $12,700 in loans)
  • Q1 Spending: $21,000
  • Cash on Hand: $23,300

Ackerman, who tried and failed to unseat Republican Assemblyman Jim Wheeler in 2018, rose to second place among competing Democrats in the first quarter, with more than $40,300 in contributions, including roughly $12,700 in candidate loans. 

Clint Koble - Democrat

  • Q1 Receipts: $27,700 ($18,300 in contributions, $7,700 in loans)
  • Q1 Spending: $22,800
  • Cash on Hand: $4,200

Amodei’s 2018 general election opponent, Clint Koble, burned through nearly all of his campaign reserves this quarter as he looked to once again secure a shot at Amodei in November. Much of that spending fell into operating expenses, but nearly half — $9,800 — went to loan repayment. 

Rick Shepard - Democrat

  • Q1 Receipts: $2,670
  • Q1 Spending: $2,630
  • Cash on Hand: $11,650

Local business owner and self-identified progressive candidate Rick Shepard trailed the other two Democrats in District 2, raising just over $2,600 and spending nearly all of it through the first quarter of 2020. Still, with $11,650 left on hand, Shepard will enter the home stretch of the primary with the third-most cash on hand among Democrats. 

Two other candidates, Republican Jesse Hurley and Democrat Steven Schiffman, did not file reports with the FEC. 

DISTRICT 1

As District 2 goes red, so does District 1 go blue. Located in the urban core of Las Vegas, the deep blue district has been held by incumbent Democrat Dina Titus since 2012. Titus ran for the seat after losing her previous reelection bid in nearby District 3 in 2010, which she had held for one term after a win in 2008.

Dina Titus - Democrat (incumbent)

  • Q1 Receipts: $48,000
  • Q1 Spending: $59,000
  • Cash on Hand: $330,000

Entering the 2020 race with no intra-party challenger and at little risk from a Republican challenge in November, Titus finished the first quarter with the least money raised of any Nevada incumbent, just $48,000. Most of it, $29,000, came from a handful of contributions from PACs, while the remaining $19,000 came from several dozen individual contributions.

Citlaly Larios-Elias - Republican

  • Q1 Receipts: $3,000
  • Q1 Spending: $1,600
  • Cash on Hand: $1,700

Army veteran Citlaly Larios-Elias, the lone challenger to Titus, reported raising just $3,000 from five contributions through the first quarter, with no contribution hitting the $2,800 maximum. Larios-Elias also reported spending about half that money, $1,600, on a number of operating expenses including printing and consulting. 

Horsford announces more than $455k in Q4 fundraising

Steven Horsford waiving to a crowd

Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford announced Friday that his campaign brought in more than $455,000 in the last quarter of 2019, pushing his total fundraising for the year to more than $1.6 million and leaving his re-election effort with more than $1 million cash on hand. 

That total exceeds his third-quarter fundraising — roughly $300,000 — by about 50 percent, though it still lags behind that of fellow Democratic incumbent Susie Lee, who raked in more than $600,000 in fourth-quarter fundraising. 

Lee — who represents a congressional district that narrowly voted for Trump in 2016 — has taken the brunt of a Republican pressure campaign centered around her decision to back Trump’s impeachment, while Horsford has so far remained relatively unscathed for his own support of the impeachment process.

So far, nine Republicans have lined up for the chance to challenge Horsford next November for the seat in District 4, though the incumbent Horsford has so-far reliably outraised his possible opponents. 

Less than two weeks remain before the Federal Election Commission’s official filing deadline, and few direct comparisons can be made while quarterly filings continue to trickle in. Filing information from the third quarter, however, showed the Horsford campaign well ahead of any possible Republican challengers. The next closest fundraiser, former Miss Nevada and local business owner Lisa Song Sutton, brought in just $127,000 through September. 

District 4 is a geographically sprawling district that encompasses both parts of Las Vegas and North Las Vegas as well as much of the state’s rural center. It is also among two swing districts in the state alongside District 3, though most independent analyses rate the district as “Likely Democratic” in 2020. 

Horsford first won the District in 2012, but was defeated just one cycle later after historically low turnout drove Republican victories statewide in 2014. Democrats recaptured the seat in 2016 with Ruben Kihuen. Kihuen would eventually decline to run for re-election in the wake of a sexual harassment scandal, leaving the door open for Horsford’s return in 2018 with an 8-point win. 

Follow the Money: Years after leaving office, Reid and other former politicians continue campaign spending with little oversight

Harry Reid in a blue sport coat with red tie

In the three years since leaving office, Harry Reid has kept a low profile.

Rather than become a cable news talking head or lobbyist, the former Democratic Senate Majority Leader has given the occasional interview, dealt with health problems and held a few events at UNLV discussing anti-Semitism, leadership and the changing role of “Islam in America.”

Reid is far from out of the game, though. His former staff has fanned out to help run top 2020 presidential campaigns, and candidates still make regular calls or visits to the early caucus state’s “kingmaker.” 

But Nevada’s most powerful senator in modern history is still making his influence count in another way — continual use of his federal campaign accounts.

In the years since Reid left the U.S. Senate, his campaign account and leadership political action committee — Friends For Harry Reid and Searchlight Leadership Fund — have regularly continued to file disclosure reports that show a steady stream of campaign expenses, charitable donations and political contributions.

Add it all up and Reid’s two campaign accounts have spent a sizable $564,000 since 2017, with checks cut not only to charities and various campaign expenses, but also nearly $281,000 in contributions to political parties and a mix of state and federal Democrats running for office.

According to his most recently filed quarterly report, Reid still has more than $290,000 in available cash on hand between the two committees, more than two years after leaving office and nearly a decade since his last election.

Reid is far from the only retired federal office-holder to keep using campaign accounts once out of office. A trend of “zombie campaigns” is one taking place nationally and locally in Nevada, where former office-holders — namely former Reps. Joe Heck and Ruben Kihuen — are holding on to hundreds of thousands of dollars while continuing to use their federal campaign accounts after leaving office.

The Federal Election Commission (FEC), which oversees these federal accounts, prohibits candidates from using campaign funds for personal use, but offers little guidance on what candidates should do with their campaign accounts and the funds left over once their time in office comes to an end. 

The commission wrote in a 2013 advisory opinion that campaigns should aim to wind down expenses within six months of leaving office, but there are no hard and fast rules as to when a campaign has to close down — a loophole exploited by dozens of former federal office-holders who used their campaign accounts to buy iPads, country club memberships and other questionable expenses, according to a 2018 Tampa Bay Times investigation.

But lax federal election oversight (the FEC has been effectively shut down since August after a commissioner resigned and left the body with less than a quorum) means former candidates have a wide breadth of options on how to use the money left in their campaign piggybank once they leave office.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Reid declined to address specific spending questions but said the leftover funds were primarily used for charity and contributions to similarly-minded candidates.

“After winding down his official Senate office, Senator Reid has used leftover campaign funds to support local charities that do important work in Nevada communities and to support candidates who will carry the torch forward for the causes he championed while in office,” a spokesman for Reid said in an email. “These activities are permitted by both federal and Nevada law, and the money is not spent on personal use.”  

Reid’s contributions since leaving office

August 16, 2018, was akin to a political Christmas for Nevada Democrats.

On that day, just a few months before the midterm election, Reid’s former Senate account and leadership PAC combined to give $84,500 to Democratic candidates for federal, statewide and legislative races, from a combined $20,000 to gubernatorial candidate Steve Sisolak to $5,000 each for Democratic state Senate candidates running in key swing districts— Julie Pazina, Melanie Schieble and Marilyn Dondero Loop,

Those contributions fit a pattern of strategic political contributions made by Reid’s political arms — targeting not only top-of-the-ticket races, but also important, less public races down the ballot including city councils and county commissions.

The list of office-holders who have received campaign contributions from Reid is wide and deep: 13 U.S. Senators or Senate candidates, seven House hopefuls, five legislative candidates, six municipal candidates and five of the six statewide “constitutional” officers (governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state and treasurer).

Here’s the full list of candidates and organizations who received a contribution from Reid’s federal campaign account and his leadership PAC since the start of 2017:

  • $101,000 to the Nevada State Democratic Party in September 2018 (a $1,000 donation was made in November 2017)
  • $20,000 to Nevada Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak’s campaign in August 2018
  • $19,000 total to groups affiliated with Nevada Democratic U.S. Sen. Jacky Rosen’s campaign; $14,000 directly to her campaign in June 2017 and $5,000 to Rosen Victory Fund, a joint fundraising committee affiliated with Rosen in August 2018
  • $15,000 to Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson’s campaign in August 2018
  • $10,000 to Our Votes, Our Voices, a state-based political action committee formed to fight efforts to recall Democratic state senators in 2017
  • $10,000 to Durbin Victory Fund, a joint fundraising committee benefiting the campaign of Democratic Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, in June 2019
  • $8,000 to Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford’s campaign; $3,000 in April 2018 and $5,000 in August 2018
  • $5,000 to American Possibilities PAC, which is affiliated with former Vice President Joe Biden, in October 2018
  • $5,000 to Democratic Montana Sen. Jon Tester’s campaign in August 2017
  • $5,000 to former Democratic Rep. Ruben Kihuen’s campaign in September 2017
  • $5,000 to Democratic Iowa U.S. Senate candidate Theresa Greenfield’s campaign in June 2019
  • $5,000 to Democratic Lt. Gov. Kate Marshall’s campaign in March 2018
  • $5,250 to state Treasurer Zach Conine’s campaign; $250 in March 2018 and $5,000 in August 2018
  • $5,000 to former Democratic state Senate candidate Julie Pazina’s campaign in August 2018
  • $5,000 to Democratic State Sen. Melanie Scheible’s campaign in August 2018
  • $5,000 to former Democratic Secretary of State candidate Nelson Araujo’s campaign in August 2018
  • $5,000 to Clark County Commission candidate Justin Jones’s campaign in August 2018
  • $5,000 to Democratic state Sen. Marilyn Dondero Loop’s campaign in August 2018
  • $2,500 to Washington Democratic U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell’s campaign in November 2017
  • $2,500 to Democratic Ohio U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown’s campaign in April 2018
  • $2,000 to New Jersey Democratic U.S. Sen Bob Menendez’s campaign in June 2017
  • $2,500 to Michigan Democratic U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow’s campaign in January 2017
  • $5,000 to Nevada Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford’s campaign in August 2018
  • $12,000 to Nevada Democratic Rep. Susie Lee’s campaign; $4,500 in August 2018, $5,000 in September 2017 and $2,500 in November 2017
  • $2,000 to Arizona Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Mark Kelly’s campaign in June 2019
  • $2,000 to California Democratic Rep. Norma Torres’s campaign in May 2019
  • $1,000 to Democratic state Sen. Mo Denis’s campaign in November 2017
  • $1,000 to Las Vegas City Councilwoman Olivia Diaz’s campaign in April 2019 (made after the municipal primary election but before the general election)
  • $1,000 to New Jersey Democratic Sen. Cory Booker’s campaign in February 2018
  • $1,000 to former Missouri Democratic U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill’s campaign in February 2018
  • $1,000 to former Las Vegas City Councilman Steven Seroka’s campaign in March 2017
  • $1,000 to Henderson Mayor Debra March’s campaign in February 2017
  • $750 to Utah Democratic Rep. Ben McAdams’s campaign in September 2018
  • $500 to New Mexico Democratic Rep. Deb Haaland’s campaign in May 2018
  • $500 to former judicial candidate James Dean Leavitt’s campaign in October 2018
  • $500 to New Jersey Democratic Rep. Donald Norcross’s campaign in July 2018
  • $500 to Henderson city councilwoman Michelle Romero’s campaign in March 2019
  • $500 to former Indiana Democratic U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly’s campaign in December 2017
  • $500 to Rhode Island Democratic U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse’s campaign in October 2017
  • $500 to former Democratic California congressional candidate Kia Hamadanchy’s campaign in April 2017

But political contributions were just a portion of Reid’s spending since leaving office.

The two committees also reported spending more than $254,000 since 2017 on campaign expenses and wind-down related costs, including moving costs, credit card payments, bank fees, taxes, airline travel, meals and consulting services.

The vast majority of those expenses — $194,000 — came in 2017, the first year after Reid had left office.

But some of the reported spending has a less clear purpose. His campaign reported spending nearly $800 on “officially connected” gifts at a CVS and $20 on a SiriusXM radio subscription, both made in January 2017. He also reported spending nearly $1,200 at the now-closed Driftwood Kitchen in Washington, D.C. in November 2017.

And between February and May of 2017, Reid’s leadership PAC — Searchlight Leadership Fund — spent more than $4,200 on “gifts for donors,” including $1,100 of expenses incurred at Nordstrom, $1,059 at a CVS and $778 at Hermes, a luxury clothing store. 

The leadership PAC also reported paying for more than $12,000 in meals, primarily during the first six months of 2017 when Reid had just left office (the FEC doesn’t allow candidates to use campaign funds for “food purchased for daily consumption” but allows it for campaign meetings or fundraising activities). Outside of 2017, the leadership PAC reported a $450 expense at a Green Valley steakhouse in Henderson in March of 2019.

Reid’s Senate campaign account also reported making several payments for “wind down consulting” and “strategic consulting services” to a firm called Sala Consulting, Ltd. The firm was founded in January 2017 and is run by Chris Anderson, who lists himself as its president on his LinkedIn page and who spent nearly four years as the executive director of Reid’s official Senate campaign account and his affiliated “Leadership PAC,” Searchlight Leadership Fund. 

According to FEC records, $14,500 of the nearly $60,000 paid to Sala Consulting over the last three years has come from Reid’s campaign account or his leadership PAC, including $5,000 in 2017, $2,000 in 2018 and $5,000 in 2019. Outside of small disbursements from Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema and Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, all other Sala Consulting income reported through federal campaigns came from Rosen’s campaign, whom Reid “hand-picked” to challenge incumbent Sen. Dean Heller in 2018.

Reid has also made more than $31,000 in charitable contributions from his campaign accounts since leaving office, including a $10,000 check to the UNLV Foundation in November 2017, $1,250 donated to UNLV’s William S. Boyd School of Law in October 2017 and a combined $3,000 to St. Baldrick’s Foundation, as well as various other charities, including The Shade Tree, the Committee to Aid Abused Women, Children of Mine Youth Center and Dream Big Nevada.

The former Senate majority leader also has not shied away from contributing to media organizations, including:

  • $2,200 to Nevada Public Radio (between three donations)
  • $1,500 to The Nevada Independent
  • $1,250 to Vegas PBS
  • $1,000 to Daily Kos, a left-leaning Internet news website

Money raised

Reid’s campaign hasn’t just made contributions over the last two election cycles; it has also reported raising more than $111,500 since the start of 2017. Some of the funds have come from bank interest, but the vast majority came from one source — a boutique digital firm called Well & Lighthouse, which paid the campaign a total of $108,000 in 2017 for what was described in FEC records as “list sale income.”

Email lists are one of the most valuable commodities in the world of campaigns, especially as candidates have begun to eschew high-dollar fundraisers and rely more on a broader pool of small donors. A primary way to do that is through the sharing, rental or sale of email lists, which is how individuals who sign up or donate to one candidate can soon find themselves bombarded with donation requests from many other, seemingly unrelated candidates.

Since at least the 2012 election cycle, Well & Lighthouse has been a major vendor for Democratic congressional and Senate campaigns — bringing in more than $33.3 million since the 2012 election cycle, or an average of $8.3 million per election cycle, according to data from OpenSecrets.org. The firm also received $1.4 million from the campaign of Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto — Reid’s handpicked successor and former attorney general — in the 2016 election cycle, the second-highest of any candidate that cycle.

Well & Lighthouse was co-founded and is led by Jon-David Schlough, who worked on Reid’s 2010 re-election campaign overseeing digital strategy. His firm did not return a request for comment.

Zombie campaigns

Reid isn’t the only former politician to keep his federal campaign account past retirement; a 2018 Tampa Bay Times investigation into so-called “zombie” accounts found a myriad of questionable spending to likely abuses. These included a former South Carolina congressman-turned-lobbyist who kept his account open for more than two decades, disgraced former Rep. Mark Foley using campaign funds to buy dinner more than a decade after leaving office and a consultant being paid more than $100,000 over 17 months from the campaign account of Hawaii Rep. Mark Takai — despite Takai being dead the entire time.

In total, the investigation found nearly 100 “zombie” campaigns that had continued spending leftover donations on everything from “airline tickets, club memberships, a limo trip, cell phones, parking and new computers.”

The investigation eventually prompted the FEC, which did not have clear-cut rules on the use of campaign funds once out of office, to send letters earlier this year to nearly 27 campaigns asking why their campaigns were still open and posing specific questions on reported spending (Reid’s campaign did not receive a letter).

But enforcement action is unlikely after FEC Commissioner Matthew Petersen resigned in August, dropping the number of active commissioners to three — below the legal requirement to hold a meeting or make any high-level decisions.

The Center for Public Integrity reported that the commission — composed of up to six members, with no more than three of the same political party — has been effectively hobbled since the resignation, with no power to hold meetings, levy fines, issue advisory opinions or work on the backlog of nearly 300 cases on its enforcement docket, many of which may surpass the statute of limitations early next year.

Although there’s little clear guidance under federal campaign law, the Legislature in 2015 passed a law requiring former candidates or public officials to dispose of unspent campaign contributions within four years (the law only applies to candidates for state legislative or local office, not federal races).

Zombies in Nevada

Other former Nevada politicians with leftover cash have elected to either hold on to their campaign contributions, use them in other races or refund checks to contributors. 

One of the more notable examples is former Democratic Rep. Ruben Kihuen, who elected not to run for re-election in 2017 in the face of sexual misconduct allegations reported by BuzzFeed News and The Nevada Independent (details of which were later confirmed in a House Ethics Committee investigation).

Rather than return his then-substantial campaign war chest of more than $318,000 to donors, Kihuen transferred more than $160,000 to his 2019 campaign for a Las Vegas City Council seat (a move at first questioned by but later deemed acceptable by the Nevada Secretary of State). Kihuen narrowly lost in the primary election.

As of his last quarterly campaign finance report, Kihuen had $151,000 in available cash on hand. Other than nominal fees for storage, web hosting and postage, his other major expenditures include legal consulting ($1,220 to the law firm of Sandler Reiff Lamb Rosenstein & Birkenstock) and a $500 contribution to Adrian Boafo, the former chief of staff to Democratic Rep. Steny Hoyer and City Council candidate in Maryland.

Others have opted to return donations after losing their races. Former Sen. Dean Heller, who lost his re-election bid in 2018, has already made more than $103,000 in refunds to contributors throughout 2019. He also made a $10,000 charitable donation to a search and rescue task force, and has otherwise not made contributions to other candidates.

His campaign, which raised more than $15 million during the last election cycle, has a relatively paltry $99,000 left in cash on hand.

Similarly, Heller’s 2012 opponent — former Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkley — filed termination paperwork for her Senate committee less than a year after losing her race (Berkley forgave more than $249,000 in personal loans while terminating her campaign, suggesting that she had little cash left over at the end of her campaign).

Not all former office-holders have taken Heller or Berkley’s path. Former Republican Rep. Joe Heck, who lost a U.S. Senate bid in 2016, still has more than $189,000 left in his Senate campaign account, and FEC records show his campaign has paid out nearly $296,000 over the last two election cycles.

As with Reid, Heck’s contributions have largely focused on wind-down campaign expenses, but have also benefited political parties and candidates, including $75,000 to the Nevada Republican Party in July 2018 and $5,000 to the Washoe County Republican Party in October 2017. Other contributions to political candidates made by Heck include:

  • $11,000 to former Nevada Republican Adam Laxalt’s gubernatorial campaign throughout 2017 and 2018 
  • $9,000 to groups affiliated with former Nevada Republican Sen. Dean Heller; $5,000 to his Senate campaign in Sept. 2017 and $5,000 to an affiliated joint fundraising committee, Heller Senate Victory Committee, in April 2018 
  • $8,000 to the campaign of Nevada Republican Rep. Mark Amodei in March 2018 
  • $8,000 to former Nevada Republican Rep. Cresent Hardy’s campaign in January 2018
  • $8,000 to former Arizona Republican Senate candidate Martha McSally in March 2018 (McSally lost her election but was later appointed to a vacant seat in the U.S. Senate) 
  • $7,000 to Americans United for Freedom, a joint fundraising PAC formed to support Republican Senate candidates. The contributions were made in March 2018.
  • $5,000 to Ohio Gov. Mike Dewine-Husted’s campaign in January 2018
  • $4,000 to Florida Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo in January 2018
  • $4,000 to former Indiana Rep. Todd Rokita in January 2018
  • $4,000 to Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Lloyd Smucker in May 2018
  • $4,000 to former Nevada Republican congressional candidate Stavros Anthony in September 2017
  • $2,500 to former Maine Republican Rep. Bruce Poliquin in June 2017
  • $2,000 to Florida Republican Rep. Brian Mast in September 2018
  • $1,000 to Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo in April 2018
  • $500 to Nevada Supreme Court Justice Lidia Stiglich in May 2018

Heck, who is now a lobbyist for Red Rock Strategies, also gave a $10,000 contribution to Issue One, a “cross-partisan political reform group” that focuses on issues such as campaign finance reform and election security. Heck is listed as one of the group’s “ReFormers” — more than 200 former political figures and congressional representatives. He also gave $1,000 to a group called Nevada State Society, a 501(c)(4) organization composed of Nevadans who live in the Washington, D.C. area (Red Rock Strategies, Heck’s employer, is a “sponsor” of the group, according to its website).

Heck’s campaign also paid $23,400 to WPA Intelligence, a political firm best known for its role in Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s 2016 presidential campaign, for a “Survey Study (Services)” in July of 2018.

A different path was taken by former Nevada Rep. Cresent Hardy, a Republican who served one term in Congress between 2014 and 2016, lost his 2016 re-election bid and lost another bid for the seat in 2018. His campaign account with the FEC was transformed this year into an organization called Nevada Values PAC, which has retained more than $197,000 in cash on hand from Hardy’s 2018 election cycle. In paperwork submitted to the FEC in February, Hardy’s new PAC will operate as a Carey Committee (or hybrid PAC) that is allowed to maintain two bank accounts — one of which can make direct contributions to candidates and is subject to FEC rules and regulations, and the other which can accept unlimited donations and operate like a Super PAC, meaning it cannot coordinate with other campaigns or candidates.