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Nevada political contributions neared $30M in 2019

Nearly $30 million in political contributions changed hands in Nevada last year among candidates, PACs, unions, corporations and other entities, with groups controlled by Democrats, Gov. Steve Sisolak, Realtors, labor and Clark County municipal candidates topping lists of contributors and recipients.

A much smaller number, just over $584,000, was reported for in-kind contributions, reflecting the monetary value of non-cash assistance such as donated space, materials or services.

Those totals are drawn from a review of some 17,500 transactions from nearly 8,000 individuals or groups to 400 candidates, PACs or other entities, contained in financial disclosures filed with the secretary of state’s office in 2019. The numbers include transfers among political action committees as well as direct donations.

With 2019 an off-year for state elections, candidates for local office in Clark County and Las Vegas were among the top recipients of political donations. Overall, the state Democratic Party received the most of any single organization, taking in nearly $1.7 million.

Steve Sisolak, who assumed office in 2019 as the state’s first Democratic governor in 20 years, received nearly as much as the state party, at more than $1.6 million. Two other related committees, the governor’s inaugural committee and a spinoff PAC, Home Means Nevada, together took in more than $2.4 million for the year.

Candidates

After the governor, candidates for the Clark County Commission and the Las Vegas City Council were the top recipients of campaign cash in 2019. Michael Naft, appointed to the commission by Sisolak to fill the vacancy created when Sisolak was elected governor, raised nearly $961,000 toward his upcoming 2020 race for the seat. Next highest was Brian Knudsen, elected to the Las Vegas City Council in June, who raised roughly $932,000.

Among other officeholders, Clark County Commission Chairwoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick, who also faces a 2020 race, raised $393,000. At the state level, Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro, D-Las Vegas, was the top recipient, taking in more than $322,000. Following her among state lawmakers were Sen. Heidi Gansert, R-Reno, at roughly $239,000 and Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson, D-Las Vegas, at nearly $233,000.

Other recipients

Outside of state Democrats and the governor’s campaign groups, political action committees controlled by Realtors were the largest recipients, with three Realtor PACs taking in more than $2.6 million combined, including transfers from other PACs.

Operating Engineers Local 3, representing construction workers in California, Hawaii, Nevada and Utah, reported nearly $878,000 in individual members’ contributions of $100 or less.

Among special interest PACs, Consumers for Judicial Equality raised $400,000 on a pair of $200,000 donations from Las Vegas personal injury lawyers Sean Claggett and Benjamin Cloward. Healthy Nevada got $400,000 from Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, or PhRMA, a trade group representing the U.S. pharma industry.

Contributors

After the Realtors group and the construction trades union, PhRMA was the largest political contributor in Nevada in 2019, leaving behind $737,000 in all. Besides the Healthy Nevada PAC contribution, it donated $250,000 to the state Democratic Party, the largest single campaign contribution of the year outside of transfers. Sisolak’s inaugural committee moved $687,000 to the related Home Means Nevada PAC. A national PAC controlled by JPMorgan Chase bank moved $500,000 into its state affiliate.

Resort operator Las Vegas Sands Corp. made $157,500 in monetary contributions in 2019 to both Democrats and Republicans, including a $50,000 contribution to the Sisolak inaugural committee. It made an in-kind contribution of nearly $101,000 to Keystone Corp., a conservative, business-focused state PAC, to cover the cost of facility rental, food and beverages at the group’s annual dinner in November.

With a couple of exceptions, unions represented most of the other top contributors, those contributing more than $200,000. Zuffa, the Las Vegas-based mixed martial arts sports promoter, parceled out $220,000 in bipartisan fashion via 49 donations to candidates or committees. And Las Vegas homebuilder Richard Plaster donated just over $200,000 to his unsuccessful bid for Las Vegas City Council.

The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson.

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