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A’s give to lawmakers, Democrats hold cash advantage, campaign finance reports show

Here's what we learned from the state campaign finance deadline.
Sean Golonka
Sean Golonka
Tabitha Mueller
Tabitha Mueller
Jacob Solis
Jacob Solis
Campaign FinanceElection 2024
Assembly Speaker Steve Yeager (D-Las Vegas) and Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro (D-Las Vegas) outside the Legislature in Carson City on June 4, 2023. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent).

A Democratic fundraising machine keeps pumping. The Oakland A’s deliver campaign funds. And cash flows into the Las Vegas mayoral race.

Those are just a few takeaways from a year's worth of campaign finance activity reported on the secretary of state’s website ahead of Tuesday’s reporting deadline. The reports include details of campaign fundraising and spending throughout 2023 for many Nevada politicians, from state lawmakers and local city council candidates to candidate PACs and ballot initiative groups. 

Federal candidates, such as members of Congress, report their fundraising activity to the U.S. Federal Election Commission and will have their next reports published at the end of January. 

As of Tuesday afternoon — with some reports still yet to be filed ahead of the midnight deadline — the state’s most prolific fundraiser in 2023 was Republican Gov. Joe Lombardo, who brought in nearly $1.5 million for himself and another $432,000 for his legal defense fund in his first year as the state’s top-ranking official. Lombardo has used the fund to pay legal fees related to a failed lawsuit from an opponent who challenged his 2022 primary election win and to fight a censure and fine from the Nevada Ethics Commission.

A group tied to the governor called the Nevada Way PAC also raised $928,000, while making contributions to a slew of legislative candidates endorsed by Lombardo, as he works to prevent Democrats from securing veto-proof supermajorities in the Legislature ahead of the next session in 2025.

Other top fundraisers included a pair of local government candidates in high-profile Southern Nevada races: Clark County Commissioner Michael Naft, who is running for re-election, and former Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV), who is running for Las Vegas mayor. Each raised more than $1.1 million last year.

But one of the biggest fundraising hauls came from Nevadans for Reproductive Freedom, a PAC seeking to enshrine abortion access in the Nevada Constitution via ballot initiative. The group recorded raising $1.8 million, driven primarily by $1 million from Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s Think Big America. Another $525,000 came from Nevada Alliance, a pro-Democrat dark money group.

The Nevada Independent will have additional coverage and analysis of campaign finance activity in the coming days as additional reports are made available online, but for now, here are takeaways from the early reports.

A’s spread wealth to ‘yes’ (and ‘no’) votes on stadium bill

The Nevada Independent obtained a report indicating that Major League Baseball’s Oakland A’s collectively donated $88,000 to state lawmakers after legislators approved a $380 million public financing package to help build a proposed Las Vegas stadium in a special session last year.

Top recipients were Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro (D-Las Vegas) and Assembly Speaker Steve Yeager (D-Las Vegas), who each received a maximum contribution of $10,000 from the team. Budget committee chair Sen. Marilyn Dondero Loop (D-Las Vegas), Minority Leader P.K. O’Neill (R-Carson City) and Majority Floor Leader Sandra Jauregui (D-Las Vegas) each received $5,000. 

Historically, members of the political leadership — who drive decision-making and are typically among each party’s best fundraisers — tend to get bigger donations than rank-and-file members, but legislative leaders were not the only ones to receive donations from the team. 

The A’s donated to lawmakers who were not term-limited or decided not to run for re-election, giving 31 Assembly members $1,000 each in contributions and 11 members of the Senate $2,000 each — 11 of the recipients were “no” votes on the public financing package, 35 were “yes” votes on the deal, and one was marked excused from the vote. Some of the donations were made before a candidate decided to run for re-election or a separate office.

Notably absent from the list of recipients were the handful of senators and Assembly members outwardly hostile to the deal.

The partisan gap

In recent history, Nevada Democrats have dominated Republicans in the fundraising competition — including a comparison between state parties. The Nevada State Democratic Party reported raising $800,000 in the fourth quarter of 2023 — including $500,000 from a pair of groups tied to the country’s largest carpenters union and $100,000 from The Venetian Las Vegas, previously  owned by GOP megadonor family, the Adelsons. 

By comparison, the Nevada Republican Party Central Committee reported raising $15,000 across all of 2023 — an amount that does not include the $55,000 each candidate for the Republican presidential caucus paid to the state GOP.

Leading the way in the Legislature, Cannizzaro reported raising $380,000, and enters the year with nearly $714,000 in cash on hand (and as of now no declared challenger). She was followed by Yeager, perennially a top legislative fundraiser even before he was elected to leadership, who netted more than $297,000 in 2023 and enters 2024 with more than $452,000 in cash on hand. 

No other legislative candidates reported fundraising totals approaching those numbers.

Challengers rev up the fundraising machine

Many of the biggest fundraising efforts in 2023 came from candidates in key Las Vegas-based races of 2024 — from the hefty warchests of incumbents on the Las Vegas City Council to Republican April Becker raising $329,000 in her bid to break up Democratic uniformity on the Clark County Commission.

But across a spate of legislative races, Republican challengers seeking to prevent Democratic supermajorities in 2025 also posted large fundraising totals.

David Brog, a Republican former congressional candidate who is running for Assembly District 37 and has been endorsed by Lombardo, reported raising $152,000. That puts him far ahead of the district’s incumbent, Assemblywoman Shea Backus (D-Las Vegas), who raised $68,000 and won her 2022 race by about 800 votes out of 31,000 cast. Backus also reported raising $50,000 via her Our Best Nevada PAC, all from a Clark County Education Association PAC.

Lori Rogich, a Lombardo-endorsed challenger running in Senate District 11, reported raising $166,000, a sizable haul as she looks to challenge Sen. Dallas Harris (D-Las Vegas). And John Steinbeck, a Lombardo-endorsed candidate and Clark County fire chief seeking to fill the Senate District 18 seat left open by the exit of Sen. Scott Hammond (R-Las Vegas), reported raising more than $101,000.

Executive officers aren’t on the ballot. So why are their fundraising hauls so big? 

2026 is when the current terms for Nevada’s six constitutional officers will expire. For two of them who are prohibited from running again because of term limits — Attorney General Aaron Ford and Treasurer Zach Conine — fundraising continued unabated as each considers their political future.

Ford reported raising $391,000 and has nearly $200,000 in cash on hand, while Conine reported raising $248,000. Conine had previously announced a $750,000 fundraising year for himself and his PAC, Let’s Get to Work Nevada, though that money raised by the PAC included $500,000 from Blockchains CEO Jeffrey Berns.

For the other four, including Lombardo, 2026 will likely mean re-election, and some are building their war chests ahead of time. Democratic Secretary of State Cisco Aguilar reported raising $220,000 in 2023 — a big step up from the less than $25,000 that Republican Lt. Gov. Stavros Anthony and Republican Controller Andy Matthews collectively reported raising.

Anthony, for his part, was hampered by a fundraising blackout that affected his position, the governor and lawmakers, limiting them from raising any money for 30 days before a regular legislative session through 30 days afterward. But under a 2023 law, the other statewide officers will now be subject to the same restriction.

Editor’s note: A version of this story appears in Indy Elections, The Nevada Independent’s newsletter dedicated to comprehensive coverage of the 2024 elections. Sign up for the newsletter here.

This story was updated at 8:10 a.m. on 1/17/24 to add information about Gov. Joe Lombardo's legal defense fund.


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