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Energy choice measure, Democrats dominate post-primary fundraising

Michelle Rindels
Michelle Rindels
Riley Snyder
Riley Snyder
Megan Messerly
Megan Messerly
Jackie Valley
Jackie Valley
Election 2018
The sign at NV Energy corporate headquarters

Campaign finance reports released just before early voting show Democrats largely outraised their Republican opponents in Nevada’s top statewide races, though it was a major energy ballot question that received an unprecedented level of donations.

Question 3 or the Energy Choice Initiative, which would amend the state’s Constitution to require a transition to a competitive retail electric market by 2023, has multibillion dollar implications for the businesses in the fight and dominated the fundraising landscape. Opposing sides of the ballot measure raised a total of $63.4 million during the last four months and primarily from two donors — $13 million from the Las Vegas Sands and $50.4 million from NV Energy — and close to $100 million overall.

The collective haul was nine times as much as candidates running for the state’s highest office — governor — raised after the primary election in June. Democrat Steve Sisolak and Republican Adam Laxalt raised a combined $7 million this reporting cycle, with Sisolak securing the financial edge after raising $4.1 million while Laxalt brought in $2.9 million.

Sisolak and Laxalt also got major help from outside groups that are exempt from the strict donation limitations the candidates abide by and that supplied millions of dollars for negative ads and other assistance.

Overall, Democrats running for the state’s six so-called constitutional offices — governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, treasurer and controller — reported outraising their Republican opponents in total cash raised by varying margins in five of the six, only in the race for attorney general did the Democrats fall short. It follows the trend for the state’s federal races, where candidates for U.S. Senate and two competitive congressional seats raised nearly three times as much as their respective opponents during the most recent filing period.

State law sets a $10,000 limit on donations to individual candidates for a single entity, but no limit is set on contributions to political action committees. Candidates and political action committees were required to submit their contributions and campaign expenses incurred between June 8 and Oct. 12 on Tuesday. They will be required to submit another report Nov. 2, the close of early voting and four days before Election Day.

Here’s a look at how candidates and ballot questions in Nevada’s top 2018 races fared after the last four months of fundraising:

Energy Choice

Outside of the U.S. Senate race, no contest on the 2018 ballot has seen more money poured into it than the fight over Question 3, the Energy Choice Initiative.

A total of $63.4 million was raised over the four-month reporting period, including a massive $50.4 million contributed to the Coalition to Defeat Question 3 by NV Energy. Outside of $12,000 given by a Carson City electric company and two labor PACs, all $63.1 million raised by the PAC this year has come from NV Energy.

And nearly all of it has been spent — the PAC expended $62.5 million since the start of the year, and $50.4 million over the last four months. More than $44.8 million of the PAC’s spending over the reporting period went to the firm of Winner & Mandabach.

Another $13 million from the Las Vegas Sands was contributed to the PAC supporting the Energy Choice Initiative.

In total, the “Nevadans for Affordable, Clean Energy Choices” PAC has raised more than $32.9 million in support of the ballot initiative that would amend the state’s Constitution to require an open, competitive electric market by 2023. Almost all of the funding for the initiative has come from the Sands and data center giant Switch.

The PAC has reported spending $13.6 million on the initiative, including $11.8 million over the last four months.

Cumulatively, the two PACs have raised $96 million and spent more than $76 million on the ballot question this year alone.


Democratic Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak reported raising more than $4,1 million last period and spending nearly $3.9 million over the same time period. Over the full election cycle, he has raised more than $5.9 million and spent well over that — $10.4 million (he had a significant war chest heading into his gubernatorial campaign).

Sisolak was forced to regroup after a bruising Democratic primary with fellow Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani in June, but was able to make up substantial ground in fundraising, including more than 170 contributions of the $10,000 legal limit.

Among contributors giving the maximum donation: AFSCME, Nevada AFL-CIO, the Laborers Union Local 169, Harry Reid, Reid’s PAC and Reid’s campaign, a long list of business entities affiliated with MGM Resorts, Las Vegas Sun publisher Brian Greenspun, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, members of the Fertitta family that owns Station Casinos and Blockchains LLC. Both the Las Vegas Sun and its parent company, Greenspun Media Group, donated the maximum $10,000 in in-kind contributions of advertising for Sisolak.

Republican Attorney General Adam Laxalt reported raising just over $2.9 million during the fundraising cycle, about $1.2 million less than Sisolak over the same period. But he reported spending more than $6 million over the four-month period, about $2.1 million more than Sisolak and $7.4 million so far this cycle.

Contributors who gave the maximum $10,000 to Laxalt included: Wynn Resorts, six entities that go by various iterations of the name “Chicago Title” and another nine that are variations of “Fidelity National Title,” Marlene Ricketts of Omaha, three entities under the Dolan auto group, Blockchains LLC and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy. He received an in-kind contribution from Nella Domenici, his half-sister.

Additionally, Laxalt’s Morning in Nevada PAC — which puts on his annual Basque Fry fundraiser in Gardnerville — raised more than $296,000 this period and spent about $333,000. Virtually all the expenses appear to be related to the event, including the cost of food, security and a band.

Major donors included the Las Vegas Sands ($20,000), the Retail Association of Nevada ($12,000), Switch ($20,000), Station Casinos ($20,000), tobacco company Altria ($10,000) and the pro-Question 3 group Nevadans for Affordable, Clean Energy Choices ($5,000) and the National Rifle Association’s PAC ($5,000).

Independent gubernatorial candidate Ryan Bundy, the son of controversial rancher Cliven Bundy, reported raising nearly $61,000 over the period, including more than $24,000 in in-kind contributions.

Governor race PACs

Candidates for governor are getting a major boost from outside groups, which tend to fund the negative ads in a campaign and free up candidates to spend their own money on positive spots.

Nevada Families First , which is affiliated with the Democratic Governors Association, reported raking in more than $6.2 million this period. The bulk of that came from the DGA but groups such as the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, Working for Working Americans, Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund and the Service Employees International Union Political Education and Action Fund also contributed.

The DGA-backed PAC has unleashed several television ads attacking Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Laxalt.

The Republican Governors Association Nevada PAC reported raising $8.7 million this period and spending $8.8 million. All of it came from the national RGA organization; the top funders for that group in 2016 included the Venetian Resort, Blue Cross/Blue Shield health insurance, the Las Vegas Sands and Koch Industries.

The RGA has been the main provider of hard-hitting ads against Sisolak.

The Nevada Leads PAC, funded by the Clark County Education Association teacher’s union, reported raising $1.2 million so far this cycle, almost all of it during the most recent period. The group has spent more than $1.3 million this cycle.

CCEA is supporting Sisolak, and has run TV ads comparing Laxalt and Bundy, and arguing that Laxalt’s stated goal of repealing the Commerce Tax would undo Gov. Brian Sandoval’s education legacy.

AFSCME Nevada has raised $2.4 million, and spent $2.4 million this period. The group has paid more than $147,000 for canvassing for Sisolak, as well as $10,000 directly to the campaign.

It has also run ads against Adam Laxalt, including one saying Laxalt will reverse Sandoval’s progress on education and one saying Laxalt was too cozy with drug companies.

Freedom Partners Action Fund, a PAC affiliated with billionaire conservative brothers Charles and David Koch that has run ads supporting Laxalt and attacking Sisolak, reported spending $1.89 million over the fundraising period.

Legislative leadership

Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson reported raising more than $227,000 over the fundraising period, while spending about $194,000 over the four-month reporting period.

Frierson received $10,000 contributions from Nevada Restaurant Services, the MGM Resorts-owned Bellagio and former Sen. Harry Reid’s campaign account. He received another $5,000 from Reid’s Searchlight Leadership Fund.

Frierson also contributed to at least 18 other Democratic candidates, including several other Assembly Democratic candidates and $9,000 to Sisolak.

Assembly Republican Leader Jim Wheeler raised nearly $86,000 since June and spent about $77,000 over that same time period. His top donors included Dotty’s ($10,000), Nevada Subcontractors Association ($5,000), the Orleans Hotel ($5,000), the Silver Bullet ($2,500), the physician group MEDNAX ($2,500), Las Vegas Metro Chamber ($2,500) and the Association of Gaming Equipment Manufacturers ($2,500.)

Over that same time period, he spent about $77,000, including several donations to the campaigns of Republican Assembly candidates: Jill Dickman received $3,000, Janice Wesen received $2,000, Linda Cannon received $2,000, Paris Wade received $2,000, Richard Fletcher received $2,000, David Schoen received $2,000 and Stephen Silberkraus received $2,000. He also gave $20,000 to the Assembly Republican Caucus.

Attorney General

Combined, the two candidates running to replace current Attorney General Adam Laxalt raised more than $2 million, though Republican Wes Duncan narrowly outraised Democratic candidate Aaron Ford.

Duncan reported raising more than $1 million over the four-month reporting period, while spending nearly $917,000. In total, the former assemblyman has raised about $1.6 million for the office.

He received at least 27 contributions of $10,000 during the reporting period, including from Switch founder Rob Roy, PhRMA-backed Healthy Nevada PAC, Wynn Resorts and an additional $30,000 from properties owned by the Las Vegas Sands.

Ford raised $962,000 and spent $851,000 in the last fundraising period. So far this election cycle, he has raised almost $1.6 million and spent more than $1.2 million.

Donors who contributed the maximum $10,000 to Ford include Switch founder Rob Roy, two affiliates of Wynn Resorts, the Clark County Education Association, Nevada Restaurant Services, agriculturist Morgan Carrington Fowler and the law firm of Brian C. Padgett.

Lieutenant Governor

Democrat Kate Marshall surpassed her Republican opponent, Michael Roberson, in fundraising this period as they compete to become the state’s next lieutenant governor.

Marshall reported raising $368,000 this period, boosting her total war chest this year to $571,000. Roberson wasn’t far behind with $302,000 raised this period. That brings his financial haul to $497,000 this year.

Marshall snagged a $10,000 contribution from MJB Specialty LLC and two $5,000 contributions from the Democratic Lieutenant Governors Association. She also received more than two dozen $5,000 contributions from a variety of donors such as Resorts World Las Vegas, South Point Hotel and Casino, AFSCME, Emily’s List, Nevada Service Employees Union and liberal activist Tom Steyer.

Roberson secured $20,000 total from several Boyd Gaming properties: $4,500 from the Orleans Hotel and Casino, $5,000 from the Gold Coast Hotel and Casino, $5,000 from the Suncoast Hotel and Casino, and $5,500 from Aliante Gaming LLC.

He also received $10,000 contributions from Wynn, Alpha Landscapes LLC, Silverwing Development, Patricia Estey, Dennis and Carol Troesch, Cooper Roofing & Solar and Switch founder Rob Roy.

Roberson spent $269,000 during this period and $535,000 overall this year, while Marshall’s campaign expenses hit $367,000 this period and $489,000 overall this year.

Secretary of State

Nelson Araujo, a Democratic assemblyman, raised more than twice what incumbent Republican Barbara Cegavske did in this year’s secretary of state race.

Cegavske reported raising nearly $157,000 since June and spent $233,000 over that same period. Her biggest contributors included the Keystone Corporation ($10,000), Moondeck Studios, associated with former state Sen. Mark James ($7,500), Nevada Realtor PAC ($5,000), Republican consultant Sig Rogich ($5,000), the Republican State Leadership Conference ($5,000), David Colvin, founder and CEO of Gaming Arts ($5,000), Wynn Resorts ($5,000), the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce ($5,000) and Switch ($5,000).

Araujo raised $321,000 and spent $211,000 over the same time period. He received 16 $5,000 contributions including from the Onward Together Committee, Wynn Resorts, billionaire Tom Steyer, Steyer’s wife Kathryn Taylor, the Sheet Metal Workers’ Political Action Committee, SEIU Local 1107, Operating Engineers Local No. 3, Claggett & Sykes Law Firm, the Communication Workers of America, iVote Nevada, the Latino Victory Project and AFSCME.


Campaign finance reports show Democrat Zach Conine has significantly outraised his opponent, Republican Bob Beers, during the latest reporting period.

Conine raised $195,000 this reporting period, but that includes some loans and in-kind contributions. His campaign said actual contributions amounted to roughly $170,000.

Beers, meanwhile, raised $31,000 this reporting period. That places his fundraising haul so far this year at $61,000, which is less than a fifth of what Conine has raised. Conine’s total this year is $330,000.

There’s also a wide gap in spending between the dueling campaigns. Beers spent more than $21,000 this reporting period and more than $59,000 overall this year; Conine shelled out over $207,000 this period and has spent more than $232,000 overall this year.

Conine’s campaign was quick to tout its fundraising success.

“Investing requires hard work, time and dedication. It’s clear that Bob Beers has no interest investing the time and energy to represent the hardworking people of Nevada,” Conine said in a statement. “I am honored to have such a wide network of support from people on both sides of the aisle. I look forward to continuing to outwork Bob Beers over the next 21 days.”


Democratic controller candidate Catherine Byrne reported raising over $29,000 and spending more than $30,000 in the most recent reporting period.

She’s facing incumbent Republican Ron Knecht, who reported raising nearly $21,000 in cash and another $20,000 in in-kind contributions. He spent slightly more than $34,000 in the last period.

Ballot measures

A ballot measure designed to add a slew of protections and rights for victims of crime saw a huge leap in campaign funds over the four-month reporting period.

Combined, Qualcomm founder Henry Nicholas and the Marsy’s Law Foundation contributed nearly $8 million to a state PAC supporting passage of Marsy’s Law, also known as Question 1. In total, the PAC has raised more than $8.5 million since 2017, all from the foundation or Nicholas.

The state PAC has spent just over $7.4 million since the start of the year, and just over $7 million over the reporting period.

Additionally, the PAC backing a ballot question raising Nevada’s Renewable Portfolio Standard to 50 percent by 2030 reported raising another $4.3 million between June and October, while spending more than $4.5 million.

Nevadans for a Clean Energy Future took in the majority of their funds ($3.8 million) from liberal billionaire Tom Steyer’s NextGen Climate Action, and another $385,000 from the Nevada Conservation League. In total, the PAC has raised more than $6.3 million in support of the ballot measure.

The PAC spent $4.5 million during the reporting period, and has spent just over $5.98 million over the course of the year.

Nevadans for Secure Elections, a PAC supporting a ballot initiative that would automate voter registration at the Department of Motor Vehicles, received more than $9.6 million over the fundraising period. The largest funder was a 501(c)(4) social welfare nonprofit called Sixteen Thirty Fund that contributed $6.25 million to the initiative. The American Civil Liberties Union contributed $1.15 million to the PAC and another $1 million was contributed by Palo Alto developer and philanthropist George Marcus.

The group reported spending $8.8 million over the fundraising period.

For more on how much the candidates raised, check out the spreadsheet below:

Disclosure: Many of those mentioned in this story are donors to The Nevada Independent. You can see the full list of our Donors here.


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