Follow the Money: Real Estate companies, developers spent nearly $1 million on lawmakers in 2018 cycle

Jacob Solis
Jacob Solis
A distribution center under construction in North Las Vegas on Wednesday, March 29, 2017. In cities, heat is amplified by manmade materials. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

Businesses, individuals and political action committees related to real estate or development contributed more than $997,000 to 60 of 63 state lawmakers in the 2018 election cycle, good for about 9.1 percent of all legislative campaign contributions. Only the casino industry (15.5 percent) and unions (12.6 percent) gave more.

Just three appointees — Assemblywomen Rochelle Nguyen and Bea Duran, and Sen. Dallas Harris — did not receive money from the industry before a freeze on contributions to lawmakers during the legislative session took effect last month.

The amount is slightly more than the amount the real estate industry spent in the 2016 cycle (about $942,000), making it one of the few to spend more in the 2018 cycle than during the 2016 presidential election cycle.

The total reflects most of the industry’s spending, but not all; it doesn’t track the money one campaign sends to another, nor does it account for money donated to losing candidates.

Industry campaign spending was dominated by PACs, including the Nevada Home Builders Association PAC ($144,000), the Nevada Realtors PAC ($124,000), the Nevada Subcontractors Association PAC ($114,500) and several PACs related to the construction association Associated General Contractors ($105,500).

These PACs allow corporations and individuals to sidestep the $10,000 limit on total contributions per election cycle per candidate by redistributing money donated to the PAC. For instance, though developer KB Home contributed just $2,000 directly to lawmakers, the company gave thousands of dollars to PACs including more than $127,000 to the pro-Republican group Building a Stronger Nevada, which ran ads supporting gubernatorial candidate Adam Laxalt.

Some PACs will also often send large sums of money to other related PACs, such as when the Southern Nevada Home Builders Association’s Home Building PAC gave $50,000 to the state Home Builders Association PAC.

Other big donors include two companies — R&S Leasing and R&S Investment — owned by Snap Towing owner Robert “Bobby” Ellis ($77,000); the Howard Hughes Corporation ($53,500); Las Vegas Vegas Paving Corp ($46,000); and former assemblyman and real estate agent Scott Sibley ($33,470).

The top recipient of real estate and development contributions was Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson, who received $81,000 from 23 PACs, companies and individuals. Behind Frierson in fundraising totals are Senate Majority Leader Kelvin Atkinson ($67,000), Democratic Assemblyman Steve Yeager ($52,250), and Republican Sens. Ben Kieckhefer ($48,000) and Keith Pickard ($46,250).

Democrats — who control nearly two-thirds of the Legislature — received a majority of that money, about $642,000 to the GOP’s $355,000. Democrats also received marginally more on average than their Republican counterparts, $1,327 to $1,155.

Members of the Assembly also brought in about $61,000 more in total than their Senate colleagues — $529,000 to $468,000 — but senators received more money on average, $1,414 versus $1,150 in the Assembly.

As always, we’ve triple-checked the math. But if anything seems off, feel free to contact us at [email protected] and [email protected].


Featured Videos